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The best (and worst) times to do things at work by Hank Berkowitz
Not a morning person? Don’t sweat it. You might actually be more productive than your early-riser counterparts. Washington Post columnist, Jenna McGregor recently explored the latest research on the best (and worst) times of day to get things done at work and compiled a master day planner based on what the time management experts said. McGregor’s article has been making media rounds to mostly positive acclaim. But I’ve got to admit we’re scratching our heads a little here.
According to McGregor, here’s the ideal schedule the experts came up with collectively:
· 6 – 8 am. Send email.
· 8 am. Make decisions about ethical dilemmas.
· 9 am. Avoid scheduling meetings.
· 1 – 2 pm. Don’t make cold calls (especially on Friday).
· 2:30 or 3 pm. Schedule meetings (especially if it’s Tuesday!).
· 4 pm. Do tasks that don’t involve sending e-mail.
· 4 – 6 p.m. Avoid sitting for an interview
· 6 pm to late evening. Do your creative work, if you’re a morning person (yes, when you’re most likely to be tired)
Instead of doing certain tasks (or types of thinking) at pre-set times of the day, we suggest doing critical tasks when you know you’re most adept at doing them. The key is to know thyself—do what you’re good at when you’re best at doing it…..leave the rest for others. Let’s deconstruct the list a little:
6-8am: Best time to send email? Time management experts say not to get mired in our inboxes first thing, or we won’t get the critical things done. On the other hand, marketing software firm Hubspot find click-through rates are higher for emails sent around 6 a.m.
Our take: Since most of you (and your clients) are time-pressed professionals, weekends tend to be best. Whether or not they admit it, weekends are when C-Suiters have time to regroup and catch their breath and review the week that just whizzed by. That’s when they handle e-mails that require serious consideration—not an instant response.
Do the most important thing first. Never check email in the morning, experts say. Make a to-do list the night before. Don’t schedule meetings right after lunch when everyone will be half-asleep.
Our take: While much has been made about getting the toughest things done first thing in the day (and giving yourself a reward)….that only works if you get that tough task done exceptionally well first thing…..if you’re just getting it done to check it off the last, chances are it won’t be done really well…and you’ll end up re-doing it or spending the rest of the day cleaning up the mess. Better to “time box yourself” –give yourself an hour to make a good “first cut” and then move on to the next task with a commitment to making a good “second cut” at a pre-set time a day or two later.
Don’t schedule meetings before 10am. Experts say the hardest part about scheduling meetings isn’t finding the time when everyone will be bright-eyed and engaged. It’s finding a time when everyone can attend.
Our take: Set a time when your meeting is most likely to be first on everyone’s calendar within reason. If you’re in a major city in which key staffers tend to have long commutes, then shoot for 8:30 to 9:30-ish and have those who can’t make it call in from the road. If you’re in a smaller town, or heavy telecommuter organization, then 8am to 8:30 is not unreasonably early this day in age. As will talk about in a minute, most on your team can only fire on all cylinders for a few continuous hours at a time. You’ve got to get them on the peak energy upswing.
How to Become More Productive at Work
As a follow-up to his book “Extreme Productivity,” HBS Professor Bob Pozen reveals his secrets to workplace productivity and high performance. The antidote to boring meetings and email backlogs, these excerpts demonstrate how busy professionals can achieve their goals by making a critical shift in mindset: from hours worked to results produced.
3 Key Leadership Styles That Create Personal Success
Boost Your Productivity: The Chain Method by Peter Ireland
Jerry Seinfeld’s Chains Productivity Secret
Everyone has been talking about the chain method for building commitment and focus of late. It’s been attributed to Jerry Seinfeld but I have a recollection of reading about it somewhere long ago.
In a nut shell, it works like this:
Jerry [Seinfeld] said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day. But his advice was better than that. He had a gem of a leverage technique he used on himself and you can use it to motivate yourself—even when you don’t feel like it.
He revealed a unique calendar system he uses to pressure himself to write. Here’s how it works.
He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker.
He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”
“Don’t break the chain,” he said again for emphasis.
I can see this working for me. Here’s the source for the above quote.
Now there’s at least one tool for using the chains method for staying on course.
Chains.cc is an online motivational tool based on the “don’t break the chain” method that helps you stick to your good habits and break bad ones. Each day you complete a task you want to keep up, you mark it in your chains. The chain will grow longer with each day and soon your main motivation is to keep the chain from breaking. Your chains are shown visually with several great looking skins to choose from.
Yves Morieux: As work gets more complex, 6 rules to simplify
Why do people feel so miserable and disengaged at work? Because today’s businesses are increasingly and dizzyingly complex — and traditional pillars of management are obsolete, says Yves Morieux. So, he says, it falls to individual employees to navigate the rabbit’s warren of interdependencies. In this energetic talk, Morieux offers six rules for “smart simplicity.” (Rule One: Understand what your colleagues actually do.)
BCG’s Yves Morieux researches how corporations can adapt to a modern and complex business landscape.
WHY YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO HIM?
Yves Morieux thinks deeply about what makes organizations work effectively. A senior partner in BCG’s Washington D.C. office and director of the BCG Institute for Organization, Morieux considers how overarching changes in structure can improve motivation for all who work there. His calls his approach “Smart Simplicity.” Using six key rules, it encourages employees to cooperate in order to solve long-term problems. It isn’t just about reducing costs and increasing profit — it’s about maximizing engagement through all levels of a company. Morieux has been featured in articles on organizational evolution in Harvard Business Review, The Economist,The Wall Street Journal, Fast Company and Le Monde.
Business Ideas: Productivity in the Workplace for Entrepreneurs by Evan Carmichael
One of the most common questions I get asked is: How can I be more productive? There just never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything done. Today we’re going to talk about how you can eliminate, automate, and delegate your work to help you focus on your highest priority tasks, what I like to call CEO tasks.
The first thing you need to do is make a list of all the tasks that you do on a regular basis. This means everything from selling to customers, working with suppliers, invoicing, managing your cash flow, etc.
The second step is to bundle all your tasks into common themes. For example, making cold calls, attending networking events, and doing your email campaigns can all be under Sales & Marketing. Paying your staff, billing your clients, and keeping track of your expenses can all be called Admin. Continue classifying all your tasks until you have 5-7 main categories.
The third step is to figure out how much time you’re spending in each category. For example, you might spend 20 hours per week on Sales & Marketing, 10 hours per week on Admin, and so on.
Step 1: Eliminate
Step 2: Automate
Step 3: Delegate
The order of Eliminate, Automate, Delegate is very important.
Eliminate is first. You don’t want to automate or delegate something that can be eliminated because it’s a non-productive task. Automate is next. You don’t want to delegate something that can be automated because it is more expensive and more prone to error.
Follow the steps I laid out to put your regular tasks into groups and then Eliminate, Automate, and Delegate everything away until you’re working only on the top priority CEO tasks.
It all starts with that first little step.