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task management

Changes to Maximize Your Productivity

Serving as an XP at my church and serving as one of our Central Region Open Bible coaches, coaching for Kidology as well, provides me a unique look into several working environments. One common thread that is desired by all in the working environments that I get to look into is Productivity. Everyone wants to squeeze more out fo the time they have!!

I want to offer some quick recommendations.

Use the Eisenhower matrix to rank tasks.

Dwight D. Eisenhower was a master of organization and prioritization. During World War II he was the supreme commander of allied forces, overseeing the European theater of operations. From 1953 to 1961 he served as the 34th president of the United States.

During his long career, Eisenhower developed a prioritization framework that is used by many. The Eisenhower Matrix uses a four-box matrix to help anyone prioritize his or her day. On the X axis are the columns “urgent” and “not urgent” and on the Y-axis are the rows “not important” and “important.”

Anything that is urgent and important should be done. If the project is not urgent but important it should be planned for a later date. If work is urgent but not important it should be delegated to someone else. And if it is neither important nor urgent, it should be eliminated.

Start your day with the hardest tasks, complete the easiest tasks at the end of the day.

In his book The McKinsey Edge former McKinsey analyst, Hattori, discusses a time management strategy that he learned while working on demanding projects for Fortune 100 clients.
He suggests that most people are sharpest in the early morning hours. Therefore, Hattori learned to stack his days at the start of his day with the most mentally demanding tasks.
As the day progresses, Hattori organized tasks to becoming increasingly easy. It was only late at night that Hattori would check his email inbox to answer questions that required relatively little thought. I have gone to check my email only 2x a day where each one falls in one of my 4 routine times I have set up on my daily schedule (I have 4 routines every day, Morning routine, the start of the workday routine, workday shut down, and lastly evening routine. More on these in a later post).
In my view, I have given you the top 2 ways to start maximizing your productivity. My best advice is to get to work early and then tackle the most challenging items first.
More Productivity ideas coming soon on living on a calendar.

3 Questions for better productivity

Team work is some of the most gratifying time for me. I love working on teams, being on teams, and leading teams. With teams can come a boat load of questions and for every team member you have, they represent a possible different schedule than what you have set up with your ideal schedule. Does this mean productivity can never be accomplished? Absolutely not. It does mean that training will need to take place in order for true productivity to happen.

Here is one quick way that I try to set those I do executive coaching for up for success. Learn these 3 questions and you’re on your way to better productivity.

When you are in your block of time for open/close door type work (maybe I’ll write more this at another time) and your team members start stopping in because they want to get your comments, thoughts, suggestions etc. and they pitch the issue or problem they are having, ask yourself these 3 questions.

1. Is it important?
Remember that just because something is communicated to you in urgent tones doesn’t mean it is actually
important. And just because it registers as important to someone else doesn’t mean it’s automatically important to you.

2. Is it important for you to do it?
Really think about this one. Pausing to decide if it lines up with your passion and skill is a good
move. There may be someone else on the team who is better suited to tackle the problem. If so, delegate.

3. Is it important now?
Even granting that it is important and important for you, that doesn’t mean it’s important now. You may be able to file it under the list of things to be done when you are doing more routine tasks.

Become very familiar with these 3 questions. If you still struggle with this, it might come down to a leadership issue. Do you find an unhealthy amount of significance from solving team problems? Do you have the right people on the team? Have you empowered them to act?

How time management is handled all wrong

I am a task management junkie who continues to strive to be a task management ninja.

One of the many struggles over the years for me has been handling the idea of keeping a separate to-do list apart from my calendar. If the items I would put on a to-do list are to be accomplished, would they not have to be added on the calendar? Yes they would!

This is exactly why I have stopped the madness of trying to keep a separate to-do list. It does mean I don’t get to play with other apps on my phone or in my web browser, but, that has meant more productivity. The simple act of scheduling tasks on your calendar instead of on a to-do list will increase performance. With most calendars., there are places to add notes, reminders etc. to aid in getting said task done, use them.

As this process takes off for you, it may become overwhelming because the first instinct is to fill every time slot with something. Having every time slot filled would look like your being productive, right? Wrong. To a skilled eye looking at someone’s filled calendar, it says they don’t know what they are doing yet. I know, seeing empty places can make you feel like you should be doing more, but resist. It is important to leave buffers in your day.

What’s a buffer? A buffer is a block of time that you schedule to do nothing scheduled. Take a nap, search the web for fun, read a book, take a walk, review notes from a previous meeting, relax. These scheduled buffer times will help you not run from meeting to meeting.

The CEO of LinkedIn, Jeff Weiner, wrote a blog post describing how he blocks time on his calendar. He wrote:

“If you were to see my calendar, you’d probably notice a host of time slots greyed out but with no sign of what’s going on. There is no problem with my Outlook or printer. The grey sections show ‘buffers,’ or time periods I’ve purposely kept clear of meetings.

In aggregate, I schedule between 90 minutes and two hours of these buffers every day (broken down into 30- to 90-minute blocks). It’s a system I developed over the last several years in response to a schedule that was becoming so jammed with back-to-back meetings that I had little time left to process what was going on around me or just think.

At first, these buffers felt like indulgences. I could have used the time to catch up on meetings I had pushed out or said “no” to. But over time I realized not only were these breaks important, they were absolutely necessary in order for me to do my job.”

Here are a few suggestions for this week as you become more of the Task management Ninja that we all desire to be.

  • Move more to your calendar than on your separate to-do list.
  • Find a couple of times a day to put in place buffers. Try to make the buffers at least 10-15 minutes a piece.

Pocket or Feedly or Evernote. Tools for productivity.

feedly pocket evernote

I have 3 tools that I just completely love using and they fit so well into my productivity system when it comes to absorbing information. Here they are:

1. Pocket. Pocket is my first app that use to snag content and save for later reading. If I’m reading a website or an article online and don’t have time to finish it, then I’ll throw it into Pocket. Save articles, videos, recipes, and web pages you find online or from your favorite apps.

Pocket also has a chrome extension.

2. Next would be my Feedly account. Feedly is blog catcher. I enjoy reading blogs of all kinds of topics. Doing this I have just one tool and that is Feedly. It catches all my subscribed to blogs and holds them until my blog reading day and then I will read and act on, delete, or file.

3. Evernote is where I will file them too. Evernote is my electronic file cabinet. I scan stuff to it, take pictures and send to it, forward emails and subscribe to newsletters while giving them my Evernote email address. Giving this email address out saves my real email from getting cluttered. I will mention one more tool here that I use to keep my email uncluttered and that is called unroll.me. You can record audio with Evernote, do geographic stuff and just a ton of other options as well.

Basically, there is not much that can come my way as far as information and not be able to be handled with one of these 3 tools. Hope they help you if you are not already using them.

Swipe your way to productivity today.

swipes logo

Time to get busy and get down to knocking out your to-do list. So you run around and collect all the sticky notes on your mirror, your desk, your computer screen and all the other misc. areas. Then you turn to the most recent incredible life changing tool – Evernote. You begin to search through Evernote, or as you call it, your brain online to find all of your to-do list in there as well.

Now you are just plain tired and mentally worn out not to mention you have spent 1 1/2 hours just getting prepped to become productive for the day. Have I got a great solution for you that I started using a few weeks back and it has kept me very fluid and able to stay on the go but keeping my to-do list getting done at the right time.

This tool is called…”Swipes“.

Here is how Swipes works with Evernote. Evernote, by its nature, is a workspace for the way we work today, collecting information from multiple devices and from just about anywhere in the world. Swipes, however, is the task management app that not only stores your tasks, but helps you prioritize them and break-down the important things into doable steps. The blend of Swipes with Evernote gives you the possibility to not only collect the things that matter to you, but act on them. This is a combination of pure productivity joy!!

Stop wasting time looking for ways to be productive and get Swipes and get conquering your to-do list.

Ideas to make 2015 your most productive year yet.

planning

I’ve taking some time toward the end of 2014 and the start of 2015 reflecting over years of my history, examining habits that helped me to be more productive and discarded habits that never benefited me the way I hoped they would. Next, I also looked at the lives of those I would say are very productive and again see what habits did they have that contributed towards their productivity. This post is the result of my examinations.

Here is part 1 of 3.

1. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH PRODUCTIVE PEOPLE
I find that my productivity is maximized when I surround myself with productive people.

Working around productive people keeps me from browsing social media without purpose. I eat healthier, I don’t take long breaks. I semi-compete with them because they always look like they’re coming up with great ideas. I have also read and believe that you will end up like the sum of the 5 closest people you hang out with. If this is true, what does your lid of potential look like? Are you scared or encouraged?

2. VISUALIZE AND SET UP YOUR DAY THE NIGHT BEFORE
Before emotional intelligence expert and author of The Other Kind of Smart Harvey Deutschendorf goes to sleep, he says he makes some basic decisions about the next day like what he’ll wear, eat for lunch, and the route he plans on taking to work. “The less time and energy you take to focus on routine, everyday things, the more you will have to work on what is important,” he explains.

I think knowing your next day when you go to bed helps your mind sort through the day while you sleep. It gives you the sence of purpose from the moment you wake up. Make sure you know the top 3 things you want to carry out at the start of the day.

3. MAXIMIZE YOUR MOST CREATIVE TIME
I find that I think best in the mornings with fewer interruptions, so I do my best to keep that time open for brainstorming, writing, and meeting with others who inspire and challenge me. I save my necessary meetings for the afternoons, when I am energized from my morning productivity and excited to share my plans with my team and others.

Constantly assess your own productivity, the quality of your work, and your behavior. We should continuously ask ourselves: “What can I do to get more work done faster?” “Should I revisit my priorities?” “Do I need to focus my time better?” “How can I cut time wasters?” “Do I need better task budgets?” and “Do you need to make better plans?”

Self-evaluation and self-improvement it’s a never-ending process because there is always room to improve. Have fun learning and growing.

3 Things having kids have taught me

child_learn

Having kids has truly been a joy and one of the best adventures I get to take part in. Saying all that I want to list 3 things that having kids has taught me.

Let’s begin:

1.Thinking time is the most precious resource

I have a new-found appreciation for the times when I have time and can collect my thoughts. I never knew how much I took this for granted until every minute of every waking hour (and a few half asleep ones too) was suddenly invaded. Now if all truth is told my wife is the one who may have suffered more with this because she is a stay at home mom, but boy she did great with it.

We simply cannot do good thinking when we’re being distracted all the time. Try writing a grocery list or type up a word document while a small child asks repeatedly “Can I get a drink yet?” and you might find yourself signing off “in that document with:
…”Until we meet again, Yes you can get a drink, I will get you some juice”

Equally, making space for thinking time in my work helps me to do my best work, handle curve balls and even have fun doing it.

Measure your work by impact, not hours

A parent I was counseling once in task management asked me, “how can I compete in business with other people who have more time?”

The answer is, in the same way that niche brands can take on the big boys. By being distinctive, selective and ruthless. Play on your strengths and leverage what you do well. Be incredibly focused on what has the most impact and creates the most value. Truly find what your Pareto principles lies. Don’t be all things to all people.

If I measure the work I do by the hours I put in, it may not look like much. But if I look at what I actually get done in that time, and crucially, the impact of my actions and not the amount of activity, I recognize my successes much more accurately.

My mind gets calibrated to what works well, and not what keeps me busy, and I measure my productivity by what creates value, and not what fills time.

2. Saying “No” gets easier with practice and a little creativity

Saying no is like exercising a muscle. The more you do it, the easier it gets. When you find yourself saying “no, you can’t have chocolate for breakfast” and “no it’s not time to open the Christmas gifts yet” all before 7am, you get a lot of regular practice at saying no.

You also find creative ways to say no.

If you tell a child not to run, the negative is harder to process, so “Don’t run!” becomes “Run!” Instead, when you say “Walk please!” their focus is pointed towards walking and not running.

Telling someone what they can do or have, can be much more compelling than telling them what they can’t.

In other words, say yes on your own terms:

“Yes, you can have chocolate after your dinner.”

“Yes, I’d love to help. I’ve got half an hour at 2pm. Shall we grab a coffee and talk then?”

“I can give you the quick and dirty version today or the polished product wrapped up by Friday next week. Which would you prefer?”

3. Margin is your best friend

Margin is the space between our load and our limits. It gives us flexibility to deal with work that overspills, technical glitches and emergency firefighting.

Margin is like air. You don’t miss it until it’s not there. When there’s less time available, it’s tempting to try to cram as much in as possible. But then it doesn’t take much — a phone call, a spilt drink on the floor or couch, a missing shoe right before you leave the house, — for everything to spiral out of control.

And it’s not just a survival tactic. It also gives us space to explore opportunities we could never have planned for, to be captivated by a perfect sunset or a child’s first step. Margin makes life richer.

There are the 3 lessons having kids have taught me. These 3 are great lessons to help in life as well. Have you had any specific lessons learned from any season of your life?

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