Working effectively and productively throughout the day is something that everyone strives to achieve to reach their goals. In this blog post, I’ll let you in on some tips and tricks that I use throughout my day, as well as other productivity techniques that you can try to implement into your daily routine. In light of COVID-19, it is important to be effective from your new workspace whether that be a desk, your couch or dare I say – your bed!
I could go into the 80/20 rule where you focus on 20% of tasks and projects that have the highest impact on your top goals, or “eating the frog” where you tackle the biggest problem first thing in the morning, but instead, I’m going to dive into some tips and tricks that personally work for me. Personally, my Google Calendar is my best friend and if an event, meeting, appointment, or now, Instagram live fitness class is not in there – chances are it probably won’t happen. Let’s take a deeper dive on some areas that are important to me and enable me work more effectively throughout the day.
If you are able to, delegate certain tasks that make up your to do list, this will help you work smarter during your day, thus making you more effective. The top reason that many struggle with delegation is that it is difficult to learn to let go or relinquish control. The reasons for this struggle are endless, including that you could be dedicated to completing your own work and seeing it through, not having enough time to train someone, or fearing that the work may not be completed to your liking. In an effort to get over this hump. Start by delegating smaller tasks and then gradually work towards larger products. In the long-run, this will help to empower your team members by giving them the power to take action and make decisions and will also help to establish trust.
When delegating work, you want to ensure that you are clear in what needs to be completed. An action item or task may seem obvious to you but may not be to someone else. Be clear in your deliverables, set clear expectations and provide a manageable deadline. Ensuring all of these steps are completed will avoid most communication gaps and makes for a proactive strategy for working effectively. To add to this point, don’t be afraid to teach someone something new so they can take on further tasks. This can include training them on a new membership platform, software program or teaching graphic design skills.
Lastly, the most important part of the delegation process is feedback. Was the work completed how you wanted? Was there a communication gap? Did you delegate effectively? It is important to let your team member know if they have completed an assignment well. To go a step further, make sure to give them direction for what actions or attitudes you’d like to see repeated. On the other hand, if they have fallen short, this is a key time for constructive criticism. To close the loop, also allow them to provide you with their feedback on you. This is a critical chance for you to determine if you are providing enough information when delegating tasks and if you are assigning the right tasks to the right people.
Preparing for Meetings
I think we can all agree that some meeting are a waste of time and could just have been an email. It is important that meetings stay on track, provide action items and are impactful. Here are some tips and tricks that you can use for your next meeting:
- Create and distribute an agenda/meeting package in advance of the meeting that includes action items so that everyone can stay on track.
- If you are going to be taking the meeting minutes, fill in your portions prior to the meeting so you don’t have to type and talk at the same time and can deliver your report effectively.
- Consider any obstacles or objections that may arise during the meeting and have a recommended plan of action prepared (ex. COVID-19 plan of action for future events).
- Complete the meeting minutes as soon as you can while they are top of mind and consider scheduling buffer time following the meeting to get a head start on some of your action items.
Above, you’ll see a sneak peek into how I organize my agenda to stay productive throughout the day. For each day in the week, I try not to let myself get overwhelmed by a massive to do list, so I break it up and give myself 3-5 important items for the day. If an email or other task pops up throughout the day, I’ll add it to my agenda as the day goes on. You’ll also notice the pink highlights in my agenda, this is how I track the tasks that I did not complete on the day that I intended to. That way, when I come into the office (or roll out of bed and move to my new workspace), I know what I need to focus on first (or eat the frog as they say). To the bottom right of my agenda, here you will find the tasks that don’t need to be completed in this week and I keep them there in case I have time to get ahead on some work. On Fridays, spend some time before you jump into the weekend to start populating your agenda for the week ahead so you can get right into the swing of things Monday morning.
The last little glimpse into my life that I will give you is a look at my Outlook calendar. Some tips that I use here include colour coding my calendar based on client work and setting certain emails as meetings in my calendar that can be dealt with on another date. One way I’m working to improve my calendar is not scheduling meetings back to back so that I have lead time and can check emails in advance (verifying who is going to be on the call, reviewing meeting agenda and minutes in advance).
Through my research, I also found many resources on alternative productivity techniques that may work better for you. As you may have heard, it takes 21 days to build a habit, so research the below, determine your best fit, and give one of the below a try. Have patience, stick to it, and give it a fair shot.
- Pomodoro Technique
- Personal Kanban
- Don’t Break the Chain
- The To-Done List and the To-Don’t List
- Getting Things Done
- Eat That Frog
- Asian Efficiency
- Zen to Done (ZTD)
Health & Wellness
To sum it all up, a little bit of pressure can be a good thing, but when it exceeds your ability to cope with it, your productivity goes down, and your mood suffers. You also lose your ability to make solid, rational decisions; and excessive stress can cause health problems, both in the short and long term. No matter what you do, you’ll likely experience stress numerous times throughout your career, perhaps even on a regular basis (perhaps even right now through COVID-19). This is why learning how to manage stress is a key factor in becoming more effective at work. This can include scheduling breaks (informal or formalized in your calendar), playing a game, watching a bit of a show (Tiger King anyone?) or taking a walk to get fresh air. Whatever it is you need to do, it is important to take a mental break. At the end of the day, forgive yourself. You are human and it is important to accept that you are sometimes going to slip up, become distracted and have a bad day. It’s more important to move on than to dwell on your mistakes in your journey to becoming more effective throughout the day.