How to cope with an overload of emails, meetings, etc. and keep productivity levels high?
- My collection of best practices that I actively implement in my daily activities.
- Start with being effective, i.e. doing the right things. Next switch to efficiency, i.e. doing the things in the right way.
- Odds are that you can also increase your productivity! Who’s not for that?
TO DO LISTS
Mostly never finish. Deal with it, turn your energy to the important tasks first. Don’t prioritize tasks because some colleagues say that they’re ‘urgent’. In the end, everyone wants to get things done and you lose your focus. Multitasking is overrated. Of course, I can switch between tasks but prefer to first finish one before starting a new. The message is clear. Most things can wait.
Internally we work with Jira to allocate points and levels of priority to IT related issues. Armed with this information, you can decide how critical an issue is. For instance, if the website is down this would be labeled ‘blocker’. The product manager would in such case decide to immediately allocate a team to the issue.
But there are other big upsides to a professional platform as Jira. Most importantly it gives users a real-time handle on progress. I can exactly see on which projects teams are working, how much time a developer has spend on a ticket (we use the term ticket instead of task), the estimation of remaining development time etc. Moreover, since developers log their time that they spend on a certain ticket, you can rely on much more data for time-driven activity-based costing models (not yet calculated). Robert S. Kaplan can only love this. Needless to say it also saves some emails and enables a smooth communication between business and IT. The latter often located in India or China.
NO MORE PAPER
I remember an oral examination at uni during which I had difficulty seeing the professor since her desk was burdened with books and paper. Halfway the exam, the paper started sliding and covered the floor. I made a joke about landslides. It was not appreciated.
OK, books are cool. But you can’t simply press ctrl+f or cmd+f right?
Digitize your notes or switch to Evernote or OneNote. You won’t only save a three, but you can sync your notes automatically to all your devices. I also found that traveling with paper documents is tiresome and you might lose them. Store your documents in the cloud and you’re safe.
It essentially boils down to a straightforward advice: use Gmail. It is the Google way to emailing. If you haven’t switched yet, head for the exit at your current email provider and you will notice the quantum leap between Gmail and other providers.
Gmail boasts an orchestral warble of features and the advent of plugins has turned it into much more than ‘just an inbox’. My favorites are Rapportive and Boomerang. Extra tip: enable shortcuts and become a real Gmail wizard!
If your company doesn’t work with Google Apps for business, link your personal Gmail account to your professional non-Gmail one. Next, set up filters to automatically deliver your work emails to a designated folder ‘work’.
After seeing a graphic I actually started asking to potential hires their choice of email provider. Can produce interesting job interviews.
Unavoidable. To avoid an insurmountable amount of emails, I try to (1) call, (2) only ask very specific questions, and (3) KISS – Keep It Short & Simple. If your colleague doesn’t understand your email, don’t send it to a potential marketing partner. They certainly won’t.
I also use NNTR (No Need To Reply) or EOM (End Of Message) in the subject line.
It is compulsive behavior to check your inbox every 15 minutes, it is even worse to keep it open. You’re not sitting next to your mailbox either right?
Faster than email and it shows your commitment. Use Skype or Google Voice to cut costs.
Although there are several valid reasons to call for a meeting, generally the benefits are very much in dispute. Three points regarding meetings.
Provide specifics: time slot (please calculate the time correctly if you’re flying in), location (there are apparently dozens of sushi restaurants in Sydney, but I can’t find yours), points to discuss (it becomes quickly clear if there’s no point in meeting f2f)
Only focus on the meeting. A laptop is useful during meetings but it is also the new Trojan horse. I spot too many ‘professionals’ reading emails and being totally absent from the meeting. Let me put it this way: imagine during a meeting a director tearing open a letter , grabbing his pen and starting to write a reply. It is pretty much similar.
Introduce participants very briefly.
Simply ask if everyone found it necessary to meet and follow up on your points as promised.
Mens sana in corpore sano. Nobody can survive 16-hour working days for years, eat unhealthy and have only one sport ‘keyboarding’. If your hear that sleep is overrated or that work/life balance is an invention that should only exist at our competitors that, keep in mind that on a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.
Kick off the action in the morning. Walk or ride a bike to the office. And why not grab a fresh juice along the way? During the day, get out for walks and open up a window to add some oxygen to the office environment. I plan to do a 1 month experiment, will post findings later on.