Below is a guest blog from LJ, who is passionate about productivity, among other topics. We have done something a bit different today- she has published her article on our blog, and I have published an article on her blog, www.simpleproductivityblog.com
Thanks for your input LJ! And I would like to invite everyone visiting our blog, to take a look at my article on her blog- it's all about the importance of taking time off from work, and how it enhances your productivity! It is called 'Plug Out to Stay Productive'.
I hope you enjoy both articles ,
Valerie Redmond, RWorks co-founder
This article written by LJ Earnest
Until we can manage time, we can manage nothing else." – Peter F. Drucker
"Time is the scarcest resource of the manager; If it is not managed, nothing else can be managed." Ibid.
Have you ever had one of those days where the list of tasks to be done seems taller than the Eiffel Tower, and more keeps being added? We wedge our tasks in between our appointments and skip from task to task, desperately trying to make some headway. Yet when the day is over, we look back and see that very little was accomplished.
These are the days when our time has run away; our working has slipped from planned into panicked.
The basis for effective time management is very simple, yet most people don't do it well. It all lies in knowing our commitments. Once we manage our commitments, we can plan effectively and take on the mountain of tasks.
And the simplest way to do that is with a piece of paper and a few lines.
The Calendar: Visual Manager
Most people have two or three calendars within sight. We have them on our phones, in our homes, on our computers. Yet these simple grids are not often recognized for what they truly are: visual representations of our commitments.
Used properly, a calendar can show you at a glance what you have promised to do, and if you can fit more in. It is recognizing these blocks of time that allow us to determine what can be done, based on the time available.
Avoiding Parkinson's Law
Parkinson's Law states, "Work expands to fill time available." It's a modern statement of something Thoreau noted: that life is frittered away by detail. When we plan our blocks of work, and know what we must accomplish, we are less likely to waste time.
Getting the Big Rocks In
Have you ever had a day where you had big important things to do, but ended up doing lots of other little tasks instead? When the day was over, there was no time left for the big important things.
Effective planning can stop this in the tracks. Just as you can get large stones in a jar only if it is not already filled with sand and pebbles, you must plan to get those large tasks done and then fill in the rest.
The Calendar Challenge
I'm sure you must have a calendar that you use. Most people can't be without one. But for today, I want to challenge you to use your calendar in a different way.
Print out a daily calendar form, or pull out a piece of paper, and draw a box on it. Draw enough lines in that box to represent the hours (or half hours) of your waking day.
Next, color in blocks of time where you are allocated. If you see an empty block and you have the feeling it should be filled, it probably is filled with tasks that involve living: this could mean appointments, sleeping, eating, helping children with homework or transit time.
Really look at this calendar. What do you see? Are there blocks on that day where you can work on things? Choose some meaningful tasks and work on them during this time. Are you completely blocked? Then either free up your schedule, or accept you will get nothing else done.
As you go through the day, refer back to your calendar. Are you on track? Has something else come up? Adjust your plan accordingly.
At the end of the day, I believe you will have accomplished a great deal, and will feel good about your day.
LJ Earnest is the author of SimpleProductivityBlog, where finding a productive life doesn't have to be complicated.
| Too Much Information, Not Enough Time?
Written by RWorks
Monday, 07 March 2011 12:41
Does this sound familiar to you?
The alarm on your cellphone wakes you in the morning. You check your text messages, voice messages and e-mails on your cell, have breakfast, go to work. You switch on your PC while getting up to speed with your co-workers, check voice messages on your landline, open your e-mails (again), log in to Twitter to respond to messages and thank people for mentions, check in on Facebook (my job, like many these days, involves social media), and open your e-mail inbox (yes, again). You try to work on deliverables throughout the day, while dealing with issues with co-workers and regularly being distracted by reacting to e-mails arriving to your inbox.
Information Overload has arguably become the number one challenge for knowledge workers today, cutting productivity and reducing the quality of life of workers worldwide. In 2008, IBM, Microsoft, Intel and Xerox joined forces with the Information Overload Research Group (www.iorgforum.org) to combat this issue, which they say is one of the greatest productivity challenges of our time. In fact, October 20th, 2010 was declared Information Overload Awareness Day by IORG. A key company in the organization is Basex Inc., which is the research arm of the group.
Are knowledge workers in danger of developing a form of Attention Deficit Disorder due to being overloaded with information? Gloria Mark, Professor in the Department of Informatics at the University of California-Irvine has determined that the average knowledge worker switches tasks every 3 minutes! And according to Spira, "Each interruption comes with this penalty we call 'recovery time'- the time it takes to get back to the point where you were".
Interestingly, Joanne Cantor, Communications Professor at the University of Wisconsin has in her research found that multi-tasking does not work.
Here's how knowledge workers spend the working day according to Basex research:
According to Basex, workers lose as much as 28% of their time to Information Overload, costing over $900 billion a year in lower productivity and reduced innovation. Jonathan B.Spira has written a book entitled "Overload!:How Too Much Information is Hazardous to your Organization". The title has not yet been released, but can be pre-ordered from amazon.com.
So, what to do about all of this? How do we stay productive and get things done, amidst all of these distractions? Here's how:
- Be organized: Have a To-Do List. Take some time at the start of each day to figure out what your goals are for the day ahead, and make a list. It will keep you calmer and more focused once the day gets going. Have a clear idea of what tasks you want to have accomplished by the end of the day. Prioritize the tasks, and get the top priority ones done before doing other things like checking your e-mail. I am going to quote an article that I referenced previously in another blog, it is http://sidsavara.com/personal-development/do-not-check-email-in-the-morning, and also a previous blog article of mine http://www.rworks.com/index.php/blog/37-remote-working/79-how-to-maintain-productivity-despite-workplace-distractions
- Minimize Distractions. If on average 25% of the day is productive, and 28% is full of distractions, you need to do something to tip the balance of your day back towards productivity. You need 'head-down, focused work time'. This can be difficult to achieve. Find someplace quiet to work- can you go somewhere else? Can you close the office door? Can you work from home sometimes? Can you just say 'no', (and not feel guilty?). I regularly work from home for a portion of the day, or the whole day. I find that for many aspects of my work, eg. writing a blog article, I need someplace quiet to think, research and put it all together. I find teleworking really enhances my creativity, and hence my productivity. No doubt about it, you have to actively work to create chunks of uninterrupted time.
- Respect your Co-Workers Productivity Time. Bear in mind that your co-workers are facing the same challenges as you are. It's not OK to constantly think out loud or to distract those around you with your thoughts, questions and witty anecdotes! They are trying to 'get things done' too! If you have a specific query for a co-worker, walk over to their desk and ask them if they have time to talk. And be prepared for the possibility that they might say 'no'. They may be on a roll, or working to a deadline. Respect that.
- Have an E-mail Protocol. Never check your e-mails first thing. You will end up going off in all sorts of directions responding to incoming e-mails, and not working on your To-Do List until well into the day. This causes that 'swamped feeling ', which is not a good one. If you need anything from a co-worker, or somebody outside your organization, and you need it urgently, ie within 3 hours use the telephone! This takes the pressure off people to check their e-mail every 20 minutes in case there may be something urgent in it. Try to limit checking your e-mail to 3 or 4 times daily. Some organizations even have official e-mail free days. Intel have an initiative in place to train their workers to e-mail more efficiently.
- Create a culture of Creativity instead of Information Overload.
- IBM's 'Think Fridays' were put in place to free Fridays up, so that employees have peace of mind to consider, experimentwith, and talk about new ideas.
- With Google's '20% Time', Google is re-thinking the way companies value time. Employees are told to take 20% of their work time to do whatever they like (legally and ethically of course!)
- 3M's '15% Time' for employees to pursue individual projects gave rise to Scotchtape and Sticky Notes'.
The challenge here is to maintain and improve productivity, despite the rising tide of information that comes to us from every angle. But with an awareness of the issues, and a plan to make some changes at individual and organizational levels should see a happier workforce, better work-life balance, and good increases in productivity.
This article was aritten by Valerie Redmond, co-founder of RWorks.
The RWorks Task Allocation System
You can create your online 'to-do' list within RWorks- either just for yourself, or to manage a team, eg an in-house team, or a dispersed team. One of the joys of RWorks is that location is irrelevant. Once the team members all have Internet access, tasks can be allocated online, and RWorks will automatically track progress on those tasks. All you need to do is a) list the task, and b) allocate it to somebody. So to help you get this started, below is listed a step-by-step guide as to how to do both of those things.
To add a Task to the system:
• Login to Website (www.rworks.com and click login)
• Click on Tasks
• Click on New
• Fill out the task information box.
NB: The Task Name, Description and Autotracking Hint are very important when it comes to RWorks automatically matching what you are working on with your list of tasks.
Include the applications you will use, eg 'Customer Support document using Microsoft Word' would be a great description.
To assign that Task to a person:
• Put the task in as outlined above
• Click on the 'Assign' button
• Fill out the task allocation box, selecting a Project and a Person to assign the task to.
This task will now appear on the 'Assigned Tasks' on the Desktop Application. The website updates the Desktop every 15 minutes, so if the task does not appear on the 'Assigned Tasks' list on the Desktop Application straight away, simply click on 'Tasks' on the Desktop Application, and then 'Update'.
Please do not hesitate to contact us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org if you need any help with using the RWorks system.
This article was written by Valerie Redmond, co-founder of RWorks