• Cindy Schwartz

Want to be more productive, work less

I sent an email to my team this week as a welcome back from the holiday season, along with some advice and a new approach to working that I wanted to put in place in my business. I had planned on sending this in December, but I hesitated as I believed there is a level of common sense in this advice and I didn’t want to state the obvious.

Whilst on leave, I recognised that common sense comes with experience and lessons learned. What is obvious to some is not obvious to all. By addressing the common sense aspects of productivity, it pushes them to the forefront of focus and reiterates the empowerment the team already has to make the right decisions for their clients and themselves.

Who would have thought that you can be more productive by stopping work…2018 can be a time that you can be much more productive in your work!

The intent is to help you become more productive and make better use of your already over scheduled time. It’s a given that we all work hard and put in long hours to help us drive to success. These initiatives below are to help focus your time on the most needed outcomes, help you be less internally focused and more client engaged.

So many of you do a great deal of back to back to meetings, leaving you multi-tasking, looking at email (sometimes responding) while in other meetings. This takes our focus away, shows a lack of respect for the people we are meeting with and speaking with and makes us less efficient. The ideas below are a start to help you take your days back, get more done in less time and be present. I challenge you all to hold yourselves and your peers accountable to these. I would love to hear feedback on these practices or if you have other ideas.

Here are my top 10 productivity tips for a more effective 2018:

1. One of the best ways to stay focused and be more productive is to stop working. The most productive people get up and walk away from their desks, even mid-task, every 50-60 minutes. A quick 2-5 minute break will do wonders for your energy, focus and productivity.

2. No more hour-long meetings. All meetings should be 25-minute increments instead of 30. Schedule 25 or 50 minute meetings in place of 30 or 60 minutes. Continue to book the meeting for 30 minutes or 60 minutes but create the agenda (see item 3) to run for only 25 or 50 minutes. Use the extra 5 or 10 minutes to check email, return phone calls or simply get up, walk around and clear your head. If your agenda doesn’t require the whole group you had thought to invite, cut the list and send them minutes later. Of course, this doesn’t change the need for long meetings, but schedule breaks into the agenda, once an hour for a quick 5 minutes just to give people a chance to refresh their minds, check their mail, allowing them to come back to the meeting reinvigorated.

3. All meetings need to have agendas. When organising meetings, make sure to have an agenda. Know, not just what you want to discuss, but what outcome(s) you need from the meeting. Make sure the people attending the meeting know this ahead of time. Use the agenda to keep people on task and on time.

4. Send any documents being reviewed ahead of the meeting. Don’t waste time in the meeting reading a document or having people who need to make decisions read it on the spot. It leads to less effective meetings and decisions being rushed and not thought through.

5. Show up on time and End on time! Perhaps the most common sense of all of the tips, but one of the most important. With everyone’s diaries stuffed with heaps of meetings, showing up late turns someone else’s useful time into lost time. It also shows a great amount of disrespect. Ending on time is just as key. Leaving one meeting late, likely means you are going to another late as are the other attendees. If you are the meeting host don’t make your attendees choose between being telling you they need to leave before the meeting ends, showing up late to their next meeting or not accomplishing the task they had scheduled to complete next. Schedule a follow-up meeting or call if needed, but end on time.

6. Schedule planning time into your calendars. Many of you need to balance long-term planning with short-term outcomes and execution. Short term tactical has a way of growing and taking over your work week with immediate needs. If you don’t force the time in your calendars to plan, you will stay in firefighting mode and never get to fire prevention. Same goes for busy time. Make sure to book in time to get work done, not just sit in meetings, creating more work.

7. Weekly internal meeting free times. It’s all too easy to get drawn into the mire of internal needs and analysis at a cost to external client focus. Get a set time every week that is guaranteed to not be in internal meetings. For my business, I have set Tuesday and Thursday afternoons as internal meeting-free time. In this time I encourage them all to leave the office, meet with a client or work from a client office. Find a time that works for you, your team and company and set it. It will do wonders for your client engagement and focus.

8. Colour code your calendar. You can make it as simple or complex as you’d like, but make sure you are at least coding interval vs external. Look at your week visually, is there too much internal and no external? Find a way to bring things back to balance.

9. Email free times. Set up a weekly no internal email time, speak to your peers. We have email free Friday in my business. Spend time talking things through. It will likely get done faster and without miscommunication. It’s a simple process to encourage people to either get up from the desks or pick up the phone to talk to colleagues or customers instead of emailing them. It helps in building a collaborative and caring culture, as well as reducing the size of inboxes. A double whammy.

10. No more email (or social media) notifications. This one derails me all of the time. I am working on a slide deck and ping, there is a new email, it looks important, I stop what I’m doing to read it. All of my focus is gone and I’ve just lost valuable time. Shut off the desktop alert for outlook and the phone alert for emails. If you stick to the 25/50 minute schedules, there is ample time to read and review emails (or that new Instagram post) If it is truly urgent there is always old school, you’ll get a call.

Bring on a more productive way of working in 2018!

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