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I don’t know about you, but when I am less than productive, I am grouchy!
I get irritable when I get behind. Interruptions annoy the crap out of me. Not only do I get short with others, but I also beat myself up.
At times, it is in fact, very hard to stay focused! But it doesn't always have to be.
Unproductive days = Bad mood
You too likely feel this level of irritation on less than productive days. You also know the consequence of how an unproductive day can spill into your evening. Being terse with your staff is certainly not optimal, but a cutting remark with your child can leave you feeling inept in the parenting department. Adding to the guilty parent syndrome is insomnia. As you lay there ruminating through your list of undone tasks, the cycle begins again. The pressure increases the next day, to more, in less time.
Turn that frown upside down
This all too familiar cycle was the norm for me for years. The more determined I got in the last few years to meaningful work, the more necessary it became to be productive. Changing a few things has made an incredible difference for me. I still have less productive times, but they are fewer and farther between. I end most weeks ticking everything off of my weekly list.
Planning + Prioritizing + Hacks = Productivity
The last couple of weeks I walked you through my method of weekly planning and prioritizing. This week, I’m giving you 3 productivity hacks that will help you take that weekly and daily to-do list and get them done. The result, you can shut off at the end of the day knowing you completed what you needed to. Being productive at work frees up your mind and your energy to shift into the rest of your life. Feeling upbeat when you come home at the end of your workday results in a much more enjoyable evening with your loved ones!
The 3 Productivity Hacks Guaranteed to Boost Your Mood
1. Batch Similar Tasks
Batching refers to doing the same things at the same time. It also relates to completing similar types of activities back-to-back.
You likely already know that multitasking is ineffective. That is because your brain can only do one thing, at a time. Multitasking is when you are trying to switch from one to another. The problem is, it takes your brain a bit to catch up.
Remember Newton’s law: An object in motion stays in motion? The same happens with your brain. When you are focused on performance reviews and then switch to opening up an Excel spreadsheet with budgets on it, your brain is still moving in the direction of staff growth and development. It takes effort to stop that train of thought and switch to thinking about numbers. Don't work your brain so hard. Batch similar items together, so your brain is going in the same direction.
Another benefit of batching is reduced preparation and cleanup. If I am working on one project, I have files out, and binders flagged, There are a multitude of windows open on my computer. I won’t lie to you; it’s a mess. To shift to a different project, I either have to spend time cleaning it all up (only to pull it all out again tomorrow) or open folders, books, and tabs on top of the current mayhem. Starting something new before finishing the old adds to the clutter. Both of these options make a messier workspace. They also take up more time. Batching items together cuts down preparation time and minimizes clutter.
When you are working on a project, stick to it. Batch projects together to keep the brain focused, save time, and eliminate clutter. Here are some examples:
2. Make the best use of your productive times
First, figure out when your most productive times are
Second, know the tasks necessitating your peak focus
Typically, just like in school, the things that require that level of diligence are reading, writing and arithmetic. If you need to read over and digest a report, you’ll need high focus. Composing a letter, a review or proposal are duties that demand attentiveness. It goes without saying that for most of us, spreadsheets call forth a need for concentrated attention as well.
Finally, use your time wisely
Schedule the activities requiring intense concentration into the times that you are best able to focus. I think I say this in every blog post….don’t do email first thing! Save email as a before lunch activity when you are already a bit fried. Do your reading, writing, and arithmetic when you need peak energy, focus, and willpower.
3. Minimize and eliminate interruptions
Create your environment, so you are least likely to be interrupted
Set your boundaries
Get clear that you’re unavailable and for how long.
Reinforce your boundaries
Practice what you’ll say to people when they interrupt you.
“I will time at 10:00 am. Right now I am focusing on these reports needing to be completed. If it’s important before then, Crystal can help you out.”
Be strict ---> with yourself
You are your own worst enemy. Your lack of focus comes more often from inside than outside. Focus requires an incredible amount of willpower. Read these blogs to discover more about staying focused.
Do you find each week you intend to get a lot done, but mournfully realize that when Friday hits you’ve barely touched your own to do list? Instead, you accomplished a lot of things that other people added to your to-do list. In the process of reacting to everyone else’s demands you didn’t get the assignments done, you wanted to. Miserably, you note that some of the unfinished items on your list were crucial tasks to move important projects forward that were truly important to you and your team.
Trust me, you are not the only one who feels like this at the end of your week.
Too much reacting rather than responding
Leaders spend more time acting on requests from others than completing their own priority tasks. The sense of urgency to solve everyone else's problems leaves a manager feeling as though they spend their days chasing fires and never getting anywhere. If you want to get off that hamster wheel and do more of your essential work, then you will need to be more intentional about what you are doing with your time rather than reactionary.
Critical to begin with planning
It is critical that you start each week by planning your week. Before you get caught up in chasing everybody else’s plans and agenda for you, you must reorient yourself to what are priorities for you. By setting aside time each week to lay out what you want your week to look like, you will have better control of what actually happens.
Get your head out of the sand
Weekly planning sessions allow you to pull your head out of the sand. While it is important to put your head down and get work done at times, a leader's critical function is to lift their head (and their organization’s head) up and get a bigger picture view repeatedly. Weekly planning time is this head up, expansive view of the bigger picture. This time allows the leader to put things into perspective for them and their organization.
Weekly planning allows you to get projects, plans, and tasks into focus again. From this outlook, you can choose how to respond to your week rather than frantically reacting to whatever shows up in your inbox, at your door or on your desk. Creating a habit of weekly planning puts you back in control and moving forward, rather than running around and around.
3 Steps to creating a weekly planning habit
1) Schedule a weekly time slot into your agenda
First set aside time each week to do your planning. Schedule it into your agenda and stick to it. Depending on your level of responsibilities and your style, you will need 20 minutes to an hour.
Dealing with the big list of items
You should now have a list of things you want to tackle in the upcoming week. For some of you, this might feel a bit overwhelming. For others, it might be refreshing. One way to look at it is that you now have everything out of your brain and in one place. There will be less of a chance of forgetting things or having things lost in the shuffle.
Dumping everything onto this list, from this big picture perspective is in itself, helpful. It creates a roadmap for your week. This plan also you to set boundaries with others when they are trying to take your time. You can align their request up, with what remains on your to-do list for the week. From there that you can make an informed choice rather of what to do than react to what’s thrown at you.
3) Creating your plan
From this list of action items, create your plan for the week.
Make weekly planning your priority
Setting aside time to plan your week puts you on track to having a more productive week. Choose when you want to do this, then schedule planning time weekly into your agenda. During the identified time review your annual goals, quarterly projects, the previous week appointments and upcoming week’s schedule. From this analysis create a list of tasks you want to accomplish. Stay tuned next week, for how to then, prioritize that list.
QUESTION: While this all sounds great, I'd love to hear your objections to doing this each week. What might get in the way? How would you work around that? Make a comment below.
If you are struggling to get moving on a project or finding a lack of motivation in your team, you need to figure your the “why” behind the task. You need to discover your motive.
A motive is something that causes a person to act such as:
At work, those truly aren’t the best motives. Even money doesn’t work to encourage people.
What does work to get motivation?
Getting connected to why you need to do what you need to do is the strongest motivator there is. If we can’t understand the importance of what we are doing, connected to the bigger picture, there is nothing to pull us forward.
Many of you have heard the following parable. I think it’s worth repeating here:
A man came upon a construction site where three people were working.
What is your team's cathedral vision?
We need to connect the brick we are each laying at this moment to the cathedral we are building together. You need to do this for yourself and your team. They need to understand why they are doing the task in front of them. People want to know they are part of something bigger. They want to know their part matters to that larger vision.
Dig for your "Why" by writing
The way to connect everyone to that larger vision is to spend time excavating the “why.” Set aside 5 minutes to ponder the questions listed below. Write your answers. Yes, write them down. The act of writing will completely transform this exercise from a waste of time to saving incredible amounts of time. If you don’t believe me, I dare you to try it. Then, tell me below if I was right or wrong.
The questions to ponder
When you are struggling with a lack of motivation, write down the answer the following questions:
I swear if you take 5 minutes to write down the answers to these questions you will save yourself and your team hours of frustration. If you take 15 minutes to do this exercise with your team, look out! You’ll be in for some incredible insights.
Motivate by finding your "why"
When you are struggling with motivation, connect to the reason you are trying to do the work in front of you. What is the desire, urge, or inspiration to do the task? Why bother? Take time to write down answers to questions that help you to open up your thinking. Save yourself time and frustration by investing in connecting to your motive. You’ll spark that motivation in both you and your team.
When you actually wrote down the answers, what did you discover?
Distractions and disruptions can mean disaster for big projects!
Don’t let that happen to you. If you focus on the following three tips, you’ll find you can ditch distractions, diminish the disruptions and delight in what you can accomplish.
I was afraid I wouldn't get it done
I am working on finishing up my first book. I wrote it in between traveling, speaking, coaching, and teaching as well as my day-to-day tasks of running my business. The fear that I was going to be able to pull it off with such a full schedule prompted me to develop a completion strategy.
To finish the book amidst potential derailment from everything else going on, I needed to be focused. That meant I had to hone in on the productivity strategies I teach. The book I am writing means too much to me, I could not let it linger on forever. I knew it was time to practice what I preach.
To Do Lists Don't Work
I wish I had known more about this kind of productivity when I was in management. Back then trying to get through proposal writing, preparing for accredited reviews, completing a performance appraisal, or trying in vain to get through an overhaul of our orientation manual meant putting it on my to-do list. The problem was, just because it was on the top of my list didn't mean it was first to get done. My list didn’t help me stay focused. When someone else thought his or her demand of my time was more important, I tended to react to their petition. (read more about ditching ginormous to-do lists)
3 Tips to help complete BIG projects
If you have experienced similar challenges, here are some productivity hacks that will help you out immensely.
Blocking off large chunks of time and communicating to your team what you are doing is the first component to completing big projects. Don't stop there, though. Stay focused on the project by eliminating the distractions. Remember, you are your worst enemy. Keep the phone and the guilt as far away from you as possible. Eat healthy, move your body and get a good nights sleep. Mastering the basics gives you the edge you need to dig deep and get er' done.
Are you anxious about loosing momentum over summer on some key projects and initiatives that your team is working on? As employees really move into summer mode, the ability to keep things rolling can be challenging and trying for leaders.
Fear not! Here are 5 ways to use summer to gain momentum rather than loose it.
I'm distracted before holiday time
When I am getting ready to go on vacation, the final couple of working days are usually focused on tying up loose ends so that nothing unravels while I’m gone. My mind is on red flags and potential hotspots. I am not focused enough to be able to sit down and do the deep thinking that is often required on a larger projects.
I'm trying to get caught up when I get back
Upon returning from vacation, the following days are dedicated to putting out any fires that arose, catching up on the office happenings and trying to clean out my inbox. Once again, I am not usually in the right frame of mind to be able to dig deep on a project.
The day or two before we leave on holiday and certainly the day after
we come back are often considered write-offs for most people.
Combine everyone's time off and it seems like a lost few months
Therefore when someone is away for a week, you’ve basically lost almost 2 weeks of time to focus on a project. Add to that the sunshine, ice cream cones and the kids being out of school as distractions and it’s even harder over summer to get anything done at the office. With the summer season stretching for about 3 months, it’s easy to see how we can loose momentum in team projects as people alternate being away for summer vacation.
A leader can choose to see it differently
As the leader in charge, it can be disheartening for you to see a project come to a standstill. Projects do not have to get derailed over summer though. If you can step back and see the gift in this shift of office rhythm over summer, you can put it to good use!
Summer schedules can allow more focused project time
The truth is you can accomplish a lot over summer because in many ways there are fewer distractions. In summer, there are less people in the office, fewer meetings and generally a slower pace. Use this to your advantage to get ahead on some of the components of the project.
5 ways to use summer to gain momentum rather than loose it
Get excited and lead your team to a productive summer
Don’t throw up your hands now and say it’s useless. Instead, give yourself a knowing smirk as you set the intention that you will actually get more done this summer. Then get clear on what you are doing to do, when and who's responsible. Choose to lead productively through summer, rather than give up. Finally, make sure you and your team set a date for celebration to acknowledge the focused concentration over summer!
Question: What idea above really stood out for you as something new that you will try to keep momentum going in your summer project?
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