You are busy…. you have a full schedule with conference calls, deadlines, and meetings. This makes being productive difficult as you seem to be doing things for everyone else instead of focusing on your own agenda. I get it. As a manager, you will be pulled in every direction, but it is important to know that busy and productive are not necessarily synonymous. Activity doesn’t always equal productivity. Let’s talk about ways to help you be more productive.
Get and stay organized; it is the key to your success. Prepare for your meetings. Know what you need to accomplish and knock it out. Be as efficient as possible, and do not waste time. Clear your schedule from distractions, and make sure that you are able to give your full attention to the things that are important. If you get it done right the first time, then you do not have to waste your time reviewing it over and over. Touch it once and move on. You will feel a great sense of accomplishment as you complete projects, and organization is key.
The Only Place Execute Comes Before Plan is in the Dictionary
Take the time to plan before you execute. Creating a plan saves you time, it doesn’t add to it. Create a task list, putting your most important tasks at the top, in order of how quickly they can be accomplished. A task that must be done that day, whether five minutes or two hours, should be at the top. Do not keep pushing your least desirable tasks to the bottom. Remember the old adage about eating an elephant: one bite at a time. This will put you in motion and give you that sense of accomplishment.
Time is of the Essence
Respect the time of others, and never be late. If you have an 8am meeting, be there at 7:45am, fully prepared. This ensures you are ready to go on time and shows you value the time of others. Make sure you take detailed notes and follow up on every point. Should you be running late, let the key participants know as early as possible so they can adjust their schedule as necessary. We all run into a snag in scheduling, the important thing is to communicate. And speaking of communication…
As a manager, communication is key. How quickly you respond to calls and emails might be the difference between landing an account or watching your competitor get it. Take phone calls and deal with the issue then and there. If you are in a meeting or unable to, return missed calls as quickly as possible. A good rule is to return all calls and emails within 24 hours. Even if you don’t have the answers yet, let the other person know you received their inquiry. No one wants to wait around and wonder if you even got the message. Create folders to keep your inbox organized and set your preferences to automatically filter incoming emails. This will help you to immediately find correspondence for any given project. Plus, a clean inbox can make you feel more productive, and allows you to focus on the task at hand.
Learn to Prioritize
There is only so much time in the day and only so many things that you can accomplish. Don’t feel like you have to go above and beyond on every project. Simply completing your project, and staying on schedule, is enough in most cases.
Putting out daily fires is definitely a top priority, but you still need to complete your day-to-day tasks. Stick to your schedule as best you can by developing a routine. This will allow you to stay productive and give you the opportunity to be creative.
Make use of the tools at hand, sometimes quite literally “at hand”. Use your computer or smartphone to set appointments, reminders, and lists. Tackle tasks in the moment whenever possible, thereby eliminating the need to continue thinking about them.
Lastly, take advantage of down time at the office, or your time on the road. Uninterrupted time is priceless in management, and you should take advantage of it. Do not be afraid to focus on yourself during this time. Stretch out, listen to music, call your mother… it is not against the rules to do things for yourself. Simply taking a few deep breaths and releasing them clears your mind and prepares you for what is ahead. And it’s no secret that being prepared is the key to productivity.