(By Megan Brimmer)
When I was promoted a few months ago at SCM Connections, I was pretty excited. I love our sales and marketing teams and we have some game changing projects and service offerings in development that I’m excited to be a part of. I did not, however, realize that I would essentially be taking on a whole other part time job. In addition to the regular 40-50 hours a week I was used to, I had to learn (and learn quickly) how to add another 20 hours of work into my work week without giving up my personal life. It’s a process, and I’m still learning, but so far here are some things I’ve learned to get more productivity out of the work day.
See if you’re guilty of any of these.
- Stop checking your email every 2 minutes. Regardless of what we want to believe, the sun does not rise and fall on our inboxes. Some sources say that the average office worker checks their email 30 times an hour – that’s every 2 minutes. I also turn of those little notifications in the tool bar that show the unopened envelope. Those are unwanted interruptions and pull you out of your work. Same for the pop ups that show the subject and sender when the email comes in. Not only does constant email checking pull you away from your bigger tasks at hand and interrupt your focus, an experiment by the New York Times suggests it also promotes stress. And really, who needs that.
- Figure out how your colleagues work best. If you’re spending vast amounts of time trying to get a hold of someone or get an approval for something, that’s time (and money) right down the drain. Some people respond better to phone calls, texts, IMs or email. Meet them where they are. And if you don’t know the best way to get a hold of them, ask them. You (and their inbox) will thank you for it.
- Take breaks. While sitting at your desk for 10 straight hours a day might seem like dedication, it’s actually counter-productive. Taking regular breaks every few hours to stretch your legs and recalibrate lets you clear your head and focus on what really matters, not what requires the least amount of effort when your brain is outright fried.
- Make technology your friend, especially when it comes to taking notes. If you’re using a pen and paper and then transferring notes later to a word doc / drive / online repository, you just cost yourself 5-30 minutes, which, over time, adds up. And that’s assuming you still know where that piece of paper went (another a constant battle). OneNote or Evernote are good alternatives. Everything is in one spot and you can never lose it. When you go to save, remember that “Desktop” is not a file folder. It has limited space and the next time you (or someone else) needs it, you just cost yourself (and them) time in finding it.
- Be realistic about your highest priorities and what’s just shiny. If you’re like me, the moment a new project comes up, you want to jump on it right away. That’s what shiny things do – they make you want to push everything else off your plate so you can focus on them. Shiny is fun and tempting but can quickly lead to late nights when your real work (and deadlines) get thrown out the window. And remember to always know why you’re doing what you’re doing. If you know the context and the bigger picture behind why what you’re doing matters to your team or company and how it impacts the bottom line, the more you can stay focused on what’s really going to move the needle. And if you really don’t know why you’re doing something, maybe it’s time to stop doing it.
- Know when you’re over your head and who you can call on. There’s nothing less productive than spinning your wheels without getting anywhere. It’s one thing to trouble shoot on your own, it’s another to realize you’re over your head and need to call in the reinforcements.
- Take 5 minutes at the end of the day to set your priorities for the next day and look at your calendar for the day ahead. This will let you make a beeline to working on what really matters first thing when you come in in the morning, and might just help you avoid the awkward situation of missing an early morning meeting you forgot about. Also taking 5 minutes on Monday mornings to set your week’s priorities can help too. What are the top 3-5 things that have to happen by Friday in order to make this a successful week? Is it prep for a workshop? Response to an RFP? Then keep an eye on this list throughout the week and keep working from it. On Friday, circle back and see how you did. This will help you cut through the noise during the week and focus on what matters.
- Get to know (and love) a task manager. At SCMC, most of us use Outlook tasks, but Gmail tasks is also great. What’s not great is a pad of paper that a) won’t get updated, b) will inevitably get lost, c) can’t help you more than a day or two out and d) makes everything look like it’s of equal importance. Not good.
- Schedule critical meetings back to back to back. It keeps timelines condensed, and decisions feed off each other. That way you’re not waiting all week for 3 meetings spread over the course of a work week; everything is said and done in one day and people execute the rest of the time.
- Stay aligned with your team. If it matters to them, you should be aware of it. If one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing, that can quickly lead to a duplication of efforts and miscommunication (read: time suck). In our all-team calls on Fridays, we’ve started doing a quick round robin of everyone’s highest priorities so everyone can stay connected. This has cut down on a lot of duplicated efforts and improved our team’s productivity in a big way.
So that’s my list. What are some ways that you do more with less? Join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter – @SCMConnections. As always, thanks for reading.