important work
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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important work Tag

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) has more people working from home.  Follow these tips to maximize your productivity.

  1. Identify Your Most Important Work Each Day
    1. 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!
    2. 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.)
    3. 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.
  2. 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:
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
  3. 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:
    1. Lack of Clarity About What’s Most Important – when you’re not clear you end up doing fun or easy stuff instead…
      1. 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)
      2. 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.
    2. Not Knowing How to Do Something or Where to Start – so you just don’t start.
      1. 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.
      2. 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.
      3. Sometimes things just need to percolate before moving into action.  Listen to Adam Grant’s Ted Talk on Pre-crastination!
  4. Set Boundaries to Minimize Interruptions
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
  5.  Leverage the Benefits of Working from Home
    1. 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.
    2. 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.

This week’s topic comes from a client’s inquiry.  She is seeking a better way to balance freelance work, her full-time job, and everything else going on in her life.

The word that comes to mind is RUTHLESS.  She will have to be ruthless in her planning, her priorities, AND her follow through.

A solid plan is paramount:

  • Treat this like you have two different jobs – treat the freelance job like you had a boss and you had to show up. If you’re serious about the other responsibility you can’t not do it just because you don’t feel like it. This holds true for freelance/gig/second jobs, volunteer commitments, family tasks, and other responsibilities.
  • Quantify time allocated to each commitment – If you want to work in your freelance job 20 hours a week and your regular job 40 hours a week, get real about what a 60-hour work week will be like. What do you have to say “no” to to say “yes” to this?
  • Plan it out on your calendar – now let’s bring this to life by clarifying what your week is going to look like. Plug into a calendar grid what you’ll do when. Create a spreadsheet beginning with what time you’ll wake up and what time you’ll go to sleep.  (I call this Ideal Week planning – ideally, if all things go well – my week will look like this…)
  • Pledge to yourself that your 2nd responsibility is as important as your day job – not necessarily in hours, but in commitment. Monitor your actions.  Log your time. If it’s not working ask why not.
    • Are you too tired?
      • Are you working with your body clock?
      • Can you swap office and freelance time?
    • What can change?
      • Are you going to bed at the right time?
      • What other work can you delegate/pass on? – hire someone to clean your house, have your groceries delivered, take your laundry to a wash and fold service.
    • Are you motivated enough?
      • How much do you really want to be doing all you are doing?
  • Assess success weekly – is there a friend or coach you can check in with to discuss how it’s going? Or is it enough for you to be accountable to yourself?
      • Did you reach your goals?
        • If so – what worked?
        • If not – what didn’t work?

At the end of the day there are only so many hours. If you are going to say “YES” to multiple responsibilities, what do you have to say “NO” to?

What is the connection between productivity and leadership?

Perhaps the question is how can these two concepts be pulled apart?

  • A great leader creates the environment for their team to be successful; thus productive.
  • A productive leader gets things done – and that’s not going to happen without strong leadership.

Leaders who produce:

  1. Know what’s important and ensures their team focuses on that work
  2. Have systems in place so team-members know what’s expected
  3. Create space for growth, creativity, and innovation
  4. Develop cultures in which team-member contributions matter
  5. Build connections so that team-members feel they belong

 

Want to learn more? This week I share my appearance on Smead’s Keeping You Organized podcast:

 

The Connection Between Productivity and Leadership  – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ET-rmKOFh1U

 

 

 

When setting intentions and goals it’s helpful to categorize, or as professional organizers like to say; group like things together.  When we see things in categories it’s easier to make choices.

My favorite example of this is black dress shoes. If you put all your black dress shoes together you will likely have about 10 pairs.  When you see them all in one place, it is easier to decide which pairs matter most. Only then you can give away the shoes that don’t fit, hurt your feet, or are too worn to wear.  Grouping like things together brings clarity to what is most important.

We can apply this concept of grouping to the activities, obligations, and priorities in your life as well.  When we “see” them all together it helps us focus on what is most important.

Look back at your definitions of success from last week.  Now consider how you are spending your time.

Are you doing the things that support your definition of success?

How can you group your life areas together in a way that respects the uniqueness of what really matters to you? Here are some examples to spark your creative juices. Feel free to use your own words as well.  I recommend picking the 4 or 5 “buckets” that reflect the things that support your definition of success:

Self-Care Family Spirituality
Friends Volunteerism Service
Activism Business Growth Career
Work Professional Development Health
Personal Growth Fun & Leisure Home Environment
Creativity Relationships Exercise

 

Your UNIQUE Focus Areas:

  1. ___________________________
  2. ___________________________
  3. ___________________________
  4. ___________________________
  5. ___________________________

 

CHARACTERISTICS of your Focus Areas

The next step is to identify CHARACTERISTICS of your focus areas, and in turn the actions that support what is important to you. This will help you get clear about your focus and priorities.

Remember, only when you are clear about what you want to FOCUS on can you FOCUS on it. 

Here are some examples that can be applied to your non-business self:

  • Self-care:
    1. Go to the gym twice a week
    2. Make time to talk to four friends at least once a week
    3. Meditate 20 minutes 4 times a week
  • Family:
    1. Spend at least one hour a week reading, playing games, or actively engaging with my children/grandchildren/nieces/ nephews/etc.
    2. Have lunch with mom once a week
    3. Have a date night with my partner two times a month
  • Service:
    1. Volunteer at least 5 hours a week
    2. Identify one cause to stand behind
    3. Don’t spread myself too thin

And for work:

  • Professional Development:
    1. Read at least one business book monthly
    2. Listen to a podcast once a week
    3. Prepare for certification exam by October
  • Business Self-Care
    1. Leave work by 6pm most days
    2. Work from home 1 day per week
    3. Have lunch with one new colleague each week/month
  • Business Growth
    1. Complete XYZ project
    2. Develop program to improve customer feedback X%
    3. Improve department profitability X%

 

What are the characteristics of your unique focus areas?

  1. ___________________________________
    1. _______________________________
    2. _______________________________
    3. _______________________________
  2. ___________________________________
    1. _______________________________
    2. _______________________________
    3. _______________________________
  3. ___________________________________
    1. _______________________________
    2. _______________________________
    3. _______________________________
  4. ___________________________________
    1. _______________________________
    2. _______________________________
    3. _______________________________
  5. ___________________________________
    1. _______________________________
    2. _______________________________
    3. _______________________________

 

Creating Your Very Own Success Formula Blog Course Details – This is the 2nd in a multi-series of posts.  Check this post for the big picture. Future posts can be delivered to your inbox by signing up for my blog. And please share this opportunity with your friends and colleagues.

What does success mean to you?

Don’t just say what you think you should say.  Stop.  Think.  Each and every one of us get to define success on our own terms.

  • For some success is defined monetarily
  • For others it’s more about lifestyle
  • And for others it’s about making a social impact
  • For you it may be a combination of these or something completely different.

What’s really cool is that you get to choose how your actions impact your definition. There are many things to consider as you create the life you envision or perhaps envision the life you wish to create!

This week’s exercise is a brainstorming about the life you wish to live. I don’t want you to write goals here (standard goal writing takes the form of   SMART Goals with the SMART meaning Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.)  Rather I’m asking you to consider SMART Intentions.  This is your opportunity to reflect about what success really means to you.

This exercise doesn’t have to take long.  My guess is that you know the answers already. And remember your brainstorming guidelines:

  • Don’t judge your thoughts – write down anything and everything that comes to mind
  • Wild ideas are helpful and encouraged – the more creative you get the clearer you’ll become

To organize this information, pick one place to keep your notes.  This can be a Word doc, a Google doc, an Evernote, a OneNote, or a simple notebook or file folder.

What does success mean to you?

  1. _____________________________________________________
  2. _____________________________________________________
  3. _____________________________________________________
  4. _____________________________________________________
  5. _____________________________________________________
  6. _____________________________________________________
  7. _____________________________________________________
  8. _____________________________________________________
  9. _____________________________________________________
  10. _____________________________________________________
  11. _____________________________________________________
  12. _____________________________________________________
  13. _____________________________________________________
  14. _____________________________________________________
  15. _____________________________________________________

Sit with this list.  Highlight or asterisk the top few that feel most important.

Creating Your Very Own Success Formula Blog Course Details – This is the 2nd in a multi-series of posts.  Check last weeks post for the big picture. Future posts can be delivered to your inbox by signing up for my blog. And please share this opportunity with your friends and colleagues.

When I begin working with productivity coaching clients, I ask them to share their goals for our work together. One of the most frequent responses is “how do I know what should be a priority?” Many variables impact the answer:

  • Do you work for yourself or do you have to consider the company/boss you work for?
  • Are we talking just about work, or do you want to understand this both professionally and personally?
  • What else and who else do you need to consider in this?

When we start coaching, I can help client’s triage by looking at their tasks and deadlines, however for long-term results it takes stepping back and deciding what’s important overall.  And this means setting intentions about the life they wish to live and setting goals to attain that life.

Until you are clear about what’s important, it’s next to impossible to know what to say yes to and what to say no to.

For the next few weeks I will walk you through (at no cost) my 7 steps to CREATING YOUR VERY OWN SUCCESS FORMULA program.  By the end you will have much more clarity about what’s important. Then setting priorities becomes easier.

And no worries, if you miss a week, it will all be posted on my blog. As well, each week’s exercise will be effective as its own learning experience

Here are the topics we’ll discuss over the next few weeks:

S – Success Defined of Your Terms

U – Unique Areas of Focus For Your Life

C – Characteristics of Your Focus Areas

C – Core Values

E – Essence of Your Yes

S – Space to Think

S – Success Formula to Guide Your Priorities

For a short-term fix, try prioritizing those items that if you didn’t do would:

  • Embarrass you if it didn’t get done
  • Let someone down you care about
  • Let yourself down
  • Cost you money if you didn’t do them
  • Cause you to miss a really good opportunity

For a long-term fix I hope you’ll follow my blog and gain some clarity about what is really important to you.  Those answers will underpin your actions moving forward.  Please share this opportunity with your friends and colleagues. By signing up for my blog they too will get the course delivered to their inbox in 7 manageable chunks.

When you know what’s truly important knowing what to say yes to and what to say no to becomes much easier.