Productivity has been a hot topic in recent virtual workshops and coaching: everyone seems to be working on multiple tasks, juggling competing commitments and getting things done in wafer-thin slices of time. So it seems like a good time to revisit and reshare tips and resources to help.
1. Decide on priorities
Some tasks are higher priority than others. How can you decide? Use a tool to help you figure out what needs doing now, later and possibly doesn’t need doing at all. The Eisenhower Matrix (named after former USA president Dwight D. Eisenhower, who said, “I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”) is a handy productivity tool.
It can help you identify what needs to be done right now. It can also help you to haggle – nicely – about your workload and agree which tasks can wait.
Watch the 3-minute video and download your template here.
2. Block out time for deep work
In his best-selling book ‘Deep Work’, Prof Cal Newport sets out the distinction between work that’s deep – or shallow. No prizes for guessing which is done in a ‘state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit’. Shallow work, by contrast, is the stuff that we can get done with minimal concentration. It might be a step-by-step process that you can almost do on autopilot.
If you find yourself jumping from one task to another, one tool from another – yet not getting anything actually finished – block out time in your calendar for the work that requires all your brain power. What about all that shallow work? Schedule that too.
Too busy to read the book? Take an hour to watch the author’s talk for Workforce. If an hour’s too long (oh dear, you need this post!), watch this animated book summary in a few minutes.
3. Ditch the default duration for meetings
Not all meetings are created equal: some can be quick and simple catch-ups on a project’s progress where others, such as generating ideas or collaborating on strategy, need longer. Discuss with team-mates the optimal time slot for your routine meetings: a 15-minute daily team stand-up? A 45-minute project review? Problem-solving for half a day?
Atlassian has top tips for better meetings, including a superb decision-making chart, ‘Why do you want to call a meeting?’
4. Use checklists
No, you’re not too cool to have a checklist: they’re used in operating theatres, in the flight deck of aeroplanes – and they save lives. If you’ve ever used a recipe, you’ve already used checklist; now think back to when you said ‘nah, don’t need the recipe any more, I can make it up as I go’ – how did that work out? Checklists help work teams to get stuff done consistently and correctly. Watch Atul Gawande, author of ‘The Checklist Manifesto for more. And well done to the lovely Zoomly client that’s now using a checklist for their meetings.
5. Take better meeting notes
This one can be a major bugbear: ever been to a meeting with six other colleagues and later discovered that there were three (or maybe four, even five) different accounts of what was agreed and who was to do what? Of course you have – and this confusion can be a significant productivity drain. This often happens because a note-taker hasn’t been designated, so it’s worth asking who is going to do that. Be ready, the answer could be ‘you!’ Capture each agenda point as meeting progresses, noting any questions raised and answers, what was agreed, who’s doing what and when. Ask and and check for agreement of next steps. Monday.com has more tips.
You may find this post useful: ‘Raise your team’s performance with After Action Reviews’
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