Friday, April 27, 2012

Addition by subtraction: cutting out bad habits to increase effectiveness

Chances are, as an executive on the go, your business style has evolved along with the latest technology. But for all of the time saving apps and platforms we have at our disposal, some have only clogged our daily to-do list more. Here are a few bad habits to break if you are looking to simplify your schedule.

Bad habit: being trigger happy for meetings
Whether we do it ourselves, or rely on an assistant keeping the daily calendar, sometimes we schedule more meetings than we really need. How many times have you gone to a project status meeting, full of people, only to find that nothing has really changed? Think about who really needs to attend and avoid inviting everyone “just in case.” That’s what a good note-taker is for, so that updates can be shared via email.

Bad habit: being a slave to your inbox
Do you answer your emails one by one as they come in? The constant bleep of a new message can be a huge distraction as you try to accomplish the task at hand, and it can take precious minutes to recover your train of thought. One email can easily send you off on a tangent that suddenly chews up an entire hour. Schedule “mail time” into your day, rather than trying to keep up with your inbox all day long. Utilize your email filters and folders to do some of the work for you. Or better yet, have a trusted assistant monitor and prioritize your inbox.

Bad habit: being vague with your availability
One of the best things you can do as a leader is to make it clear when you are and are not available to chat. A closed or open door is sometimes all you need to send the right signal, but if you work in an open concept office, this can be tricky. Set a precedent by giving people a visual that shows them when you are not to be interrupted: turn on a certain lamp, wear headphones, position your chair towards privacy. You can even have fun with it, setting that teddy bear from your daughter on your desk to ward off those who might break your concentration.

Bad habit: being preoccupied with social media
Whether you have been on board with Facebook since day one, or are a novice tweeter, it’s easy to get caught up in online conversations that might have nothing to do with the business at hand. Set aside time to give yourself a mental break from work, to drop in on conversations that are easily flagged for follow-up later. If you find yourself addicted, most browsers have tools that will place a limit how much time you can spend on a certain site through the course of your day.

We spend a lot of effort measuring the productivity of our teams. Try to spend a set amount of time each day improving your own effectiveness. As you look for bad habits to eliminate, take the last 10 minutes of your day to journal your productivity. Finding out where you lose time during the day can give you a valuable insight into planning your day ahead.


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