How To Manage Time When Your Job Means You Can't Say No To Meeting New People

As Director of Innovation at superannuation giant AMP, Annalie Killian tries to leave herself open to new people and ideas.

Instead of having to turn meetings down, she asks people to explain what they want out of it beforehand.

“It forces them to think about what they want, so they don’t waste your time,” she says. “But I don’t find many people waste your time.

I can’t tell you how often I’ve just been open to a serendipitous meeting that has led to something fabulous. So I’m very reluctant to be inaccessible because you just never know how doors open.

“The world is not a straight place – it sort of goes in zigzags. I’d say with all the meetings I attend, 98% are valuable connections. That’s not a bad rate.”

Killian is a self-described “super-networker” and says she is online for about 17 hours every day.

She leads the ‘social business and communication’ team, and basically acts as a touch point for ideas, selecting speakers for AMP events, working on the IT team’s communications and assisting various business units with new initiatives.

Here’s what she told Business Insider Australia about her job:

7.00am I tend to be a late night owl and therefore, I’m not an early riser. I use my iPhone as an alarm and put it in another room, so when it goes off, I’m forced to wake up.

First thing I do is scan my email. I work with a lot of international people, so often, overnight a lot of email comes in.

Then, I would begin to form a mental picture of actions that arise from [those emails], or just delete stuff that is noise. I delete about 75% of email.

8.00am I strive, hard to take the ferry to work; the ferry is, for me a sort of transition thing. It’s a beautiful environment, it’s calming.

If I’m late, I’ll have to drive to the office and I really resent that because – as a typical multitasker – I don’t like to waste time behind the steering wheel. I can’t wait for the Google driverless car to come out.

9.00am When I get to the office, I start with a coffee. I try not to schedule meetings for the first hour of the day – I think it’s really important to do a social check-in because my role is really about relationships and teamwork.

Social relationships is the glue that means that your team can pull through the hard slog when needed. I spend the first 15 minutes of the day just talking with my team.

I have 4 direct reports – an innovation person, a head of communications and two communications consultants – and I’m surrounded by my peers: IT directors, my CIO, HR, Comms, Procurement.

10.00am I often do Skype calls with internationals early because that works best with the US. I deal with about 60 different thought leaders a year who come through AMP for different events, including the Amplify festival and its sister program, Samplify. That’s not every day; I’ve had two Skype calls this week.

In a typical day, I spend 3-4 hours in meetings. That could be a meeting to progress an innovation idea: this week, I met with the Head of Marketing from AMP Capital around opportunities for our shopping centres, for example. We wanted to scheme who to involve, what would be the next steps, and how we would tackle a particular scenario.

I also support the IT business with communication and problem solving, so I could end up having consulting with one of my peers about a particular communication issue, or help them with writing a blog.

And I would also spend an hour with a member with my team or somebody who I’m mentoring. You’re helping them meet their goals so there’s a lot of face-to-face communication.

Meetings is how you progress things in a large organisation. It’s just another form of collaboration.

1.00pm I quite like to meet with people over lunch, whether it’s a sandwich and coffee or something more substantial. The word ‘company’ is derived from the Latin words for ‘with bread’. People used to do business by breaking bread together and it’s no surprise that these traditions of building relationships over a shared meal have endured.

If I’m not meeting somebody for lunch, I generally do one of two things: I’ll grab the newspaper and sit in the communal kitchen; or I might just get something from the food court and dip into the company intranet.

In the internet era, we tend to just subscribe to things we’re interested in, but I find with a newspaper, your eye scans and serendipitously catches things.

[The company intranet] is a bit like Facebook with an activity feed. We’ve just replaced Yammer – now we have a bespoke solution.

I follow the comms network, I follow the innovation team, I follow certain executives. I find the more that you follow, the more diversity you have. I find that’s really useful, particularly as an executive.

When you’re making decisions about a corporate culture, or innovation decisions, it’s very important to be in tune with the pulse of the organisation. The intranet is also very useful as a platform to test ideas.

2.00pm On a typical day, I also invest time in learning and development; my director of innovation role is much about learning and being connected to the marketplace.

Either I attend a speaking event, a lecture or conference and take some colleagues with me, or I could speak at an event. Sometimes you learn most when you teach or tell a story.

I also organise events and bring outside speakers in. Amplify is a week-long event; Samplify is a series of brown-bag lunches and I organise lots of those.

Or I would just spend time reading or doing some research about a particular topic or subject.

5.00pm I find that when most people go home is my most productive part of the day. I generally try and clear my email and prepare for the next day. We live in an interconnected world so there’s always someone who’s waiting on something from me – I use this time to prepare that.

Every day, I ask myself: ‘How have I advanced my strategic goals for the year today.’ If I can say ‘yes’, it’s been a good day. I’ve had three yeses [in the past four days]. I’d feel very uncomfortable if I could not, at the end of a day, say I’ve used my day well. But there are days like that: sometimes you hit a snag, or there are politics to deal with, or there’s a crisis that takes you off target.

My job is very much focused around culture. We measure it through a culture survey, the number of ideas that we implement over time, employee engagement … we have lots of different ways to measure culture and that’s something you measure over time.

The broader your span is and the more conceptual your role, the more difficult it is to have a task list. You’re driving a strategic agenda and big goals that run over time.

7.00pm I go home, if I don’t have a function on. I spend evenings with my teenage daughters but I would also make sure that I make time for play. If I have a day where I haven’t fed my soul in some way, I’d feel very poor, so I’d have to do something for me, which is either read a book or go to a movie.

I go to a lot of writers’ festivals, art galleries, talks, community events … I find that in pursuing that kind of pleasure I often find ideas that I can bring back to the business in any event, so it’s just a question of is that work or is that life.

Late I do spend a lot of time in the evening on Twitter just checking in on what’s happening. When I sleep I log off – I very seldom sleep before midnight.

I think people who strive for the work-life balance thing in the digital age can become very frustrated. It’s important for me to manage priorities rather than have a scale that you balance at the end of every day.

Work is part of life; sometimes work takes a bigger chunk than other times because of the projects that you’re working on. When my children need me, then they become the priority.

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