Monday, 15 April 2013

Too much to do, too little hints for work/office productivity!

In the past few weeks, I have had quite a few days off, for various reasons such as visiting an unwell grandparent, meeting up with my dad who was visiting London for a few days, Easter holidays, various appointments, external work meetings, seeing the in-laws etc etc. Which was all very fun, interesting, or plain necessary, but has resulted in only working two days a week for the last few weeks (yay) but now meaning I have twice as much to do for the rest of April...and maybe May (boo).

My lovely weekend away in Manchester and good mood was abruptly bought to a stop this morning at 9am when I realised I had 256 emails that needed my attention!!! opps.

start loving Monday 

My out of office auto response will have bought me a little more time to respond to the emails’ authors but it did slightly panic me!

This got me thinking about work/life balance, productivity, and effective work habits.

Over the years I like to think I have learnt a great deal from the people I work with, picking up hints and tips along the way. So to help anyone else in my situation, here are my hints and tips. I have also labeled this as “fulfillment” in the blog categories as I am hoping that getting a good work/life balance brings contentment!

Hope this helps.

1. first off, write a to do list of everything you have to do this week and if possible, try and separate the list into
a) things that are urgent
b) things that can wait until the end of the week
c) things that don’t need action but just involve you chasing
d) things that you can delegate

2. also, stick a couple of things on there that you have already done/ are near completion, because ticking that off right away will trick your mind into thinking that you have already accomplished something and make you more motivated!

use a list to keep on track 

3. if possible, before a long stint away from the office, try and write a to do list that you will need to get through prior to going away. I did this before Xmas and it massively helped, as the dread of going back into the office and not knowing what I was doing was softened by the fact I already had a list on my desk!

4. if there are things that need chasing, try not to send emails, and pick up the phone to that person. This will probably be quicker than batting emails back and forth, back and forth, especially if either of you have questions. It will also help build rapport and relationships.

5. scan through the emails quickly at first (microsoft office has a preview reading pane) and mark the ones that nee urgent attention. Once you have accessed what the inbox contains you can go about actioning the emails. (I am not sure “actioning” is a word but you get the meaning of this made up verb).

6. try and only check emails at designated times, say fist thing in the morning, after lunch and hour before home time. Don’t attend to each email every time you notice it ping up in the bottom right hand screen! Turn this “pop up” off if necessary!

7. decide what to do with your emails. My dad taught me to either “delete” “do” “delegate” or “delay”. Sometimes he actually talks sense.

8. Tab and label your emails! I have green for urgent, purple for events, black for chasing others, red for funding etc, in that way I can group these tasks together. Which brings me onto the next tip...

9. don’t multi task! Instead do one “thing” at a time. Do it properly, efficiently and get it done quickly....
is this how you feel?

10. ..and if it helps, group activities together. Sometimes it helps if you do things in bulk, especially if you have to open certain folders, talk to certain people etc to access the info you need. If you take this approach, dedicate a time slot to getting it all done in one go. This is where the coloured labels help too in tip 5.  

11. I recently read that the mind is very quick to adapt (think of a time when an alarm goes off, it annoys you, and then later you suddenly realise it stopped and you didn’t even know cos you got so used to it!)Therefore, it is best to do the boring stuff altogether as your mind will adapt to it and it won’t be so painful to do!

12. learn the art of cut and paste! I have a “bank” of letters, emails, template posters etc that I use time and time again. all that is required is slight tweaking. Although, be careful, I have made the mistake of sending the email to the wrong person using the wrong template! Embarrassing and probably not seen as professional

13. clear your mind and don’t stress! Easier said than done, I know. But if something is troubling you or won’t leave your mind, just write it down and tell yourself you will deal with it later. It is simple but really works for me!

14. be wary of the unnecessary meetings or the ones that drag on for far too long! And I also learnt the hard way not to schedule in a load of (unnecessary) meetings straight after a long break on the first day back in the office. It’ll take up so much time and probably result in more work as meetings have a habit of producing more work for you!

15. perhaps sometimes you just need to say “no”. Easier said than done (especially to the boss) or at least be honest with your time scales, and not just promise to have it to them by the end of the day when you know realistically it’ll take several!

16. take breaks and most importantly a healthy lunch break! I see colleagues skip lunch all the time in an attempt to obtain half an hour, hour max, more working time.  but all that happens is you are drain and grumpy and unproductive in the afternoon. I love my food. I need my lunch break.

17. this may sound silly but learn to type quickly! I watch some people type using the two index finger technique. seriously! I am pretty quick at typing and I am sure this is in my favour as I can get twice as many emails answered as I am so quick at typing. What with spell check, it doesn’t even matter if you can’t type quick and accurate!  

and finally, don’t forget to switch off when you get home. I have never taken work home to do after office hours! And I don’t plan to start. I have never missed a deadline, so fingers crosses these tips are working for me so far! Oh, and after all that, don’t forget a little treat for you!

X x X 

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