One of the more popular post on this blog is my effort at five productivity tips. The post is popular mainly because Tanmay Vora rendered it into the wonderful sketchnote above. I have mocked the top five format, so this is a next seven. In my work and experience since writing that post, I have learned more. Now I need to add to my list (one of the many dangers of a top five). So here is my list of seven more ways to work more effectively.
Remember as you take these forward they are suggestions, not rules. Your work, your organisation and your mileage may vary. Productivity tips are just tips. Everyone needs to evolve their own system to suit their unique preferences, skills and work.
Manage energy, not time
We are taught to not waste time. Supposedly, it is all we have. However, it doesn’t take much life experience to realise that not every moment is equal. Some times we have the energy to move fast. Some times we don’t. Persistence matters but grind is pointless. Take breaks. Manage your energy. You will get more done working when you are productive than staring at the screen for the point of it.
Manage goals & priority, not tasks
Anyone can fill a to do list. It’s much harder to do the most important and most valuable things first. We often confuse the urgent, the mundane and the easy for the most valuable things we can do. You don’t need to micromanage yourself. Put your energy against the highest priority. Make sure you can see the goals of the work. Do the administrivia when you are barely there.
Hire future peers
You don’t want people to work for you. The best people work with you and may some day replace or surpass you. Hire people who are or can be peers to work for you. Develop your people to do all you can do and more. The only way to multiply our effectiveness is through growing the talents of a team.
Micromanagement sucks. Don’t delegate tasks. They are demeaning and put both of you at risk of irrelevant goalless work. If you manage your work by priority and value, allow your team to do the same. Allow them to create new ways to work and surprise you. Giving over the whole goal, lets people play to their strengths, not yours. Delegate the whole goal and then coach your team to achieve it.
A lot of organisational politics is devoid of an external reality. A lot of time wasting tasks have no value to customers, the community, shareholders and other stakeholders. Work problems from outside your organisation back in. It’s amazing how many issues and problems disappear when you have external stakeholders on your side.
We have more tools to work asynchronously than ever. As much as we love our real-time chat and video conferencing asynchronous work is the great productivity gain. Calendars don’t always align. Energy doesn’t always align. Let people make their contributions to work when they can and how they want. Asynchronous sharing, commenting, editing and more can be a powerful way to get more done with more people. The first simple step is to gather the feedback before the meeting. That way any meeting can be deciding what to do with the feedback.
Weave. Don’t multi-task
Nobody is as effective at multitasking as they think. There are real costs of task switching. At a minimum we need to understand each task in its context. However tasks have different cycle times and all tasks have big and little gaps. Not everything is real time and synchronous. If you plan your work to do other things in the inevitable gaps, you can get more done. Allow blocks of time for high value creation, problem solving and synchronous interactions. Weave other activities around these blocks. Phone calls, follow-ups, status checks and re-prioritisation are all great in-between tasks.
So that’s my next seven for now. I’ll keep learning, experimenting and adding to my practice. Maybe you can see a not-so-hidden theme emerging of working in a more human way with a focus on human relationships, talents, value and the up and down of energy. All these tips are pointless if the systems we work in don’t let us do that work.
I’m sure there will be more tips and themes. I’m keen to learn from others. What works for you to make your work more effective?