Three Ways to be More Effective

Barbara Blake, Owner, Longview Associates

Try these three ideas to be more effective today...

Our days are full of distractions, interruptions and very long to do lists. It seems the more you work; the more there is to do. While it is true we are all asked to take on more, you can get
more done if you follow these three simple ideas to be more effective and productive during the day.

- Work your priorities
- Schedule time for the administrivia
- You can say “now is not a good time”

1. Work your priorities. By your priorities, I refer to those priorities that move the business forward, meet strategic goals and drive key projects. Every day, take a few minutes to identify the two or three tasks or activities you must do to move your top three priorities forward. Assess how much time is required to complete each one. This gives you a guide for how to allocate your time. Be sure to measure at the end of the day how much time it did take to work on each priority. This has two benefits; it will help you improve estimates of time a project needs and it allows you to reflect on what was accomplished.

As things cross your desk, determine if they affect your priorities. If not, put them in a place to review later and move on. If they do affect a priority, is it something that needs to be addressed that day? If so, adjust your schedule. Otherwise put it on tomorrow’s or the next day’s list. For the non priority items, build them into the administrivia time.
Keeping long-term priorities on the top of your list, increases the likelihood that progress will be made and crises and fire drills avoided.

2. Schedule time for administrivia.
Administrivia is all the necessary administrative and low priority items on your to do list or as Webster’s Dictionary defines it, “ the tiresome but essential details that must be taken care of and tasks that must be performed in running an “. How much time should you schedule to work on these items? I suggest at least one-half hour each day, preferably an hour. Generally a good time to schedule this type of task is before lunch or at the end of the day. The idea is to give you a break. Working on tasks that do not require a great deal of concentration allows your mind to work on problems in the background. It also allows you to decompress, reenergize and get ready for what’s next in your day. Most importantly, because you have “parked” all the little nagging items in one place, you are freer during the rest of your day to focus on the priorities knowing everything will be done. We have a tendency to fill our day by doing these tasks so we can cross things off our list and feel a sense of accomplishment. However, the real work, your priorities are short changed. The priorities are why you are in the role you have – because you have the expertise, skills and knowledge to do them well. So to quote a German proverb, “Keep the main thing the main thing.”

3. You can say, “Now is not a good time…”
Interruptions are focus and energy killers. For every interruption not related to the task you were working on, we take on average 23 minutes to get back to where we were before the interruption (from a study by Gloria Mark, professor at University of California, Irvine). When you are in the middle of working on a priority, if someone comes with a question or problem that is unrelated, let the individual know you want to be responsive to their needs and give their question your full attention. Suggest meeting in 15 minutes, an hour, or whatever time is appropriate. Most people will appreciate your candor that you will be too distracted to meet the individual’s needs at the moment. People want to be heard and be given attention. Setting up a time to give them what they need not only helps you stay on task but builds a culture of respect. Rarely does your day go as planned. But, if you follow these strategies as often as you can, you will notice a difference in your effectiveness and productivity.