10 Simple Ways to be More Productive at Work

In: BlogDate: Jan 19, 2017By: Henry Stewart

On our four day Happy Workplace Leadership Programme, we have introduced a section on being productive rather than busy. We share tips and challenge participants to take control in three key areas: email, meetings and distractions.

Here are 10 of the most popular tips from this session, with feedback from our last group on what they implemented:

  1. Cut one-hour meetings to 45 minutes: “Just because Outlook defaults to one hour doesn’t mean we have to. Our standard meeting time is now 45 minutes. An added benefit is I get 15 minutes to deal with any actions, saving me an hour or two later in the day.”
  2. Make something positive the first item on the agenda for team meetings: A round of “new and goods” or “what’s going well” as the first item on the agenda starts each meeting in a positive way.
  3. Cut one-to-ones to 45 minutes too: “I’ve reduced my standard time for 1-to-1s with my people. We seem to get through as much and leave as satisfied.”
  4. 321zero: The is the system I used to solve my email overload and have described here. Open your inbox only three times a day, set a timer for 21 minutes and reduce your inbox to zero emails. Not everybody used the system exactly like that but the core points (only checking your inbox a handful of time a day and dealing with emails promptly) enabled some to say “I’ve got my email cracked.”
  5. Turn the email alert off: This is a basic. “It’s amazing the effect it’s had, just not being continually distracted.”
  6. No emails until 11am: Instead of checking email first thing, work on your most important tasks. “I’ve got a lot more done.” This can be formalised with “Eat 4 frogs.”
  7. Eat 4 frogs: This is the old Ivy Lee method. At the end of each day write down the four most important tasks to complete the next day, in order. And do those before you do anything else, including email. (Frogs because they are chewy tasks that you tend to avoid “eating”.)
  8. 10 at 10: “Once a week we hold a ten-minute catch up at ten o’clock. It’s a great way to check in and know what’s going on.” (Of course, in Agile environments this is often done daily.)
  9. Don’t send that email: On the first day of the Programme, we covered the Chimp Paradox and how our initial emotional reaction doesn’t get the best results. “A couple of times this week I’ve written an email response and then thought ‘hang on, that’s my Chimp talking’. I haven’t sent it, and so have avoided escalating an issue.”
  10. Time for me: Each participant chooses a buddy to work with throughout the programme. “That meeting with my buddy is the one time I get to put myself first, talk openly and build each other’s confidence.”

Other points included using Skype for meetings (to cut travel time), replacing minutes with action points, giving people equal time to speak at meetings (and don’t allow interruptions), sharing the chairing of meetings around to different staff members each time, and focusing on creating a happier team.

What I like is not that that these revolutionary ideas, but are simple practical steps that have freed up time and enabled people to be more effective.

Are you productive or just busy? What can you do to take control of your time and create some slack?

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Henry Stewart, Founder and Chief Happiness Officer

Henry is founder and Chief Happiness Officer of Happy Ltd, originally set up as Happy Computers in 1987. Inspired by Ricardo Semler’s book Maverick, he built a company with a reputation for some of the best customer service in the country and one of the UK’s best places to work, winning multiple awards for its culture and philosophy.

His first book, Relax, was published in 2009. His second book, the Happy Manifesto, was published in 2013 and was short-listed for Business Book of the Year.

Outside of work he is a father of three, was Chair of Governors at his local primary and comprehensive in Hackney and a very keen cyclist.

You can find Henry on LinkedIn and follow @happyhenry on Twitter.

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