Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Getting More Done

"We all face the same constraint: there are only 24 hours in a day. But some people seem to get so much more done each day. How are they able to fit it all in?"

So starts a very helpful article, titled, Time at the Top: Productive Work Habits from CEOs and Top Executives, by Ann Gomez, a productivity expert, and President of Clear Concept Inc., and Mark Ellwood, an internationally known productivity consultant, expert on how people spend their time, President of Pace Productivity Inc., and buddy of mine from up in Canada.

They collaborated (quickly and efficiently, no doubt) to provide, based on their interviews with CEOs and other top executives, several "straight-forward techniques that employees at any level can use to fit more into their days":
  1. Know Your Priorities: I've blogged and tweeted about tracking your own "T-O-P 3", Today's (three) Overriding Priories - my version of doing this.
  2. Focus on One Thing at a Time: Developing one's “focus muscle” is an important, yet often overlooked, prerequisite for this.
  3. Manage Your Interruptions: To effectively switch gears and focus on their issue, Gomez and Ellwood recommend coaching people on how to give you some context and background, when interrupting, so you can better understand the issue they want to talk with you about and more easily segue from what you had been focusing on.
  4. Be Strategic About Your Email: Using the preview pane to scan the subject line
    and first two sentences is helpful to some, as is using "non-prime working time" to respond to the non-urgent ones. Others use the Touch it Once principle, acting on each email "the first time they read it." Regardless of strategy, though, it's important to "train" others as to your preferences and processes regarding email so important communiques don't get lost in the cracks.
  5. Run Efficient Meetings: One of the interviewed executives "consistently reinforces
    the designated start time by always closing the door when he walks in, and starting right away." Another, "recognizing that people need time to transition from one meeting to the next, scheduled most meetings to start exactly five minutes after the hour."
  6. Be Decisive: "Executives talked about the importance of committing to a decision, once made." Per one of the executives interviewed, "I make a decision once and go with it. I don’t allow my executive team to revisit a decision unless there is a case that is so compelling (i.e., brought on by new information or the discovery of a mistake)."
  7. Leverage Your Team (a.k.a. Delegate): Encouraging your staff to engage in Unsolicited Updates, is key.
  8. Take a Break: "All of the executives [interviewed] placed great importance on their lives outside work." And, yes, it does take some practice.

"The issues facing executives at the top of an organization are not fundamentally different from managers at any level. A lot of work needs to be done and there are always opportunities to do more. A major theme that emerges from our interviews of senior executives is that they are pro-active about how they manage their work. Rather than haphazardly allowing themselves to be overtaken by activities, they are clear about what needs to be done to be their most effective. In articulating how they achieve maximum effectiveness, they are simply preaching what they
practice."

Thanks, Ann. Thanks, Mark. Very helpful information and insight.

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