Monthly Archives: November 2011

Improving Personal Productivity, Part 3

By | Leadership, Productivity | No Comments

productivityFollowing on from my previous posts on Improving Productivity, Part 1 and Part 2, some more tips:

  1. In every meeting you have, whether it’s with one person or many, always have an agenda, have objectives of why you are meeting and an end time. Nancy Kline in her book Time to Think has some excellent ideas on how to run good meetings based on thinking and listening which are a bit different to the usual advice!
  2. Really question every meeting you agree to attend. Remember past meetings you have been to, add in preparation time, travel time, time when the meeting doesn’t start punctually, time when the meeting overruns and then ask yourself was that the best way of spending what was supposed to be 2 hours and turns into half a day?  Could the meeting be run as a conference call? How else could it be held?
  3. Be selfish and plan in time, i.e. block out in your diary, to action and prepare for meetings so that you don’t feel like you have 2 jobs … one during the day to attend meetings and the second to start at 5.30pm to actually get some things done! Be proactive about your diary and take regular views of how you can be proactive rather than reacting to everyone else’s demands on you.  Get in there first.
  4. It is recommended to work on no more than 3 or 4 things at any one time. If it is more than this you lose your focus. This applies to men and women. There are gender differences here but this advice is good for both.
  5. There is much written about working on what is important and not just what is urgent.  Businesses and entrepreneurs who make a shift to concentrate on what is important become more successful. Rather than being busy on trivia, on problem solving, working on the easy things first, getting distracted, on being busy itself…take time to think about the purpose and vision for the future. This guides you to decide on the priorities and define the boundaries and what to say ‘yes’ to and ‘no’ to, when you are making decisions.  Consider the following questions:
    • What is time well spent for you?
    • What is purposeless activity and how can you reduce it?
    • What is purposeful activity and how can you increase it?
  6. Work out who can help you.  Save time struggling on your own. It is a sign of strength to ask for help and advice. Modelling is a Neuro Linguistic Programming term (NLP) whereby you identify who is good at the thing you are not skilled at and you go and ask them what is it that they do, to improve. What a compliment!  Who do you know who seems to pack in a lot, gets everything done and have time to smile?  Have a coffee with them for some advice.
  7. Could you delegate and develop someone at the same time? Improve your delegation skills if necessary. These are key to good time management. If you are not so hot at this – get some training!
  8. Is procrastination an issue for you? Do you keep putting something off, something that is important that needs some thought and can’t seem to find a couple of hours to get going? Follow Mark Forster’s tip on this and find 5 minutes.  Get yourself a notepad and a pen and time yourself to write and write furiously for 5 minutes.  Don’t stop writing for a full 5 minutes and when the time is up stop writing even in mid sentence.  You will notice 2 things (1) how much you can write in 5 minutes and actually get started with and (2) if you stop mid sentence it is easier to get started when you pick up the pen next time rather than staring into space!  The message here is find time for important things. If you can find several lots of 5 minutes even better.  Do remember working flat out can only be sustained for about 45 minutes!

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Improving Personal Productivity, Part 2

By | Productivity | No Comments

productiveFinding more time in the day and getting organised are some of the key issues for many of our clients. This post builds on Part 1 and offer some tips and ideas to help you.

Big impact, small effort; the 4 minute story

To increase your impact and your effectiveness consider this way to spend your time.

Take time to really listen not just hear what people are saying to you. Ask questions that show you are interested in them. Remember small details that demonstrate that interest and refer to them.

Rather than consider this as small talk think of it as building rapport. This is a key ingredient of building relationships and trust and sustaining them.

If you are interested in this, look at Daniel Goleman’s work on Emotional Intelligence.

To make this work even better follow the advice of Steven McDermott, a motivational speaker. Imagine you are travelling to a place; it could be driving into work, driving home, going to attend an important meeting, interview etc. Imagine 10 minutes before you arrive at your destination that you are going to be the best you can be. The best boss, the best manager, the best husband, the best Dad, the best candidate.

Now you only have to sustain being your best for 4 minutes.

When you arrive you make a big impression, you are in a good mood, you smile, and you interact in a really positive way. Now the person you are with tunes into this and reacts back in a positive way too and so you create a positive feedback loop and you don’t really need to try so hard. The 4 minutes increases to 10 minutes without thinking.

This really works.

How about that as a good investment of time? To improve the mood of those around you and make you feel good and create better relationships.

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Improving Personal Productivity, Part 1

By | Productivity | 2 Comments

“Wisdom consists in doing the right thing you have to do, doing it with your whole heart, and finding delight in doing it.” – Meister Eckhart.

Have you heard the expression “if you want a job done give it to a busy person?” Why is that? What magic do they have to get things done? In the next few weeks, I’m going to be writing about controlling time based on what is important.

First step towards a solution

Gather evidence of your current time management practices by keeping a diary for 2 weeks. You then have more choice over how you want the future to be. Record what you do in half hour blocks. Analyse the results by considering the following:

  • Categorise under different headings- what does this tell you? For example, if you are a leader of people, how much time do you spend doing this?
  • What are the surprises?
  • Are you focused on the priorities?

Purpose, priorities, boundaries

A simple way to determine what your priorities are is by considering first your purpose. Your purpose gives you direction, gives you role clarity and focus. Ask yourself what you want to achieve professionally and personally. Then look at your priorities in the light of achieving your purpose. Identify for yourself:

  • What do you want to do more of or less of, to deliver that purpose?
  • What do you want to start doing or stop doing?

Having given some thought to your purpose and priorities the last really helpful question to ask is what are your boundaries? What do you say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to? For more information on purpose see my posts on goal-setting and on motivation and visioning.

Productivity tips

  1. Create a yearly, quarterly & monthly plan based on your purpose and priorities.
  2. Each week write your plan for the week ahead. Consider doing this on a Sunday evening.
  3. Write your daily plan the evening before if possible. This gives your subconscious mind the chance to work on issues overnight. If you are a lark rather than an owl perhaps this is better to do in the morning!
  4. If you add something substantial to your to do list also take something off as most people try to take on too much.
  5. Ask yourself can you delegate the task? Dump it? Leave it for now? Pay someone else?
  6. Estimating the time to complete a task often goes awry. To build in time for contingency it often takes 2.5 times longer than you first think!
  7. Consider completing the task in a different way, Does it have to be the Rolls-Royce version?
  8. Create a simple filing system. Even lever arch files with plastic wallets keep papers in order.
  9. Plan in time for you by blocking out time in your diary. This could be for actioning projects, following up action points from meetings, carrying out team activities etc.
  10. Plan in regular time for housekeeping by you or your PA to avoid wasting time searching for things.
  11. Keep a notebook or PDA close by to jot down ideas/thoughts wherever you are.
  12. Work on high level work in the morning. Leave more routine work for 8 hours after you woke up. This tends to be the lowest point in the day for quality thinking/working. Avoid arranging critical meetings/appointments at your low point.
  13. Plan in at least 10 minutes a day for creative silence or quiet time. This enables you to tap into your creativity and intuition, great for solving problems.
  14. Listen to your intuition! If you cannot say a definite ‘yes’ then probably it’s best to leave it and not struggle.

Efficiency vs. effectiveness. Do you need to have both?

Efficiency = producing something with the least waste of effort.

Effectiveness = producing a result.

Another version of this is:

Efficiency = doing things right

Effectiveness = doing the right things

Characteristics of good time managers include being both efficient and effective.

Next time we look at more time saving ideas!

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Goals, Goals, Goals!

By | Motivation, Productivity | No Comments

10 Features of Well-Written Goals

In my last post, I explained the basics of goal-setting and now I fill this out with some tips on how to write your goals:

  1. They match with your personal and professional/organisational values.
  2. Goals are written down otherwise they are dreams or wishes. Keep a diary or notebook to record these. If you are more of a visual person a mind map may capture your thoughts better than traditional notes. Tony Buzan is the best author on this subject.
  3. They are reviewed regularly. To do this keep them handy, always in the same place and create a good habit of say reviewing every Sunday evening. Tracking your progress and refreshing yourself keeps you focused and gives clarity to decision making in the week and month ahead. A success diary breeds further success.
  4. Goals are specific, e.g. I want to live in a white house with a sweeping staircase.
  5. They are written in the positive e.g. I want to achieve a weight of X stones/Kg/pounds.
  6. Goals are captured in the imagination. You can visualise how they will look and feel. I have a visual part to my business plan to inspire me.
  7. They are measurable. How will you know when you have achieved the goal?
  8. Goals are challenging, to stretch you and motivate you, but not so hard that they seem too daunting and out of reach. Remember – bite size chunks.
  9. They are achievable and within your influence and largely within your control. Big goals can suit teams and departments who can together set and agree action steps.
  10. They are set within a timeframe. Allow two and a half times longer than your gut instinct suggests to allow for obstacles and emergencies.

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