By Keith Norris, CEO of Complete XRM.
This article was originally published in the Spring 2017 edition of Silicon Slopes Magazine.
1. Don’t cancel that meeting
Meetings get a bad rap. Often it’s warranted. With all the recent advice about not wasting time in meetings or events and cancelling them altogether in the name of productivity, however, many people and companies have gone too far: They scratch a meeting that’s truly critical to stay on task. As a result, deadlines slip, problems surface and productivity suffers. Meetings aren’t all bad. Often they’re a great excuse to introduce a much-needed “cadence of accountability” into teams to get things done faster and more efficiently. And for remote workers meetings can be heaven-sent because otherwise telecommuters feel distanced from companies and teams. Do you need a fresh agenda to hold a meeting? Not necessarily. What form do these meetings take? Check out the best-seller 4 Disciplines of Execution (Chris McChesney, Jim Huling, Sean Covey) for specific tips.
2. Do block that time
Time blocking is one of the best secrets of productivity. It’s a simple but powerful tool to avoid too frequent distractions and interruptions — if you use it wisely. Here’s one example: When we went through a company merger we noticed one of the two companies had a very “urgent” culture. That was a nice attribute when things were small, but as the company began to grow the “urgent” culture made it difficult to facilitate uninterrupted blocks of time, which (as we know) is where the real productivity happens. So how do you use time blocking for greater productivity? For one day, keep track of all the interruptions that come into your office. Rate each one. Is it really urgent? Could it wait for another time without hurting productivity? Second, experiment by blocking one hour per day to (for example) the support and development teams to meet and discuss any escalation issues. Support then knows they’ll have a less-than-24-hour response for most issues, and development knows they now have seven hours of the day virtually interrupt-free. It’s a win-win. Time blocking should apply to your personal life as well. Are you committed to getting 7 hours of sleep? If so, make a rule that from 10 pm to 5 am “my time is off limits for anything other than sleep.” Period. If you keep to these time blocking rules, your work, and your life, will make huge strides.
3. Don’t recreate the wheel
If you’re hiking a mountain would you rather take a well-worn path, or cut your own trail? Most people will oft for well-worn paths — and there may be more than one. A system is simply a well-worn path. A productivity system is a set of behaviors that have been tried and tested and yielded positive results for others. And like the multiple trails that crisscross the mountain, a number of different productivity systems that might work. Here are some of the most well documented, and well respected Productivity Paths to help you achieve your own peak performance: Getting Things Done (David Allen); Agile or Scrum (JJ Sutherland); What Matters Most (Hyrum Smith); 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Stephen Covey); and Time Power (Brian Tracy). These books and many others like them will illustrate simple and time-tested best practices that are common across multiple productivity methodologies, such as: “Capture Your To Dos” (have a system to record the things you need to do); “Organize Your To Dos” (group your tasks by life area, project, goal or context); “Prioritize Your To Dos” (most of the notable productivity systems will have a recommendation for how to determine the order for dealing with things).