This post is a follow up to the New Productivity Strategy post I wrote on October 31. I wanted to give this new strategy a go for a month and see if it had any impact on getting more “work” done.

To catch you up, my new framework looked something like this:

  1. My 50+ item task list will get prioritized to my “must do” top 5
  2. Those 5 items are my “only do” list for the moment
  3. New emails fall on the “never do” list, so I won’t check email until my “must do” items are done
  4. After done, I’ll check email, triage and re-prioritize the task list
  5. Take a break
  6. Repeat

Rather than simply “focus” on the things to do, I was getting sucked in to a daily routine of just following up on interruptions: email, instant message, etc. So many in fact, I could go days without getting any of my actual tasks done.

This new approach is reinforcing a few valuable lessons in prioritization:

  • We can only prioritize a few things at the same time…and really only really work on ONE thing at a time. Proper goal setting for the day is critical.
  • It’s important to specifically call out things that are consistently distractions – email and IM are #1 for me. Email is actually de-prioritized on my list and I no longer log into IM tool.
  • Some things you just can’t put on the Never Do List. While I can’t remove email completely, I can designate specific times to do it…and do it fast. Internal email doesn’t warrant the same scrutiny as something written to a client. Most of the time quantity is better than quality.
  • Delegation is important, but it has overhead on the follow through. If you are consistently delegating a task, it might be valuable to remove yourself from the middle. 
  • I’ve played with the Pomodoro Technique over the years, but it has recently come in very handy to carve out time for forced breaks OR time to catch up on email.
  • This approach takes a discipline in saying “no”. Historically, that’s been a weakness of mine. 

The biggest challenge in all of this is the feeling of dropping other tasks, letting others down or not appearing as useful as others. However, the bigger let down would be not completing the few things one must get done.

As far as the workload, I am absolutely making significant progress. As expected, it’s a bit disruptive to others that are used to the quick turn around on “interruptions”.  Setting proper expectations with them has been helpful. The bigger lesson in all of this is being aware of the need for change and continually experimenting/growing to meet  the need.

 

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