- Identify Your Most Important Work Each Day
- Organize your tasks by priority – know what has to be done this week, what you want to get done this week, and what MUST be done by the end of the work day. Focus there!
- Make a physical list of today’s tasks and keep it in front of you. If it is not in front of you, it won’t be top of mind. (Hint: on your phone or computer isn’t as effective as a written note in front of you.)
- Some clients find it helpful to estimate duration and identify task start times of the physical today’s tasks list. That helps fight the “time expanding to the time available” challenge.
- Create a Workspace That Supports Your Success – Most of what is written about working from home is how to use your time and how to prepare for work. I know plenty of effective people who work in their pajamas or exercise clothing all day. For many, what they are wearing doesn’t drive productivity. The biggest obstacle I’ve observed is not being physically set up for success. Having a work space that supports productivity is crucial:
- Have Supplies in Reach: Have pens, pencils, markers, post-its, letter pads, files, action priority lists in reach. While your “office” may be your kitchen island, your dining room table, your back porch, or a comfy chair in your family room, you still need to designate a space (a close by drawer or cabinet perhaps) for the things you need to get your work done.
- Set Up Your Technology: Do you have a printer handy? Is it connected to your Wi-Fi and computer? Do you have a second monitor for detailed projects (this can increase productivity exponentially.) Do you have a handy place to charge your ear pods, and mouse and other technology? Is your Bluetooth hooked up? Many people say “I’ll do that later” and never get to it. Taking the time (or hiring someone to help you) get your tech set up makes a huge difference.
- Find a Quiet Space: Are you able to have a conversation without interruption? Yes, we know that it’s great to have your kids close by, but sometimes you need to be able to close the door and focus. If you are working in a “public” space, I recommend having a backup location designated for times you need quiet.
- Get Clear to Beat Procrastination – There have been some good articles written lately that procrastination is more of an emotional issue than a discipline or work-habits issue. I agree and have typically found procrastination to be driven by one of two things:
- Lack of Clarity About What’s Most Important – when you’re not clear you end up doing fun or easy stuff instead…
- If you work for yourself it’s helpful to create annual goals/objectives/priorities to help you know what to say no to and what to say yes to. If you aren’t clear about what your priorities are, then it’s going to be really hard to achieve them. (I address this in this blog series)
- If you work for a company, I recommend a sit-down with your manager to discuss priorities and what is actually important. You’d be amazed at how often it’s just assumed that everyone is on the same page…and they aren’t.
- Not Knowing How to Do Something or Where to Start – so you just don’t start.
- When I dig down into it with my clients, they procrastinate because they aren’t clear about how to do what they want to do. Often, we will come up with a step by step plan, identifying actions, order, and steps for completion. Once they have that plan, they can move into action.
- Sometimes you just need more information. Once that’s identified then my clients can figure out how to gather that data, and once they have the information, they can proceed.
- Sometimes things just need to percolate before moving into action. Listen to Adam Grant’s Ted Talk on Pre-crastination!
- Lack of Clarity About What’s Most Important – when you’re not clear you end up doing fun or easy stuff instead…
- Set Boundaries to Minimize Interruptions
- Set boundaries (rules) for those who are home with you about when and how you are to be interrupted. Schedule breaks and share those time with your family/friends/roommates so they don’t feel the need to interrupt as often.
- Set work hours and be sure that people in your sphere know you are WORKING from home. Many people think it’s ok to call and chit chat or that you can take an hour walk or lunch break. If you want to avoid working 24/7 then setting specific work hours is crucial.
- Leverage the Benefits of Working from Home
- Quiet, Uninterrupted Time: A lot of my clients really struggle working in open spaces. There are constant interruptions and sometimes headphones don’t screen out the noise. In some offices it’s not politically correct to wear headphones, or to wear them all the time. Even a day a week at home, to do project work, can make all the difference. The brain is not set up to handle multiple inputs. Practically all people have trouble focusing and getting into flow when they can’t hear themselves think.
- Time Efficiency: You can get your work done more quickly working from home and/or accomplish more during your work day. Of course, there is the obvious too – not taking 15-minute breaks at the coffee machine to chit-chat, not going out for an hour lunch (yes, take a lunch break, but you don’t need a hour!), and not being asked to answer the phones or pick up the slack because there is slack to be picked up and you are there to pick it up.
22 Jan How To 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.
- I work from the bottom up so that if water spills out of something it’s not going to get anything below it wet.
- I unload in groups –the silverware into my hand and then direct to the silverware drawer
- I place things on the counter at the location it will be put into
- 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
- 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
- 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!
- 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.
- Do – Assess– Adjust. Try it out, practice, watch, question. Shift, try something else. Keep modifying until you get it right.
- 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.
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.
- Clear your desk
Wishing you a healthy and productive holiday season.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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….
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.
“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
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.
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.
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.
By Kathryn Vasel, CNN Business
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.”
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.