A Top Tip On How To Skyrocket Productivity
One of the main challenges many of us have faced over the last 12 months is finding ways to manage our time effectively.
The feedback we have received from our global community of professional women, is that they have less time now than ever before. Working from home means they have had to juggle so many more things simultaneously, which often leads to spending time doing things that, whilst urgent, aren’t going to advance their careers.
The Four Quadrant Time Management Matrix
In one of our monthly webinars, we explained this conundrum using Steven Covey’s “The Time Management Matrix”.
Too frequently, busy professionals spend too much of their time in that first quadrant – the “urgent and important” box.
Tasks in this quadrant (QI) take us into firefighting mode and distract us from doing other important but not urgent tasks which have a greater impact on moving our career forwards.
So, what can we do to rebalance this and get back our time? One great way to do this is by adopting a concept called “batching”.
What is batching?
Batching is a way of avoiding all the time you waste by jumping from one little task to another. Timothy Ferriss talks a lot about it in his excellent book, The 4-Hour Work Week, and it’s widely considered one of the most effective time-management tools out there.
Let’s look at a few ways we can use this concept in our day-to-day lives with some of these QI tasks.
1. Batching your emails
One of these QI tasks that we all get bogged down in is email correspondence.
However, emails aren’t urgent. They were never designed as an instant communication system, so we need to stop treating them that way.
If someone needs you urgently, they will pick up the phone!
So, instead of dealing with every email as it comes in, like a firefighter, dedicate an hour each day to managing your inbox.
By simply turning off your email notifications, stops you from constantly checking your inbox. That way, you can spend the rest of your day focused on the task at hand.
Most people aren’t expecting an instant reply to their emails, and if they are, you need to try to set some boundaries. By responding to every email instantly, you are inadvertently training people to expect that instant response every time. It’s important to be clear from the start that they can expect a reply within 24 hours. You’ll be surprised how few people will have an issue with that.
And if they do, well, that’s what phones are for.
2. Phone calls – a great time saver
Phone calls can be an extremely productive way to get through those little tasks, but they seem to be a bit of a dying art these days.
Since the pandemic, the humble phone call seems to have been replaced by this endless need for video meetings instead.
I have lost count of the number of times people have told me how glad they were I called them instead of writing a long email that may then go back and forth three or four times! Some people might feel a little hesitant picking up the phone, thinking they might catch someone at a bad time, but I’ve never had anyone get upset by calling them.
As long as the call is framed correctly, then you’ve got nothing to worry about. If it’s not a good time, they either won’t pick up, or they will arrange the call for another time.
If you’ve got six things to do on your daily list, try to see how many can be replaced with a quick phone call instead – it could save you hours in the long run!
And if you are the type of person who makes a lot of calls each day, those can be batched too. Try to set a block of time in your diary and get through your calls in one session. By getting some momentum, you’ll find yourself getting into flow much more easily, which in turn improves the quality of the call made.
3. Admin – a quick 20 minutes a day
Another time-consuming task that batching can really help with is your admin work. Everyone has their own tedious little admin tasks they have to do every day, like expenses, taxes, insurance, banking etc. Instead of doing these tasks one by one on random days, try to find one day a week to go through everything and get it all done then. (For me it is a Friday afternoon!)
It’s the same for home admin too. With many of us still working remotely, it can be easy to get distracted by little chores around the house, which can pile up quickly (especially if you have children!).
However, if you take a quick 20 minutes every day to sort it all out, then it’s done, it won’t be lingering over you, and you can focus on your important, career-building tasks.
Spending maximum time in your Unique Ability®
The main benefit that batching provides is that it allows you to spend maximum time focusing on what you are best at and enjoy doing as a busy professional.
Most people wouldn’t say that their unique ability is time management or writing emails! These are just things that are part of our working lives; but without an efficient way of managing them, we can end up spending a huge amount of time on tasks we aren’t that good at and/or don’t particularly enjoy.
This won’t only damage our productivity, but can also affect our mindset too when we keep getting bogged down in things we find hard or boring.
We need to find a way of dealing with these basic QI tasks so that we can maximise the time we spend in QII, on the important non urgent tasks where we use our Unique Ability®.
There’s no need to reinvent the wheel here either. You can use tons of great systems, and batching is just one example of a tried and tested system that works brilliantly.
One last tip for batching is to completely block off time in your calendar for each of these tasks. Many of my clients book a slot in their diary for batching, which no one else can touch.
This means that there is 100% focus on your task, and once it’s done, that’s it! You can move on to doing what you do best.
For those of you who are not in senior-level positions and may not think this will work, I would especially encourage you to block out times in your diary for batching. Why? Because it will make you more productive, as well as manage people’s expectations better.
Too often, we hear feedback saying, “I don’t have time as I have to bend over backwards for the boss or clients”. Don’t underestimate how counterproductive overpromising can be.
The minute you start to overpromise and do everything straight away for everyone, that expectation is set. Then, as soon as somebody doesn’t get what they expected, you’ve ended up underdelivering!
So make sure to set out expectations from the start, and use batching to reduce the amount of time spent on those Q1 tasks!
If you have any strategies you’d like to share on batching please do leave a comment in the box below.