How to raise your productivity in 7 small steps
Aleksandra Pszczoła

Aleksandra Pszczoła

7 small steps that helped me improve my daily work

Recently, Piotr Nabielec invited me to a meeting within his series of meetings with the CEO / CTO of IT companies. We talked about our tips&tricks used at work. I referred to this as ’How to move from work hard to work smart’. Today I would like to extend this subject a bit further by sharing some practices that help me to better manage my tasks at work.

You certainly know the feeling when your calendar is bursting at the seams, and every single minute is filled with meetings. You can even barely find the time for a lunch break. The day passes quickly, and at the end of the day, you are wondering what have you really achieved today? Instead of satisfaction, you feel a big disappointment. Does it have to be like that? Not really! Here I give you some simple bits of advice on how I dealt with overwhelming reality and raised my productivity.


1. Who manages your calendar?

If you are a leader, then most likely you share your calendar with your team. In addition, I suspect that you get a bunch of invitations to different meetings on your mailbox, and each of them seems to be a priority. On the one hand, when you share your calendar, you prove your transparency and cooperativeness, but on the other hand, it can be a blocker resultingin moving away from your goals.

How my calendar used to look like a while ago

My tip: plan meetings one or two weeks in advance. Determine the days and slots for 1on1s or other meetings. Also, plan your a so-called ’No meetings day’, when you’ll be able to focus solely on conceptual work (or catching up). It is crucial to inform others about your schedule. Thanks to this, they fit easier to your calendar you save much time for unnecessary questions. Keep control over your week. Ultimately, you will be billed for achieving your goals.

2. Find your pulse.

While I do not like to submit to someone’s rules it turned out that I can perfectly harmonize with the rhythm of the day that I worked out for myself.

Recently, I realized that I couldn’t’ find a room to talk to my teammates. I have to confess, that in the end I jumped on meetings ad hoc and wasn’t always well prepared. Moreover, a pile of tasks caused a lack of focus and meetings were not very effective.

The introduction of the rhythm of the week helped me a lot. First, I created a list of people with whom I would like to meet regularly. Then I set weekly meetings, not forgetting the other members of the team, for which I added the so-called “free slots” for 1 on 1 meeting. And at the end of the day, I have time for everybody and I maintain continuity of the topics we discuss.

My tip: think which meetings are necessary and bring you closer to achieving your goals. Plan the theme, frequency, and duration of meetings and find your rhythm. Thanks to this, your team will always be sure that you have enough time for them.

3. Meetings in the middle of the day? Stop it!

Imagine, it’s 11 o’clock and you are just planning to sit down for some complicated task, then you look at the calendar … and it turns out that in a while you have another meeting. It completely throws you out of the rhythm. In fact, you do not even start working on the task, because there is not enough time. What can you do about it?

My tip: it’s simple. Agree with your team that you arrange meetings with them at the most extreme hours. Early in the morning or late afternoon. Especially those regular ones. Optionally, you can choose 1-2 days, which will be devoted exclusively to meetings and then consciously put off larger topics for your no-meeting day.

4. You feel like another meeting was just a waste of time?

What do you do in such cases? I suspect you keep a poker face and do not show your disappointment. Take the initiative and change your team’s habits.

My tip: Always ask for the meeting’s agenda attached to the invitation. Even a short, rough draft. Moreover, a chairperson should always ask himself some key questions:

  • What are we going to talk about? Do we have a the plan?
  • What result of a meeting is being expected? Are any decisions to be made?
  • Are you sure that the presence of everyone invited is obligatory?
  • Can’t you discuss it over e-mail?

Analyze how many meetings in the last 2-3 weeks you can recall, where your presence was not necessary, and e-mail summary sufficient. This method for sure increases efficiency and saves your time.

5. From an owl to a lark. Or the other way around.

24 hours are not enough? Your days is passing in a blur? I’ve been there. While I always perceived myself as an owl, I suddenly realized that I behave more like an early bird. During the holidays, when the sun shines brightly from the early morning hours, I tested a new solution. I started going to sleep early and waking up at  6:30 am and I found it very helpful. Empty office, total focus, silence, and warm coffee. I needed no more to start my workday perfectly. It’s time for me to analyze the plan of a day and following days, check my mailbox, and carefully plan larger tasks. Moreover, imagine how much I’m surprised when it’s 3 pm and Toggl, that measures our working time, sends me a friendly reminder that is already running for over 8 hours!

Toggl is helping me with avoiding overhours

 

My tip: You don’t have to change your habits, but I recommend you to find a time in a day where you know that no one distracts you. It may be dawn or evening. It’s totally up to you but find the time of a day that works best for you.

6. Empowerment is a key.

When we have a lot on our mind and everyone wants something from us, we feel needed. However, it does not bring us closer to achieving goals. Since I changed my habits, I’ve started to implement projects that I have not had time for the last few months.

Learn how to delegate. It sounds corporate but in fact, it’s all about divisions of your duties. Do you have to be personally responsible for everything that is happening in the company? Does every decision, process have to pass through your hands? I assume you are surrounded by people who are better than you in a particular field. Maybe it is time for empowering them byt giving them more responsibility?

My tip:  Start by writing out all the topics you are involved in and highlighting where your presence is essential. Then look at people and their competencies and think who could support or even replace you. Eventually, ask your team members what they would like to take over from you? People want to take the responsibility, but often are not given the chance. Think about how you can create such opportunites.

7. Reduce the number of distractors. 

If your phone is full of red icons, it probably means that you should go to the settings and disable notifications. Have you ever thought about how e-mails, Slack messages, facebook messenger or WhatsApp distract you on a daily basis?

My tip: take control of your phone. Analyze which of your notifications are necessary and which you can opt out of. See what happens when you turn off most of them. You will probably feel relieved and the team will not notice any difference. Assuming that you set a specific time for answering emails and instant messengers and you do it regularly,  you will be as much responsive as before.

 

Good organization of work is possible to achieve by taking small steps. It is a continuous process that is based on good habits, practices, and proper communication. We are all fighting for getting more time, but all of us have only  24 hours. So how is it that ones succeed, and the others not? I would rather prefer to leave this question unanswered.

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