90% of a project manager’s time is spent on communication. They have to make sure the right information reaches the right people at the right time. They also have to make sure the information is understood and acted upon. Without proper communication, projects can fall behind schedule or in worst case scenarios fail costing organisations loss of time and money. I cite this to illustrate the importance of communication in our lives. Even if you are not a project manager, your productivity will benefit from improving your communication skills.
Communication starts with being responsible. Both the sender and receiver of the message have a responsibility to ensure communication is effective. The sender has a responsibility to take the communication needs of the receiver into account. Sticking with the project management analogy, a good project manager finds out the preferred communication channel and frequency of updates required by all stakeholders. Personally, I’d rather read an email than receive a long call. If you pay attention, you will often find out what channel someone prefers. I know someone who insisted they only be called if it was an emergency. For all other purposes, he’d rather receive a text or email.
What do you work on first thing in the morning? What are your team working on this week? How long did it take you to answer? How many items did you list? In Good to Great, Jim Collins writes “If you have more than three priorities, you don’t have any.” Yet these days it’s quite common to hear Managers talking about team priorities (in plural with emphasis) rather than admitting they have lost sight of the goalpost.
Some people have a natural flair for task management and organisation. Others had the good luck of starting their careers in organisations where supportive bosses showed them how to become more productive. Regardless, how you started your personal productivity journey, it is interesting to know that while productive people come from all walks of life and have different personalities, they all tend to have behaviours that make them more productive than others. Productive people tend to:
One of the most important skills we need in a world of information overload is good communication. The average person is bombarded with so much information that crucial bits can go ignored. How often have you sent an email with important information only for it to go unhindered because it was hidden beneath so many paragraphs of noise.
Last week’s article was about the power of “No.” A simple word but with great power to help you take control of your schedule. Hopefully by now, you have had some practice with saying “No.” The goal is to eventually reach a level where you learn to say “yes” to opportunities and “no” to distractions.
With practice, it’s easy to know when to politely redirect your colleague’s offer for last minute help on a project they had two months to work on. Outside the workplace, however, it can become more difficult to decide which tasks to give up. Let’s examine the following list:
Take minutes of the meeting of market women’s association.
Service the generator at the orphanage
Do the book keeping for the Youth association
Read to five year olds at the library
Deliver the opening speech at your nephew’s speech and prize giving day
“Poor planning on your part does not necessitate an emergency on mine.”
What do you do when someone asks you to do a task you would rather not? Picture this scenario. You are working on a project early in the morning, trying to build momentum. Someone approaches. They ask if you have five minutes. They need your help to go over a report that they have to submit later today. What do you tell them?
You have three options. The first is to say “No. Go away.” That would do the trick and you might be able to get back to work after that but it won’t win you any allies that way. The second is to say “Yes” and allow the person take control of your schedule for the rest of the morning. You know the report was supposed to have been their responsibility and you feel they shouldn’t bother you. It’s not your job to look over their report. Yet you also feel you could do a better job of it than your colleague. Maybe they need a little help after all and you know you could write a better report than them. So you check the report and it’s a mess and you end up having to rewrite parts of it. By the time you are done, you have “helped” your colleague write a report and they can turn it in just in time. Then you go back to your original task and curse the fact that since you have wasted so much time you now have to work after office hours to finish your work.
How many hats are you wearing right now? If you have a job, you wear an employee hat. Perhaps you also run a side hustle that employs one or two staff, in which case you also wear a boss hat for your business. You might also be married and wear a spouse hat. If you have children, you also wear a parent hat. What other duties do you perform at home? Are you the chef, the one everyone relies on to organise events or laundry?
This is the final part of the posts this month about dealing with distractions that stop you focusing on your most important tasks for the day. I assume you are here because you read the previous three and would like to read the fourth. If by some miracle, you haven’t please check them out here, here and here.
Picture this scenario. You are about to go into a meeting with a prospective client. That client could be the big client you have been working towards getting all year. The meeting will start in 30 seconds. You get a call from your spouse or a message asking you to call them. What do you do? Another scenario, If you work from home and have children, how do you stop them from walking in through the closed door to play with mom or dad?