Spring Clean how you work to increase productivity

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You’ve dug out your spring clothes, cleaned the inside of your car, and swept off the patio to welcome spring. But when you go into work, you are buried under winter clutter…a snow pile of emails and an ice flow of meetings. 

In fact, a recent survey—The Microsoft Office Personal Productivity Challenge-- revealed that workers average three productive days a week, with the most common time wasters being ineffective meetings (34%), and lack of team communication (39%). Another survey by Office Team, a staffing services company, reports “runaway meetings” as the biggest time waster (27%). 

So let’s clean house! 

  • Set aside time to check email and return calls, rather than bouncing back and forth. Although it’s difficult to resist the temptation to check emails (especially when they “ping” upon arrival) it is more time efficient to batch your activities. Reacting like Pavlov’s dogs allows your emails to control you, instead of the other way around. Some busy executives I know come in early and hack through their emails; while others spend time after the kids are in bed, catching up before the next day.
  • Use clearly-named folders to file electronic documents. It will save you endless searching. I once worked with a manager who didn’t delete emails or file them. Every time he wanted something he had to scroll and read endlessly to find it.
  • If you have an assistant, ask him or her to pre-screen your emails. Your assistant may be able to intercept and handle more than you think. It will make you more efficient if she can help you manage the flow and alert you to important emails needing your immediate attention.
  • Never go back and forth on an email chain more than three times. If something is unclear or misunderstood, pick up the phone.
  • Stop the endless cc’ing. Be purposeful about who you copy and why. Using cc’s to tattle, point fingers, rally support for your side, or CYA can look snarky and sneaky…not to mention contributing to the email burden of others.
  • If you have trouble getting back to people in a timely way, send a quick response letting the sender know you will get back to them later. Slow response time is a credibility killer.
  • Manage your calendar, rather than allowing people to put meetings on your calendar without your ok. For this reason, blocking chunks of time as “busy” allows you to protect your time from calendar bandits.
  • You may also want to establish “office hours,” like some executives. They let their staff know that certain times of the day or week are open for anyone to drop in, and they don’t allow that time to be formally scheduled. This can reduce the frustration of trying to catch you when you’re schedule is packed.
  • Schedule one-on-one meetings with your direct reports. It may seem counterintuitive to schedule more meetings to get more efficiency, but it will actually increase communications and reduce the need for interruptions. Your employees will also get the proactive coaching and feedback time they are probably missing now.
  • Ask your team to come to the next staff meeting with ideas about how to make your meetings more efficient and effective. You may also want to encourage confidential email responses to that question (in case they fear offending someone who they think shouldn’t be attending in the first place).
  • Spend two minutes at the beginning of each meeting, confirming the agenda and the desired outcome(s). This one simple step, before you begin, will instantly improve your meetings. You will quickly see if your agenda is too ambitious for the time allotted.
  • Use a flip chart or white board during your meetings. It usually helps to keep people on task, clarifies discussion points, and helps to visualize complex ideas.
  • At the end of each meeting, insist on a recap of what was accomplished and agreed to. A tip: allow five minutes at the end of the meeting to do this because, inevitably, there will be a need for more clarification. Better that, than leaving the meeting without a clear understanding of next steps. 


Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 354-9500, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
 
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