How Asana's engineering managers help their teams stay focused with Clockwise

“I do need blocks of Focus Time, but I have less needs than my Engineers. For me, it's very important to preserve their Focus Time, which is the big draw for Clockwise.”

- Greg Sabo Engineering Manager

About Asana

Asana is a project management tool that helps make every project a success. Teams use it to map out each step and organize all the details of their work in one place. Headquartered in San Francisco, they have 700 employees across nine offices around the world, including New York, Vancouver, Dublin, Berlin, Tokyo, and Sydney.

Meet Greg & Sri

As an Engineering Manager at Asana, Greg Sabo is responsible for ten Engineers across four teams. Product Engineer and Engineering Manager Sri Raghavan manages six people at Asana.

Why Clockwise

While meetings are an essential part of Greg’s role, they cut into his work time. Meetings also cut into his reports’ work time.

“As an Engineer, it's very hard to make consistent progress when you only have 30-minute slices of time to work between meetings,” Greg said. “It’s almost like that time is wasted, in terms of focus. You can only really do trivial things during that block of time.”

“Because I schedule lots of meetings with my reports, I often worry that I'm turning their schedule into Swiss cheese,” Greg said. He needs his reports to have plenty of Focus Time for them to be able to accomplish their objectives.

Sri has plenty of meetings as well, along with reactive work from colleagues. “I have this habit where anytime anyone asks for help I will pretty much immediately drop everything and go do it,” Sri said. While his colleagues appreciate this, “It's also kind of distracting,” Sri said. “It can be really hard to get things done.”

Meetings took up precious Focus Time for Greg and his reports and were a lot of work to schedule. Whenever Greg was scheduling a new recurring one-on-one he’d have to schedule the first few weeks individually because he couldn’t find one consistently available time slot. “That was pretty annoying.”

Greg also needed to proactively identify conflicts and manually move his one-on-ones every week. “I had a recurring task to look through my calendar and find conflicts that had come up with my one-on-ones and other meetings and then try and reschedule them,” Greg said.

The Clockwise solution

Clockwise gave Greg and his reports back some of their Focus Time without having to cut down on their number of meetings.

Crucially, Clockwise makes it easier for Greg to see his reports every week. He really values that progress, and those relationships.

“One thing I really love about Clockwise is that it gives me confidence that I'm using my team's time as mindfully as possible”

Greg Sabo

“The biggest thing that I love about Clockwise is the focus blocks,” Sri said. “That's really useful for me and now I see lots of people at Asana using Clockwise and it's great.”

Sri uses Monday mornings for planning. “I look at my calendar for the week and I say, Do I actually have a lot of stuff going on this week? Am I really really heavily booked with meetings? Is this a time where I can expect to have a decent amount of Focus Time at my desk?”

Focus Time has also given Sri some time back. “I think another really big, really important value that Focus Time, and therefore Clockwise, provides is making people think a little bit.” Engineers respect Focus Time more now. That might mean creating a task instead of sending a Slack message or deciding to schedule a meeting carefully instead of just throwing 30 minutes on Sri’s calendar.

“Just having the Focus Time on the calendar helps to keep those times clear,” Sri said.

“I do need blocks of Focus Time,” Greg said. But, “I have less need than my Engineers. For me, it's very important to preserve their Focus Time, which is a big draw for me for Clockwise.”

“I think the need for Clockwise is a lot more apparent for people who've been at Asana longer,” Sri said. “Calendar debt is a kind of debt that adds up over time. You have lots of meetings that maybe should never have been recurring. I also circulated it with some of my peer managers and I think a lot of those folks are finding it really really valuable as well just because they also happen to have a lot of meetings as managers. With Clockwise, I have a lot of trust that inefficiencies in my calendar will get resolved over time.”

Adopting Clockwise

Before Clockwise, Sri didn’t take Focus Time into account when scheduling meetings. That left him with a lot of Fragmented Time -- 15- or 30-minute spaces in which he wasn’t as productive as he could have been. Sri wasn’t taking into account the impact all these interruptions were having on his overall progress on his goals.

Before Clockwise, “I didn't really think at all about how, on a given day, is that going to mean that suddenly I'm at my desk for half an hour and then have this half hour meeting and then back at my desk for half an hour?” Sri said.

“[Autopilot] was something that I wanted to try pretty quickly,” Sri said. Autopilot moves your meetings to the least interruptive time to maximize your total Focus Time.

Because Autopilot works best when the whole team uses it, Sri started asking each of his reports if he could put their meetings on Autopilot.

“Some people are a little bit more attuned to the fact that having lots of scattered meetings is distracting them or means that they can't get a lot done,” Sri said. “Some people complain to me in one-on-ones: ‘I have interviews. I have all this other stuff. There's so many meetings. I feel like I'm not getting anything done.’” Sri was able to say, “‘Well, here's this tool I use that’s supposed to clean up your calendar and make you blocks of time that you can use to actually focus on things.’”

Today, Sri’s meetings are “pretty much all on Autopilot. If I'm scheduling a meeting I will often turn Autopilot on just to feel confident that conflicts will be resolved in case something comes up.”

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