Expert Interview with Barry Furby from Synthesio

As part of our series on Productivity we’ve interviewed Barry Furby to quiz him about his own personal productivity challenges, how he handles them and the tools he uses day to day to help.

Barry Furby is co-founder of TechMAP, a real world and online community that pioneers the evolution of business through the practical application of technology for marketing, advertising and PR professionals across multiple sectors. For Synthesio, Barry is working with established brands to find, harvest and make sense of the overwhelming amount of data on the web (including social media platforms). You can find Barry on LinkedIn, on Twitter (@barryfurby), and via @wearetechMAP.


Meetings are often cited as being unproductive – whether that’s because they run on too long, are unfocused, fail to result in action (the list is endless!). Please share your experiences and your tips for keeping meetings productive. 

I’ve seen lots of people blogging about sacking real-life meetings off all together, I couldn’t dis-agree more, but I do accept that often meetings can drain useful hours out of the day and leave us thinking ‘what did we achieve in that meeting’. The key to being productive and resourceful is to spend time before planning in order to make the most of your time during and after the meeting. Set an agenda, stick to it, and leave 25% of the time you allocated to the meeting to do 2 important things, make sure you’ve covered what you wanted and plan the actions each person has to make post-meeting. Meetings should be a useful collection of discussion points that drive actions, plan them that way.


How do you manage your own personal workload?

I’ve not worked (and continue to avoid) corporate environment where KPI’s and micro-management are part of the working day. I saw plenty of that during my time in traditional recruitment agencies a few years back. I started my own consultancy and since have preferred a much more reactive and fluid policy to managing time. I balance my time between managing my inbox and activities that are long game in building relationships for business – this a battle of inbox vs social media vs meetings vs note pad. I think it’s important to give priority to activities that are time critical and are a direct source of income, but not lose sight of things that lead to opportunities like blogging and articles/interview.


How do you manage collaboration between your employees? Are there any tools or apps you’d recommend?

At techMAP we use Google Apps and to be honest it’s one of the best portfolios of tools that I’ve used. The Email, Calendars, Chat and Document sharing/editing across devices is seamless and extremely useful for a business or brand like us where we’re actually rarely in the same room but need control and accessibility to each-other at any random moment or for planned discussions. The ability to collaborate on a document in simultaneously in real-time is great and task setting in the cal is how I manage my ever growing to-do list.


How often do you check email a day? Do you have a system for managing your inbox?

I’m sure I’m not alone when I say I literally live in my inbox. I Read, Prioritise, Action, Archive as a general rule but inevitably sometimes things sit just out of view occasionally. It’s a tough one when work, life & extra-curricular activities are all fighting for our time. I punish myself if I have more than 50 items in my inbox and work hard to stick to Read, Prioritise, Action, Archive rule.

Remote working

What are your tips for working efficiently when you’re away from the office?

Choosing your spot is the key here, you want your remote working to be conducive to your work and not a distraction. I’ve worked in places so quiet it’s almost frowned upon to speak on the phone, which wasn’t ideal for an Account Manager but might have been great for a writer. Remote working is often forgotten when travelling, I often action several things whilst on a train/tube/plane then load my outbox up with emails so I can send them when I come back in an area with wifi (or use a dongle), but the key thing is focus as if you’re at your desk – take inspiration from the fact you’re not, and enjoy getting stuff done.

Your top productivity tip

If you had to give one tip to small companies looking to grow and improve their output, what would it be?

Make smart decisions, particularly around technology. There are some great products (like Google Apps for Business) that allow you to operate like a much bigger business who spend thousands on servers and services. Then set the bar high and push, push, push!

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