Time Management
Productivity Consulting and Leadership Coaching for business and nonprofits - get your most important work done. Collaborating with leaders and their teams to become more strategic, focused and productive. Leadership and Board Coaching, Strategic Planning Facilitation, Productivity Coaching and Consulting, Professional Speaker.
Productivity Coach, Productivity Consultant, Leadership Coach, Executive Coach, Business Consulting, personal productivity, time management, nonprofit, board coach, collaboration, strategic planning, facilitation, change management, leading productive teams, project planning, board development, volunteer engagement, association management, workplace productivity, executive director.
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Time Management

improve efficiency

When I think of improving efficiency  I think of when I was in college and learned about the time and motion studies of the 1950’s.  I envision Lucy and Ethel wrapping chocolate on the production line.  And then I think that no one wants to live life with so much constraint that we are more machine than human.  However, so many of my clients tell me they want to be more efficient.

I am a big fan of putting rote tasks on autopilot so that our energy can be put towards creative process and enjoying life. I am embarrassed to tell you this, (but will because perhaps it might help,) but I’m always looking at how to do things in the fewest steps.

I will exemplify this with a task we all do – emptying the dishwasher. I’ve observed many people empty the dishwasher – I do it differently.  And I typically get it done in the time it takes to brew a couple cups of coffee.

  1. I work from the bottom up so that if water spills out of something it’s not going to get anything below it wet.
  2. I unload in groups –the silverware into my hand and then direct to the silverware drawer
  3. I place things on the counter at the location it will be put into
  4. I unload completely, then I put away. I’m only opening the drawer or cabinet once and I’m putting everything away at one time
  5. And I make it a game to see how fast I can do it. It’s fast and it’s done.

I waste not a moment on something as routine as unloading a dishwasher.

Now let’s apply that to our work.

  • How can I process my email as efficiently as possible?
  • How can I keep my to-do list as streamlined as possible?
  • How can I make my meetings as effective as possible?

I’ve blogged about all of this and I’ve linked the above questions to those posts.  What I’m addressing here however is how to create systems and processes to be most efficient, streamlined, and effective.

Creating efficient systems

  1. Notice it – recognize the opportunity. Don’t assume you can be efficient without thinking about how to be more efficient. Awareness is the first step!
  2. Analyze the steps. Is there a better, faster, more effective way to do something?  Can you eliminate, combine, or change the order of doing something.
  3. Do – Assess– Adjust. Try it out, practice, watch, question. Shift, try something else.  Keep modifying until you get it right.
  4. Practice and Repeat – use the system until it becomes routine and you don’t have to think about it. Watch your stopping and starting. Stick with a task until it’s done, or at least until there is a logical stopping point.

Sometimes having a productivity coach or organizing consultant helps. We work with our clients to help them develop the best ways to improve efficiency.

 

healthy productivity

It’s a hard time of year to be productive.  There are so many distractions!  Instead of trying to do it all, how about doing what you have to do well, and setting yourself up to have a truly healthy and happy holiday season.

Be realistic about how much you can get done between Thanksgiving and New Year’s and create a plan to get it done:

  • Use your to do list to support you in identifying the work that has to get done
    • While I’m a HUGE fan or organizing your list in order of priority I know some of you chose other approaches.
    • Simple solution – use your Sharpies for colored stars – red for “must be done before Christmas” and green for “would love to do before Christmas.”
  • Set deadlines on your important work – those red star projects. Then assess
    • Can I get this all done and still do everything else I want to do (parties, shopping, decorating)?
    • If not, reassess and be realistic about what you can really accomplish
  • Choose non-essential work carefully – don’t have unrealistic expectations
    • Ask yourself “what’s the worst thing that would happen if I don’t do this before New Year’s?”

Protect your off-time. When not at work or working:

  • Know that your office won’t fall apart if you don’t check your email
  • If you check your email and there is something you want to do, do it and get it done, but don’t feel like you have to do more than that.
  • Stay present – remove the temptation of distraction
    • When out or doing something fun, use the Do Not Disturb on your phone
    • Keep your phone in your purse or pocket… or gasp (leave it in another room, in the car or somewhere out of reach!)

Prep for an easier reentry:

  • Going out of town or taking a few days off? Prep for leaving.  Coming back to a clean slate, both physically and digitally, will help you get back into action much more quickly. Before you leave, take an extra hour or two to:
    • Clear your desk
      • Throw your trash/recycling away
      • File papers you want to keep for future reference
      • Put your current projects into their own folders and set them in a project file holder
    • Clear your email inbox
      • Delete the trash (yes – get the JUNK out of your inbox!)
      • File emails you want to keep for future reference (Make a 2019 folder and put it all there…)
      • The only thing left in your inbox will be things you need to address when you get back. Now you have a fighting chance!
    • Work harder to finish your “must do before Christmas” so you can take time off and really relax and enjoy yourself.

Wishing you a healthy and productive holiday season.

  1. Google Calendar
    • Because it syncs flawlessly with my iPhone.
    • Because of the new REMINDER feature that reminds me of tasks I need to do on a specific day.
    • Because I can paste a phone # or Zoom link into the location field.
  2. Apple Watch
    • Because I can keep my phone on silent and my wrist vibrates when I have a call or text.
    • Because I can quickly find my iPhone at any time by pressing one button (iPhone pings!)
    • Because I now don’t need to have my phone with me all the time.
      • I really value that I can get help or be reached in the case of an emergency.
      • And I love that I don’t have to carry a pocketbook and can pay for things with Apple Pay.
  3.  Evernote
    • Because it’s easy to manage my tasks and change my categories as needed.
    • Because it’s easy to manage a project in a note.
    • Because it’s easy to find the notes I take!

Productivity Tools I WANT for Hanukkah/Christmas – The ability to mark my texts as UNREAD….The ability to mark my texts as UNREAD…The ability to mark my texts as UNREAD…The ability to mark my texts as UNREAD….

 

Managing Over

This week I’m sharing content from an another article I was featured in. Thanks again to Kathyrn Vasel, of CNN Business for the great article on How to shut down an over-talker at your next meeting.

 

(CNN)Meetings can be a bore, but they can really drag on when someone is talking too much or going off topic.

If one person dominates the conversation, it can deter others from speaking up and mean missing out on new ideas and getting a variety of opinions.
“I’ve never led a team where there isn’t some degree of someone who is an over-talker,” said Ellen Faye, a productivity and leadership coach.
Leaders need to learn how to manage a meeting. They need to take charge when someone goes off the rails, but they also need to tread carefully when it comes to reining the person in.
“You want meetings to be useful, and if you have someone who goes on and on — that meeting has become non-productive,” said Faye.

Set a firm agenda

It’s easier to keep people on track with a comprehensive agenda that includes topics and time frames. It provides a blueprint to what will (and won’t) be discussed, which can help people stay on topic.
Set the tone of the meeting from the start: Telling attendees that you plan to keep things moving and on topic can make people more aware of their speaking time and make it less awkward if you have to step in.

Create time limits

Setting parameters can also help curb over-talkers.
You can request that people keep their comments to around one minute or two, or that they share their top thought and then move on to the next person, Faye recommended.Another option is to outline that you want to hear from each participant at least once, but no more than three times.
“That way, everyone is compelled to speak up and participate, but the over-talkers will be more limited,” said Faye.

Steer them back on track

We can all get into the weeds sometimes and risk getting bogged down with details that aren’t relevant.

If that’s happening, Faye suggested saying something like: Those are great details to work on. Let’s keep a note of that for later.
“It takes a leader with confidence to know when enough is enough,” she said.

Create a ‘parking lot’

Making sure participants feel heard is important, but sometimes their ideas just aren’t relevant to the topic at hand.

Those ideas can be sent to a “parking lot,” which is a list you create, either on paper or for everyone to see.

This validates an idea, but keeps the conversation on topic. Just make sure to circle back to the parking lot at the end of the meeting.

“The actions in the parking lot need to be forwarded in some way,” advised Hallie Crawford, a certified career coach. That could mean moving an ideato the next meeting’s agenda, assigning someone to look into it, or dealing with it via email.

Politely interrupt

If there’s a serial over-talker or someone has been going off on a tangent for several minutes, it could be time to interrupt — just be polite about it.
If someone is being verbose and not getting to their point, Crawford suggested saying something like: “Joe, if I can interrupt, I think that is a great thought. Do you have any recommendations of how we can implement that plan or strategy?”
She also said phrases like: “Sorry to interrupt, but in the interest of time” or “bringing us back to the agenda” can also get people back on track without coming off as harsh.

This week I’m once again sharing content from an article I was featured in. Thanks to Kathyrn Vasel, of CNN Business for the great article on How to Make Meetings More Effective.

You’re running your meetings wrong. Here’s how to make them more effective.

Meetings often get a bad rap. We have too many, they’re too long and they prevent us from being as productive as we could be.

“People don’t hate meetings, they hate meetings that waste their time,” said Ellen Faye, a productivity and leadership coach.

But sometimes meetings are necessary, and can be useful tools for getting things done, brainstorming new ideas and tackling problems at work.  You just have to do them right.

Keep the invite list exclusive
Only invite people to whom the subject matter of the meeting is relevant. “People don’t often really think about who really needs to be at the meeting,” said Neal Hartman, a senior lecturer in managerial communication at the MIT Sloan School of Management. “Lots of people get invited and if the topic isn’t relevant to them, they feel like they have nothing to contribute and they are sitting there thinking of all the other things they could be doing.” Limiting the size of the meeting can also spur better conversation, said Paul Axtell, author of “Meetings Matter: 8 Powerful Strategies for Remarkable Conversations.” “The quality of conversation is dependent on quality of the relationships that walk into the room. Fewer people are more likely to connect.”

Have a clear agenda
Make sure all attendees have a good sense of the subject and goals of the meeting before they walk into the room. When you send the calendar invite with the time and location of the meeting, it helps to also include an agenda with the intended topics of discussion. “It’s particularly useful to put a suggested timeline for each agenda item.” said Hartman.  Give people adequate time to review and digest any complex data or documents before the meeting to avoid putting anyone on the spot and to keep the meeting moving. “If you are expecting your meeting to be effective and productive and you want to be able to make a decision, you need a certain degree of information and data,” said Faye. And if you expect some participants to run part of the meeting, give them advanced notice and a time limit.

Get broad participation
Now that you’ve invited only the necessary players to your meeting, make sure you get input from everyone. “If you have done a good job selecting the participants … it’s useful to hear from everybody to get a nice range of insights and perspectives,” said Hartman. The meeting leader should make sure everyone feels comfortable contributing and rein in any conversation hogs who tend to dominate meetings. There are different ways to encourage everyone to speak up. Some implement a rule that everyone needs to speak once, but no more than three times. Others will simply make sure to call on everyone in the room at some point. “The people who are quiet have good information and if we skip them and don’t hear them we aren’t making the best decision for the team and aren’t getting the best outcome,” said Faye.

Limit your own talk time
While meeting hosts play an important role in the effectiveness of the meeting, they also have to be careful with how much they are talking. One of the biggest problems that leads to unnecessarily long meetings is the leader talking too much and not asking questions or listening, according to Bob Sutton, an organizational psychologist and Stanford professor. “You have leaders who talk to allegedly show off their knowledge, when asking questions helps make everyone feel engaged and recognized,” he said.

Have a call to action
Too often if you ask participants of the same meeting what was accomplished or discussed, you’ll get different answers. To avoid that, the meeting leader should take a few minutes to review what was decided on, any deadlines and the next steps to move forward. “If you don’t leave with specific commitments and timelines, then for the most part you didn’t accomplish anything,” said Axtell.” Most often the missing piece is not nailing down who is doing what and then not following up.”

Limit tech
Technology has made our lives much easier, but it can also be a major distraction in meetings. “If you are texting or emailing during a meeting, you aren’t engaged,” said Faye. “There is no way your brain can be doing that and listening and following the conversation.” Meeting leaders should set expectations and ground rules on what technology will be tolerated and they should practice what they preach. Some companies have even banned technology in meetings or make people turn in their devices at the start of the meeting.

Avoid lip-service meetings
Managers can run the most well-run meetings, but if there is no execution afterward, it can cause friction with employees. “Some leaders seem to believe that if they have meetings and are just listening to people and don’t follow up on the opinions or advice, that will make employees feel better,” said Sutton. That’s not the case. “People get really frustrated,” he said.

If it’s daily, keep it short and try standing
If a daily meeting is deemed necessary, keep it moving and keep it short — no more than 20 minutes. “If it’s a daily meeting where you are reviewing actions … I would do a standup meeting where everyone is eye level and everyone moves on,” said Faye.

Track how much time you spend in meetings 
Some job roles require multiple meetings a day, but Faye recommends aiming to have only two hours of meetings a day with four at the most.
“This gives you enough time to follow up, react and do other work,” she said.

What is YOUR Success Formula?

Look at how you filled your parking spaces last week.  There are 10 spots. Our math savvy friends know that each spot is 10% of your disposable time.  We will use this to create your formula.

Some of you may have created two parking lots. One that reflects how your life is today and one that reflects how you want your life to be.  The one that reflects the way you want your life to be will drive your success formula.

You are creating a vision for success – a “SUCCESS FORMULA” based on

  • your definition of success
  • your unique focus areas
  • your core values
  • your aspirations.

Keep in mind that each spot is equal to 10% of your disposable time.

Now assign a percentage to each of your parking spaces…

Example:

  • if you have 5 spots for work that’s 50%
  • if you have 3 spots for family that’s 30%
  • if you have 2 spots for self-care that’s 20%

This is my success formula:

Success Formula example

What’s your success formula?

Here are some other examples to spark your creativity:

Success Formulas

Now you have a visual based on YOUR DEFINITION OF SUCCESS.

Use Your Success Formula to Drive your Priorities

  • Create a visual that is motivating and appealing
  • Post your visual where you can see it daily
  • Use your visual to drive how you spend your time, and how you set your priorities; ask yourself:
    • Does saying yes to this support my success formula?
    • If I say yes to this what will I be saying no to?
  • Do the math – if something gets 10% of your formula then it gets 8-10 hours a week. If something gets 40% of your formula that is 32 to 40 hours a week.  Try logging how you spend your time.  You’ll be amazed at what you learn.

Integration: A key component of experiential learning (which is doing while learning, which is what we did in this blog course) is taking the time to integrate the learning.  Here are some questions that can help you to integrate the learning:

  • What did you figure out?
  • What do you see differently?
  • What one change will you make first?

Wishing you SUCCESS on your terms!

Creating Your Very Own Success Formula Blog Course Details – This is the 6th, and final, in a multi-series of posts.  Check this post for the big picture. Future blog posts can be delivered to your inbox by signing up for my blog. And please continue to share this blog course with your friends and colleagues.