By Linda Owens, President
This is part one of a 2-part series on productivity based on a recent Association Chat (#assnchat).
Have you tried the Association Chat recently? Every Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET follow #assnchat on Twitter for a moderated series of questions designed for association professionals to interact and share their experiences. The chat is hosted by KiKi L’Italien (@kikilitalien) and anyone following the hashtag can respond with their answers and participate.
We decided to hold our own in-house #assnchat on productivity, based on the October 7, 2014, #assnchat questions. Read below for productivity troubles and tips from the IMI staff.
Q1: What are some of your productivity killers? What gets in the way of your productivity?
IMI team members shared that their top productivity killer is interruptions. Emails, phone calls, and office visitors were named as the most common interruptions.
Other productivity killers:
- When others don’t plan their schedules accordingly and it causes an emergency through poor planning.
- Waiting on others to answer questions or provide information to complete the job from my standpoint.
- Too many tasks to accomplish in a short amount of time.
Q2: What is the best productivity tool you use regularly?
Across the board, team members cited lists, lists, and more lists as productivity aids!
- I categorize and assign tasks, due dates and deadlines to items that come in through email. I also use the Franklin Covey system of prioritizing items.
- It’s a tie between Basecamp and Outlook (color coding emails).
- I delegate, break big projects into little tasks that I try to work on a little each day, and work at home one day a week, which has fewer interruptions. I also unsubscribe from irrelevant emails and set goals for myself (e.g. I will complete this project in 1 hour).
- I establish a timeframe during which I will focus on one task that needs attention. No Email interruptions and all phone calls go to voicemail.
- Not waiting until the last minute to complete the task or responsibility.
- Outlook! I set reminders/due dates on emails and setup tasks on my calendar.
- I use a spreadsheet with reminders and deadlines. I also use the Outlook Tasks feature. I just have to remember to stay on top of it!
- Reducing distractions! I turn off email notifications, set my phone to do not disturb, etc., for a brief time while I focus on critical tasks.
- I will switch to non-computer tasks for short occasional breaks to rest my eyes and mind from the computer.
Q3: Do you have rules for the way you prioritize tasks each day? What are they? (Such as: List your top 3 priorities but no more, etc.)
- The week prior, I map out overall items that need to be accomplished during the upcoming week. I then break these down into specific items for specific days of the week. Each day I look through the list for the next day and assign priority to items. A1, A2, A3 are most important and need to get done. B1, B2, B3 are second level of importance, C1, C2, C3 are items that I will do if I have time, but can be pushed to the next day if needed. During the day if an item comes up that needs to trump one of my planned priorities I assign U1, U2, U3 (U = urgent) and determine which item will be bumped to the next day.
- I get the urgent items done, but each week I also make sure to save some time to work on tasks that have been on the back burner.
- Each day I prioritize my top nine tasks into three categories: A-one big thing, B-three medium things, and C-five small things.
- I prioritize tasks by categories: Today, This Week, This Month, This Year.
- Review deadlines for the week and prioritize tasks based on those deadlines.
- Prioritize tasks to match or exceed the time available.
- I usually prioritize by first come first served, starting with tasks that are older than a day that haven’t been completed. Then, I prioritize by request type. For example, requests that take longer to complete I will carve out a time slot in the day, like the whole afternoon or first thing in the morning, and work on other smaller tasks around it. I make sure to complete everything I promised before leaving at the end of the day. If I cannot complete something in a reasonable amount of time or if it has been sitting for a while I will send updates letting the appropriate people know when I will complete the task.
- Review daily tasks each day and prioritize.
- I respond to the most important emails first and then go back to the others as time allows. I block time periods to not handle email when working on project.
- I list my tasks by priority and work on them based on deadline.
- I first list the tasks that MUST be finished and label them in order that they should be completed. I make a second list below it of tasks I will conquer next if I have time after the critical tasks are complete.
- I prioritize based on: 1. What needs to be done today? 2. How long has it been waiting? 3. Does it affect our members?
Q4: Do you use an organization or scheduling system, like GTD or the Pomodoro Technique?
Overall, Outlook features, such as tasks and reminders, were the most popular scheduling system.
Other helpful systems:
- I use Franklin Covey’s system and I do recommend it for people that like to make lists. The system is a great way to bring your love of list making to the next level.
- Evernote – It’s easy to make lists and check off tasks.
- I’m a list-keeper, using highlighters to prioritize tasks.
- I use an Excel spreadsheet with my tasks and their expiration dates.
We hope you enjoyed IMI’s in-house #assnchat. If you haven’t tried #assnchat on Twitter, give it a try! You may find answers to questions you didn’t even know you had.
Check back next week for part 2 of this discussion on productivity.