Get it Done: Meeting Pro Jackie Janus on Productivity

5 meeting pros share their strategies for managing distractions, prioritizing, and getting (almost) everything done.

There’s a special place in productivity heaven for people like Jackie Janus, event services manager at SmithBucklin, who plan meetings for multiple organizations. “I’m not really Jackie Janus with SmithBucklin on a day-to-day basis. I’m Jackie Janus with this association, or that association. People ask, ‘How do you keep it straight?’ You know what? It’s kind of how I thrive.” Janus joined SmithBucklin as her first major job out of college almost eight years ago and now works with five client organizations. In 2014, she was honored with the International Association of Exhibitions and Events’ “20 Under 30” award. The secrets to her capable career? Color-coding, e-sticky notes, and corralling email into two sessions a day.

Approach to the Day

“I get into the office between 8 and 8:30 a.m., and my day is broken into three parts. I use my early mornings for email. Then I use the core portions of the day, mostly my mornings, for projects, followed by meetings. Then I tackle emails again in the late afternoon before I head home for the day. This is also generally when I compile my lists. I take 10 to 15 minutes a day and make a large list of everything that I need to prioritize and tackle for the rest of the week.”

In-box Strategy

“Early in my career I would react to every email. A little box would pop up in the corner of my screen and derail other things that I needed to get done.” Janus has adapted to the less distracting, twice-a-day email routine, and the company supports it. “We have a 24-hour response time here at SmithBucklin. Usually I respond even sooner.” Internally, that strategy is well understood; externally, it “gets a little bit trickier depending on what conference I have upcoming,” she says, noting that clients know to pick up the phone if something is urgent.

Besides avoiding the constant drip of distractions, another benefit of letting email sit, she says, is that over the course of a day, many issues have worked themselves out by the time she reads an email string.

Organizing Principle

“I have a really specific color-coding system that I use for email. I wear five client hats, and of course I wear my SmithBucklin hat. I use a color for each. Generally, people sort their in-box by date. I sort mine by client color. In the mornings, when I come in, I’ll color code the new email into the right category. Then I have a flagging system internally within each category that prompts me on how to take action.

“It’s taken me a while to get here. At the beginning, l was trying something new almost every year. Then about my third year, maybe my fourth, I realized this is working well. I just stuck with it.”


Click here to read more productivity profiles from meeting executives at IMEX Group, Crump, National Restaurant Association, and MGM Resorts International.


More Color Coordination

“I’m old school in that I take a lot of hand-written notes at meetings. Later I’ll compile lists from those notes, either in Word or Sticky Notes. I use the Sticky Notes tool on my PC because it allows for color coding, and I use the same colors as I do for email. If I go to a meeting and I only have one action item, I’ll drop it in Sticky Notes and it stays on my desktop. If there are 15 items, I’ll generally type it in Word.”

Biggest Challenge

“I have to remind myself to delegate. I just have to tell myself, ‘You don’t need to do all of this.’ There are other folks who need to learn. There’s other folks who can help.’ Delegating helps my workload, of course, but it also gives others new opportunities. That’s how I was taught and how our structure is set up here. When I was being trained, they gave me the opportunity to take on new tasks or take a stab at things.”

Job as Motivator

Being productive, Janus says, is easier when you’re challenged and engaged. “One of the first things I was told when I walked in the door at SmithBucklin was, ‘You will learn something new every day here.’ It’s true.  I think my biggest motivator is the fact that everything is new and different and challenging every single day. I kind of thrive on that.”


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