Layering on last month’s newsletter, Smooth is Fast (see it here), this month’s topic is Reducing Friction. I heard the phrase used recently by a friend of mine – Tom Nitopi, founder and CEO of NxGen Payment Services. Tom’s company is a global provider of payment processing solutions. He and his team spend their time[…]
Short Bursts of Quiet In his book “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less,” Greg McKeown refers to getting focused as being in the “Monk Mode.” The benefit to the Monk Mode is greater and higher quality work product. Given our time-starved world, it might be more effective to find Mini-Monk Modes throughout our day. Here[…]
Action-Oriented Note Taking Taking notes is a good way to capture and digest the content of a meeting. It also increases focus on the subject matter at hand, as the notes preserve the salient points. Here is a list of abbreviations for use when taking notes to make them even more productive: A is an[…]
“Gerbils on a wheel.” I use this expression frequently when talking with audiences about how we feel after busting hump all day and feeling like nothing got done. Wouldn’t it be nice to feel like the wheel actually moved forward once in a while?
Breaking Free from the Frame
Like most wheels, the wheel we each run on during the day is held in place on either side of its hub by forks. Imagine looking down on a bicycle wheel to where the forks attach to the hub. The wheel spins at the hub and the forks keep the wheel in place. That’s good on a bicycle because everything works together so that the spinning wheels assist in making the bike move forward.
The gerbil’s wheel is similarly secured but its forks are fixed to the bottom of the cage. Thus, no amount of spinning will move the wheel forward. The wheel must break free from the forks for it to roll forward.
Part 1 in this series looked at how our love-hate relationship with e-mail developed. It proposed changing our perspective to better align our expectations with what e-mail actually is and does – a modern way of doing something we’ve long done otherwise (send communiques). Finally, the first missive provided two suggestions to help you regain command of e-mail by reducing the stress it causes and by increasing your efficiently when using this powerful tool. I refer you to that article for a more in-depth discussion of those topics.
This installment turns to individual e-mails and looks at a couple of tips that will make each e-mail more effective and efficient.
I was recently asked my thoughts on a productivity theory that advocated allocating specific slots of time for specific types of behavior – Productive Work, Administrative Work, and Non-Work. As the question was being posed to me, a mental image of an industrial era worker came to mind – how they conduct productive work during part of the day, administrative work part of the day (cleaning up, etc.), and non-work part of the day (at home, away from the factory). What struck me as odd about that image was that it didn’t fit into most modern professional and corporate work environments.
In fact, my answer to the question was that the post-industrial professional and corporate worlds are more akin to a rural farmer’s lifestyle, than the 50’s image of Dad heading to/from work in his black suit and white shirt. Let me expound a bit before passing judgment on this observation.
I’m a productivity guy. It’s what I do. As a result there are two cardinal rules in my world. First, never be late. It’s not only poor form, it displays a complete lack of command for the concept of time management! I’ve often had clients joke that they couldn’t believe THEY were late for a meeting with the “time management guy,” but it’s not a reputation someone in my field can survive.
The second rule of thumb is to be responsive – highly responsive. I take it very seriously. To me, responsiveness is the essence of good relationship management. When my clients are confident that I will get back to them in a timely manner with information that assists them in their efforts, we have a strong relationship. Not only is that good for my business, it makes working with my clients a pleasure.
When I talk about responsiveness (in conjunction with its siblings – efficiency and effectiveness), I often find that people confuse “responding” with “responsiveness.” Understanding this distinction is important to your individual productivity and success. This article outlines some of the distinctions between each, and lists their relative advantages and disadvantages. Some suggestions for improving both are also included.
Today’s working environments are riddled with interruptions and distractions. Just when we get focused on one task, a new e-mail arrives, the phone rings, or someone stops by and off we go on a new tangent. Later, when we return to the original task, we need to get back up to speed before we can make any progress. The net result is lost time and greater anxiety.
Unfortunately, interruptions or distractions are a part of the workplace. Consequently, we must understand the nature of each to better manage them.
Dissecting Time Bandits
Productivity saboteurs originate from one of three sources – You, Them, and It. Let’s examine the role of each source in diminishing our productivity.
Time can’t be managed. It ticks inexorably forward, second by second. The phrase “time management” is really just a catch-all to describe how we get things done. The sum of all we get done is our productivity. Thus, we’re talking about productivity, and, in this case, individual productivity.
Productivity – getting things done – is driven by how much focus we can apply to any one task. The greater the focus, the greater the productivity. Oh, and the net result of increased productivity is not just getting more done, but also the feeling of accomplishment that comes with it. Feeling accomplished is a fundamental component of satisfaction. Thus, getting more done equals feeling better about what we do!
The World in Which We Work
Today’s work environments are fast-paced, noise-filled places where focus is hard to attain and virtually impossible to maintain. Establishing and maintaining a command environment with respect to our workload is the best way to increase our focus and get things done in the most effective and efficient manner. If we allow ourselves to become enslaved by our workload, we will find ourselves constantly reacting to the latest emergency, which is an inefficient way to manage our responsibilities.
It’s been a rock and roll day here at QuietSpacing(R) central. Monday’s always are … for most of us. Between all the things I shoved into this week from last week, the things everyone else shoved into this week, and the collective exigencies that popped up over the weekend, it’s a wonder Monday ever ends!
I felt myself ease into the groove right way, first reviewing the landscape of the day, then triaging all the e-mails that had arrived overnight. The collective pulse rose as people started calling and the activity level all around me increased. Soon, I was responding to client and employee requests for my attention, while I also re-scripted a presentation I wanted to record for the web.
The middle of the day heaved over and as the afternoon drew out in front of me, I found myself contending with several technical issues. By mid-afternoon it was time to get a number of things done out of the office, so into the world I went. The relative quiet of the outside world was a welcome relief to the mounting pressure building in the office. E-mails weren’t quite as urgent as keeping my eyes on the road and phone calls were taken more selectively.
With the errands complete, I returned to the office for a final triage before heading out into the drizzle for a run.