Posts Tagged ‘productivity’

Enough Time Management

small__7088180595This is a guest post by Kevin Eikenberry.

Read this interesting and practical post by Jo Owen called Seven Leadership Traits that the Gurus Don’t Tell You. While written from a C-level perspective it contains some useful thoughts for all leaders and I encourage you to read it. It became the jumping off point for about two pages of notes and ideas in my journal, most only marginally related to what was written.

One of the seven traits though was about time management, a topic I get asked about from a leadership perspective often. While I have read much about this topic and continually try to get better at it, I am increasingly clear that we are all starting from the wrong place.

Dictionary.com defines management this way:

1. the act or manner of managing; handling, direction, or control.

(there are other definitions but this is the one that applies to this discussion)

When I look at a clock it just keeps ticking. It doesn’t matter what I do, I can’t direct or control it. If I can’t control it, I propose we can’t manage time. Rather we can direct and control our choices – that is in our control. So I’m focusing less on time management and more on choice management. When I think about choice management as a form of determining how I invest my time, I do a better job of getting more of the highest priority items done (which is what we are all talking about when we speak of managing time, right?)

This distinction is important to everyone but critical for us as leaders. How we invest our time as leaders impacts not just us and our careers but also organizational success (or failure) and impacts that choices others make as well. Those following us look to us as a model, take their cues from us, and even build their habits, consciously or not, to match ours.  This is pretty powerful stuff and warrants our close consideration.

As I leave you to think about choice management rather than time management, here are three questions to answer for yourself today.

  1.  How do my choices impact my time effectiveness?
  2. What choices will I make today to invest my time more wisely?
  3. What is the most important thing for me to invest my time on today?

 [Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/bonnarn.]

Combatting Back-to-School Stress in the Workplace

back-to-school-suppliesAccording to a poll of 427 American workers from Workplace Options and Public Policy Polling, many employees who have school- or college-aged children experience financial and personal stress during the back-to-school season. What’s more important for supervisors to understand, though, is that those stressors impact the employees’ productivity and work-life balance.

Sixty-three percent of responders reported noticing that the start of a new school year seems to increase stress for their co-workers with children. Twenty-seven percent said that the start of a new school year negatively affects the moods, attitudes and availability of those co-workers, and 46% said it impacts their productivity.

As a manager, you can’t remove the expenses and stress that come with a new school year, but you can take steps to ensure that the workplace isn’t making it worse. Follow these tips to help your employees transition from summer to fall as easily as possible:

  • Be empathetic. If you have children yourself, this may come more easily to you. But if you’re like me and had never really considered the cost (or added stress) of a new school year to parents, take a moment to put yourself in your employees’ shoes. Also, if your workplace has a policy in which employees are reimbursed for their work and travel expenses, keep in mind that it might not be feasible for them to put a major charge on their credit cards right now.
  • Be flexible. The degree of flexibility that you can offer will vary from field to field and workplace to workplace, but be flexible where you can. That might mean allowing employees to leave work early to pick up their kids and then make up those hours from home in the evening. It might mean giving them shifts that coincide better with their children’s schedules. It might mean giving them flex time or even allowing them to leave early if they’re on top of their assignments. Of course, stay within the bounds of your organization’s policies.
  • Don’t be a distraction. This should be common sense, but as we all know, common sense isn’t always common practice. Don’t give your employees more reasons to be less productive. That means that you shouldn’t be sidetracking them from their tasks by micromanaging their assignments, forcing them to attend meetings that don’t relate to their work, surprising them with off-topic requests or interrupting their work “just to chat.” I’m not suggesting you be unfriendly, but recognize when employees are in the zone and save the chitchat for the break room.

Have you noticed the effect of back-to-school stress in your workplace? How do you combat it?

[Image Source: Spurger ISD]

How to Write an Agenda

AgendaThis is a guest post by Dot Lyon.

We’ve all walked out of a meeting and thought “Wow, that was a waste of time.” Perhaps the meeting had no clear purpose, the participants strayed off topic or the issues weren’t adequately resolved. Regardless, you left the meeting feeling frustrated. This time-wasting experience could have been avoided if the person preparing for the meeting knew how to write an agenda that kept the meeting on target and productive.

An agenda serves as the meeting’s blue print. It reveals the overall objective of the event and provides structure in the form of topics, goals and timing. An effective agenda offers a logical flow that keeps participants motivated and focused. Whether formal or casual, all business meetings of three or more people should be run using a solid agenda. By following a simple template, you can learn how to write an agenda that brings harmony and efficiency to your next event.

Create a heading that includes information such as:

  • Organization name
  • Department name
  • Name of the meeting
  • Date
  • Start and end times
  • Location
  • List of invitees

Provide a meeting objective. State the overall goal in one to three sentences.

For formal meetings, include this beginning protocol:

  • Call to order
  • Roll call
  • Approval of last meeting’s minutes

Now list the topics to be discussed. All topics should support the meeting’s overall objective and occur in logical order. Sometimes it helps to start with the most important or time-consuming issues first. For formal meetings, address old business before new business. Include the following information:

  • First topic. Describe the topic using an action word such as decide, discuss, assign, review and finish. Include a brief reason why this topic is included in the agenda. List the main person responsible for the topic. To keep the meeting moving forward, assign a start time and the number of minutes allocated for the issue. Allow time to wrap up the discussion with a list of next steps, delegated tasks and due dates.
  • Second topic.
  • Third topic and so on.
  • Open discussion. If time permits, allow time at the end of the meeting for discussing related topics, answering questions and handling problems. Schedule additional meetings for unrelated topics.

End formal meetings with the following protocol:

  • Announcements, including date and time of the next meeting
  • Adjournment

Now that you know how to write an agenda, what upcoming events on your calendar will run more smoothly with proper planning and agendas?

About the author: Dot Lyon is a freelance writer for organizations including Briefings Media Group. She previously wrote and edited for the Center for Chemistry Education at Miami University.

Are You Spending Too Much Time in the Conference Room?

Outside meetingMeetings can be a complete waste of time. But even when meetings are useful and necessary, spending hours in the same conference room week after week can make you and your staff a little stir-crazy. Consider these alternatives to shake things up:

  • Chat with employees. You can discover a lot by simply talking with your team members in casual settings. Stop by their workstations for status updates. The conversations will be more efficient and genuine, since they won’t be swayed by their co-workers’ opinions.
  • Go to the source of the problem. If you’re meeting to address a particular issue or mistake, meet where it happened. If customers are complaining about the state of your fitting rooms, meet there. If the kitchen is confusing orders, meet there. Your employees will be more focused on the issue at hand, and being on location often illuminates the cause of the problem.
  • Hold a walking meeting. If you’re meeting only with one or two people, walk while you talk. The exercise will stimulate your brain, and you won’t be tempted to let the meeting go longer than it needs to.
  • Go outside. As the weather gets nicer, schedule an outdoor meeting. The sunshine and fresh air will invigorate your team. Note: Choose an outdoor location that offers plenty of shade. Sunburns shouldn’t be a side effect of a meeting!

What tips do you have for breaking out of a conference room rut?

[Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/rkobes.]

Top 10 tips for Increasing Your Productivity

Productivity TipsBuild better time-management habits and you will be amazed by the way your productivity soars as your stress level sinks. Add these practices to your workday:

  1. Save less. Be honest: How many files do you have that you never refer to? The surest way to avoid clutter is to never allow it to collect. Make your first instinct to delete an email or recycle a paper instead of storing it.
  2. Delegate more. Before you add an item to your to-do list, consider whether someone else should do it. Does a team member possess stronger skills or a better understanding of the issue? Could the task be a learning opportunity for a staffer?
  3. Message efficiently. With so many tools available, don’t default to email for communication. Set up a project blog or wiki, use instant messaging for quick exchanges, and think about when it will be more effective to talk in person or by phone.
  4. Do it once. Streamline recurring tasks to save time. Learn computer shortcuts for common operations. Set up AutoText entries to insert boilerplate text with a few keystrokes. As soon as you answer a common question, add it to a “Frequently Asked Questions” list that the entire staff can access.
  5. Clear the decks. Instead of entering the new year burdened by tradition and your previous work habits, start fresh. Remove everything from your desk and replace only the items you use daily. Move old electronic documents to an archive folder and create a customized set of files to start the new year. When you retrieve a paper file, remove all the documents and replace only those you continue to need. Bit by bit, you will streamline your workplace.
  6. Ensure understanding. When you talk with team members, avoid misunderstandings. Ask questions to check their grasp of what you want them to do. Example: Have them describe the first steps they will take.
  7. Promote action. Relinquish your role as the go-to person. Give your team members authority to act on all but the highest-stakes activities.
  8. Review and plan. Instead of letting your days just happen, put time on your calendar each week for planning. Review what you have accomplished, and then set your top priorities for the coming week.
  9. Connect. Expand your abilities with a strong network of contacts. Don’t wait for formal networking events. Devote one lunch or coffee break each week to strengthening an existing relationship or meeting with someone new.
  10. Relax. Make recharging a routine. To start small, take a 10-minute walk daily. Each time you do it, mark your calendar. After several days you will have a string of accomplishments you won’t want to break. Work up from there as your energy increases.

What is your best time-management tip? Answer in the comments section.

photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/oatsy40/8083161451/">oatsy40</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">cc</a>

 

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