Don’t Work More, Work Better!

Productivity it is a HOT topic among managers and common people, everybody is talking about produce and create more! Well, I agree! However, increase productivity does not mean, in the majority of the cases, working more but rather working better! Be efficient is key to competitiveness in the 21st century. I am strongly convinced that efficient time management, working better, can and should be faced as a competitive advantage. So, how can productivity be increased by working better and more efficiently? Well, I can say that in the short run a lot of things can be done to quickly improve time management efficiency!

Please find here bellow a list with 20 suggestions of things that one can do to improve time management efficiency and work-life balance. You do not need to use all of them, instead you can chose the ones you feel more comfortable with and stick to them. Later, you can gradually accommodate those suggestions that you believe are adequate but don’t feel comfortable with. Ah, and never forget that creativity and innovation can be powerful ingredients on achieving your goals and working better. Good Luck!

1) Plan your week and month ahead, and do not forget to add achievable objectives to each of your tasks. I suggest that you fill your week-plan on Friday the week before, in order to accommodate on it also those tasks you have not had the time or opportunity to finish for that week. If you have a different work week, Friday should be substituted by the last day before your day-off.

2) Check your accomplishments for the ended week on the last day of work before your day-off (normally Friday). Match your planning with what you have really done. This will help you focus on what have been accomplished, and helps you re-scheduling the tasks you have not had time to finish.

3) Define your week maximum work-load, and avoid passing it with too many appointments and tasks. Why? If you fill your week with stuff you already know that you will not have not time to cope with, you will be be rising your anxiety levels and you feel demotivated.

4) Schedule 1-2 slots of 20 to 45 minutes per day for unexpected tasks (at least one slot of 20 minutes);

5) Use your afternoons to schedule meetings – it helps balancing and copping with your energy levels, normally higher in the morning and lower in the afternoon and evening;

6) Meetings: avoid scheduling long meetings (2-hour, or less, meetings are more efficient); meetings must have a clear agenda with all the topics to be discussed and the time allotted to them; Invite external speakers (1 to 2 maxium) for meetings to present something creative and innovative related, or not, to the main topic; Use and “abuse” of informal meetings (stand-up meetings) by the coffee or vending machine (10-15 minutes); Schedule meeting (suggest: Friday afternoon) to analyse week/month achievements/results in order to monitor the real status against the planing;

7) Have a “to do” list, but not be a slave of it; meaning, check out your list at least to times a day – beginning and end of the day, it will help you understand what you have to do and have done) but do not feel you are obliged to do everything on it; Use the Coach – Delegate – Monitor – Praise/Motivate or Criticize (always positively, when needed) method in order to gain time to do what you have to do yourself and also to motivate and empower your team;

8) Avoid submerge in your emails as a first thing in the morning, avoid also to read an email as soon as they arrive (disable email alerts); Instead, schedule in your plan 3-4 periods of 15-20 minutes a day to read/reply emails and do/reply phone calls. Use subject typology and urgency levels, in order to help you screening through your email. Avoid spending your time reading emails or answering your phone if it is not urgent.

9) Use you morning to do your creative and intellectual tasks – like reading or doing reports.

10) Schedule 1-2 10-minute or 20-minute slots with yourself and do not allow being disturbed during that time – during this time you can re-establish your energy levels (taking a quick nap, meditate,…) or simply think about something that needs your full attention;

11) Go out during your lunch break, at least 30 minutes per day – you can eat out and healthier, go to the gym or simply walk. You can also schedule week periods to do something you have never done, stimulating your creativity and going out of your comfort zone – it will help you with problem solving, innovating and being creative. Not to mention that exercise yourself by walking or going to the gym will help you keeping up with demanding tasks and maintain your energy levels high.

12) Keep always a notebook with you – where you can write your ideas as a way of venting your anxiety or do not forget something.

13) Divide your projects into smaller tasks with an objective, a deliverable, resources needed and a deadline – the objective here is to be able to diminish stress and anxiety, and have quick wins along the project, not to mention the efficiency gains.

14) Control your time spent on doing stuff by using your wrist-watch chronometer, smart-phone and PC applications or any other way you can find. I find Egg Timer an easy way of doing it;

15) Use a dashboard with all your KPIs and deadlines – must be up-dated – in order to control your work/project status and any deviations you may have – helps you avoiding deviations and miss deadlines. Information systems and technologies can be highly helpful on controlling and monitoring your KPIs, and mitigating risks.

16) Schedule time to learn about and keep up with what is happening around you and challenge yourself about new and tough topics.

17) Schedule at least one innovative/creative/networking event per week, something that involves a new challenge or something that can bring anything new for you.

18) Try to schedule brainstorming events (1-2 per month) with your peers and colleagues to discuss and debate new topics and listen to different points of view – helps you keeping your mind open.

19) Do not give on tough tasks, if you could not achieve it today try again tomorrow, or in a week time.

20) Avoid working more than 8-9 hours a day or you will be compromising your working capacity and freshness.

Please do not work more, WORK BETTER! Good Luck!

Share your experiences, opinions and suggestions here. Thank you!

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Time can be a friend or an enemy!

Is there a right time to react? Yes, I think so! Although you have a lot of opportunities to react to a situation, you have only a few chances to do it right. Hence, you must anticipate and be prepared! Gaining time and leeway is key when dealing with decision making. I believe that, time can be positive or negative, it will always depend on how you use it!

For example, if you are an entrepreneur starting your own business, it is crucial to do it within the timeline you make your analysis for. If you miss the shot, you may end up with a completely different situation at-hand and to what your assumptions and diagnose do notwork anymore. Another good example of how important your reaction-time is, it is connected to proactivity! Managers should anticipate trends and act proactively toward change in order to avoid being overtaken by new comers or existent competition. Keeping an eye on your goals it is important, though, keeping an eye on what is happening inside and around your company it is crucial. Why? Because, If you reach a position where you are trapped, taking decisions and reacting will be much more complicated and limited. Limited by the pressure of doing something and complicated due to the likelihood of being short on resources as cash and human capital. So, the sooner you identify potential changes or problems the better you will deal with them!

Some lessons learned: first, there is a better time to react; second, it is not true that you have only one opportunity to react, though you must try to go for the one that helps you more; third, keep monitoring not only your environment and competition but also your own company, because sometimes the problems show up internally; fourth, pay close attention to the future; fifth, have a back up plan prepared to react as quickly and wisely as possible; sixth, avoid being trapped with limited time and resources to respond; and seventh, do not be afraid of change, react as soon as possible and, as I wrote on my last post – Decisions: a headache or an opportunity! -,  use change and decision moments as opportunities to improve and be better prepared for the future.

Time can tic tac to cause you harm or to help you being stronger and more competitive! You chose! If you are not aware of changes and well prepared to face them I can say that time will be your worst nightmare. Though, time can help your dream come true if you use your opportunities wisely to anticipate, be prepared, innovate, be creative and change whenever needed! Enjoy your time wisely!

Have you ever faced a situation where you had to react and had not anticipated nor prepared it?

How much time would you like to invest innovating and creating?

I would like to have at least one day a week to invest innovating and creating: new solutions and products, new business solutions, new approaches, new plans and much more.

Why such an interest in creativity and innovation?

In my point of view, creativity is a highly valuable and crucial skill if one wants to successfully face the challenges ahead in this 21st century. If one born full of creativity how come one gradually loses it when ageing? Well, I have one or two major causes for that, not scientifically proved but empirically. First, schools are teaching the wrong “stuff”; and second, society in general and companies in particular, do not want to have it (to them creativity do not create value). Companies with this behavior will not last.

How can you cope with your responsibilities then? You are asking. Well, by being more organized, efficient and motivated.

How can one convince a CEO to invest in creativity and innovation?

Well if it was not yet a common practice in the company I would try to convince him or her with quick wins and a well structured change plan. For what I have assisted, CEOs are interested in figures and corporate strategy. How can therefore one have their attention? I strongly believe that to trigger a corporate change regarding creativity and innovation one needs to achieve quick wins something that one can show as an improvement. However, a problem remains: how can you find time to develop your new project (increase your company’s creativity and innovation levels)? A way of gaining time, and that I have already tried with success, is by improving your company’s efficiency. How can you do that? You start with all the processes that you are responsible for or related to: map them, identify bottlenecks, wrong or inefficient steps and better alternatives. That way you will increase the overall efficiency, saving time and resources to be spent in your new project: creativity and innovation. You can start with less important processes, extending later to more complex and important areas where it is more complicated to change. It is important to have a brainstorm with your team in order to explain why and how do you pretend to do that and ask for their help. You should explain at the very beginning how will you implement your “project” and the kind of actions that you have in mind. You will see a lot of people excited and motivated with it. People like to contribute and use part of their time to think and develop new

Google is a good example. Google’s employees have to invest 20% of their working  time in own projects that must be presented later . A lot of the products and services now offered by Google were developed in this 20%. Amazing isn’t it? Google is not the only company you search and you will find very interesting cases.