As we enter into a new school year, many of us are thinking about fresh starts, new routines and an all-round more productive life. Often, these ideas are fleeting, as we quickly get swamped with daily demands. But this year can be different – after almost six months of our routines being flattened by Coronavirus, it’s time for us to take charge and forge ourselves a new, more organised path.
This blog post goes through some tools and techniques to help you achieve best practice and improve the way you work. Sometimes just the smallest of changes can make a big difference, so have a read, try some of our suggestions and see if these ideas could work for you.
First things first
Before we start, let’s remember that productivity starts at the very basics – at the bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. If you’re eating right, exercising and getting a good night’s sleep, you’ll be more effective without even thinking about it.
As you work through the tips below, remember that productivity isn’t just about doing things better, it’s about prioritising the things that are important to you and being selective about the way you spend your valuable time, both in and out of work.
Start each day with a clear goal that you want to achieve, and make sure it’s non-negotiable. No matter what happens, make sure you achieve the key thing that was important to you at the start of the day.
Managing your time
Do you use an electronic diary or are you still writing in a paper version? Many people find they need to use both, and I’m one of them. There’s something very therapeutic about writing down appointments, listing things to do on each day, and viewing the week ahead at a glance.
When you do look at the week as a whole, it’s possible to see where your time is being taken away from you unnecessarily. Are there certain departments or clients that take up huge chunks of your time? Are you attending weekly catch up meetings for the sake of it?
Take a look at your week, think about colour coding your different projects, clients or activities, and try blocking out chunks of diary time to really focus on key pieces of work. It’s amazing how much you can do when you’re ‘in the zone’, really focusing on the task in hand without interruptions. Try the Pomodoro Technique to see just how much you can do if you focus for 25 minutes.
It’s also helpful, just as a short-term activity, to track your time using Hubstaff, And.co or similar software. You can do this for a few days to see how long each task is taking you. This can be revealing, showing you where large chunks of your time are being spent. It can also give you a clear idea of how long each type of task takes, so you can plan effectively by allocating the right amount of time for your key activities.
Create some space
It’s okay to schedule travel time at either side of your meetings if you’re back to seeing people face to face. This might be something you want to consider even if you’re not travelling – a little headspace time to review what you’ve discussed, write up notes and do any actions immediately. There’s nothing worse than those days of back to back meetings when you don’t have chance to record thoughts and recap. It’s really easy to forget what was said and lose track of your actions, but just five or ten minutes after each meeting is enough to help you process the key information. If you do have meetings one after another, try to end these meetings ten minutes before their scheduled finish time to create the space you need.
Elon Musk and Bill Gate schedule their time in five minute slots, which helps them to cover their myriad of responsibilities whilst only committing small segments of their time to each of them.
To summarise, and to give you more to think about, check out this video covering a holistic approach to diary management.
Develop your productivity as a leader
We’re delivering workshops on improving productivity to help businesses bounce back from Covid – if you’d like your teams to join us, please get in touch to book your places. If you’d like to talk about the steps you can take to become a more productive, more effective leader, I’d love to chat. I’m setting aside part of my day to offer free mini Executive Coaching and Mentoring to people who would value some help in adopting new ways of working. Get in touch if you’d like to talk.