How many times you have heard how stressed people are and how difficult to fulfill agendas at work they are. I really want to give a positive message to the world. It is possible to be at an important position, to have a full agenda and the most important fulfill and complete it. This post is about productivity.
The key point in my opinion is not to be a self programmed people (it helps), but use the right “gadgets”. There are only two necessary: Your company email software agenda (Lotus Notes, Groupwise, Outlook,…) and the most important thing your “Paper Agenda”.
Look for an agenda with the weeks written on it, and agenda that covers in two pages the whole week, so you can have clear overview of the week meetings and saturation of the days. Check from time to time that electronic and paper agenda match each other.
Writing with a pencil is important, you might need to continuously change meetings. Unfortunately it is like that. but, Why a paper agenda?, it is a well-known thing that the human brain keeps a better record on things written as long as you make the effort of writing them, read them at the same time. You can better remember, more than sending a quick email a note written with your own hands (experts say).
Combine both agendas, why?, because in my opinion, we are in this world to combine the best of the two words analogic and digital. I learnt from a colleague at work and friend, Carme Giralt, to make meeting minutes at the same time you speak and send it with the invitation. Furthermore, we live in a world of call conferences, lead them, take your own company number and send it with invitation. As everything in life, lead it, be the chairman.
Now that we talk about calls, try to be always on time and ask the others to be aswell. Learn from Americans and their organisation, you need to be ready five minutes before the meeting, apologize after two or three minutes entering a meeting room or call conference and of course re-schedule it if you or other important people did not show in after ten to fifteen minutes. Time in Money, your time and their time.
So every day, first thing you need to do is come to work and open the agenda. I always read emails first thing in the morning around 07:00 is the only time I am alone in the office and can concentrate. You can also do it at the end of the day. But better to program it, leave empty slots in your agenda for emails. The trick is to read emails in diagonal, seeing urgent ones and leaving other ones at lunch time 10 to 15 min. break after lunch. If you need to do an important email leave it to the before-you-go thing. Please try always not to alter the agenda. You have your reputation in the company, maintain it by sticking to the meetings.
Coffees are programmable, for example, leave 20-30 minutes open between meetings like 10:00 a.m. to go down for a coffee, small sandwich (every culture is different, in spanish culture a small sandwich is healthy at 10:00 a.m.) . But this is personal, you can always call your partner at the meeting if it is not urgent meeting and beg for 5 minutes break if you just finished the last meeting.
In my last company in purchasing when I was Supplier Quality Manager, we came to a level of minimum 20 to 30 meetings a week (programmed do not count unexpected). How to deal with that?
On general there are more tricks to improve your productivity:
– Keep always computer agenda updated, if you are too busy and need to speak with people always tell them to send you invitations with the phrase “I have my agenda updated, please set up a meeting with me and send me an invitation, I really want to discuss about this issue with you”. Always listen to the others, but one thing at a time. I am a one thing at a time person with a really powerful agenda that covers most of everything I consider necessary to cover.
– Urgencies can be postponed. Imagine one people of your team that needs to talk to you about urgent issue. First question “can be speak later this afternoon?” if so then program it. People need to understand that you have an agenda. But if you cannot postpone it, inmediately call the next meeting partners, inform them about it and the most important thing: Re-schedule the cancelled meeting. This gives you credibility in the company. Worst thing that can happen is that people think you are not serious with the meetings.
– Don’t leave anything to casuality. Program breaks and lunches. People need to understand (and it is a healthy thing) that 12:30-13:00 is your lunch time always. This is difficult to accomplish, though.
– Learn to say NO. When in your 8 hours a day plan, there are 6 to 7 hours meetings, do not overlap any more meetings and postpone the new ones, for your own health.
– Priorize in double meetings in agenda, first emergencies, urgent, (remember always re-schedule, everybody is important in the company it is only a priority thing).
– Block a whole day or two for things you need to do like reportings or business trips preparations. In between you can put an urgent meetings there, but first week of the month is reportings, no discussions to it.
– Don’t be in all the meetings about everything. Many times we get invited to open meetings, follow up meetings in projects, there might be maybe other people from your department to take notes, and afterwards forward you information. Regular weekly meetings: maybe This week you need to give or request update, but maybe next week your department issues are closed and just for your information. Always ask yourself first. Do I have to attend this meeting? is my department covered in this meeting? can you delegate in another person ? you might get some time to do urgent emails or calls. This does not mean forget about issues, delegating is important. Being the responsible for department does not mean doing everything yourself. Name people for projects, activities etc.. In the end it is all about developping people. Always request for update after the meeting to this person though.
– Stick to your meetings. If you programmed a meeting for an hour, this means you thought the issues were for an hour, summarize, make people go to the point, check points of agenda, dinamize the meeting. But remember you have another meeting after this one. If two people of your team are discussing an issue not so relevant to stay, leave them “I have to go to annother meeting but please send me an update”. Keep your head agile, remind them tomorrow or later which was the conclusion of that meeting.
– Remember we are not robots, no one can deal with more that 2 or 3 urgent issues a day. Make sure that the problems are addressed with right contact persons and request help if necessary. We are in an era in the companies that no more super heroes are needed in companies but much more team working. No more one-man-show. Liberate your agenda to support your team instead.
Finally, productivity is not that you can achieve to do one thousand things in a week, productivity is giving the best of you in anything you do and make sure that if you take five projects, you will dedicate during the week the required time to these projects and in an efficient way.