Reading Time: 6 minutes
“It has to be done, let’s take care of it, let’s roll up our sleeves.”
Ron Clark, Always Forward
Allow me to make a disclaimer. You don’t have to be more productive. You don’t. Indeed, just because many people want it, it doesn’t mean you covet it. If you have to be, may it be from your own intention. Now, if you want to be and have more productivity, let me share some ideas with you.
As Stephen Covey said: “It’s incredibly easy to be dominated by the illusion of activity, in the rush of life, and working more and more each time to climb the ladder of success, only to find out that the ladder was supported on the wrong wall. It’s possible to live busy, very busy. Without being very effective.”
Everything we undertake starts being done by osmosis. We learn to walk, to talk, doing arithmetics, playing football and cooking by osmosis. We copy.
And, if we don’t stimulate the curiosity to explore some more, what we learn by osmosis could be what we wouldn’t like to do, had we known other ways to do it.
What happens today in the corporate environment is a clear example of that, where productivity is all that matters. It’s normal to detect people in meetings where they shouldn’t be, working with tools that aren’t the appropriate ones for certain tasks, stalling to quickly reach 6 pm, the exit time. As someone said, “wherever you end up, do as you see being done.”
To begin with, when I “joined” the corporate world, I loved this “occupation” of being someone who was requested a lot. The more meetings I had, the bigger was my feeling that I represented a key element who brought a lot of value to the organization, I was always busy doing something – showing productivity. As Stephen Covey says, it’s extremely easy being dominated by this feeling of being busy.
Presently, I hold the belief that the more meetings I do, the more ineffective I am. As a result, the organization which I’m part of is also more ineffective.
Why not put the meetings into question?
- And what if I erase my entire calendar? What will happen?
- And what if I had meetings during the most unproductive times of my day? I am more productive in the morning. Therefore, why not only have them in the afternoon? What will happen?
- And what if everything that is informative communication was only expressed through passive channels, such as e-mail and others? What will happen?
- And what if I stopped doing brainstorming in meetings? What if those were only about presenting the final result of all those brainstormings? What will happen?
- And what if, instead of one-hour meetings – which is the default measure of Outlook for one –, I started arranging 15-minute meetings? What will happen?
- And what if I didn’t participate in meetings that don’t promote an agenda? What will happen?
- And what if I left halfway through them where I feel like I’m not creating value or delivering anything precious? What will happen?
- And what if we had as a principle not using electronic equipment for actions that nothing have to do with the agenda of that meeting? – like, for example, replying to e-mails or talking with other people? What will happen?
In my case, as I started asking all these “What ifs” about my work process, I was able to see progressively that the more I altered my habits, the more I could produce. I also started getting the feeling that I was achieving more, and, halfway through the day, I had spare time.
For what? So I could do other things that I enjoyed and for which I didn’t have the time because I was spending my life in meetings and focusing on productivity…
Notifications and E-mail vs. productivity
One of the most ordinary habits for people who work in front of the computer is to work with the e-mail client open. That is, Outlook, Airmail, Thunderbird or any other is open while we do other tasks that have nothing to do with the e-mail. But, we have the e-mail notifications turned on.
Imagine the scenario where we’re performing a task related to the review of a text in Microsoft Word, and suddenly, we get a pop-up notification in the lower right corner with a new e-mail about a budget we were needed. What happens in a natural way? We look at the pop-up and we leave the “focus zone” of what we were initially doing. What happens most of the time? We click the pop-up.
In short, it is already counterproductive to work on a task that requires all of our attention – because it’s a review – and, suddenly, we shift it to a pop-up. But, to make the situation even worse, we opened the pop-up and read the e-mail, abandoning what we were completing.
Why not put the notifications and the e-mail into question?
- And what if I don’t have the e-mail open while I’m doing other tasks? What will happen?
- And what if I don’t want to answer the e-mails right away? What will happen?
- And what if I don’t visit the e-mail client more than once a day? What will happen?
- And what if I don’t use the e-mail as a collaborative work tool where the task execution is done in it? What will happen?
- And what if I stop replying to e-mails that are not important and are not in my intentions list? What will happen?
- And what if I “Unsubscribe” from the mailing lists which I haven’t opened for more than a month? What will happen?
- And what if I turn off all the notifications on my computer and smartphone? What will happen?
- And what if I always keep the inbox with zero e-mails and all the folders organized? What will happen?
I’m not saying with these premises that whoever has customer support as a job should stop using this tool. In this case, it’s necessary to understand how to make the whole work process more agile. One of my suggestions would be to stop using the e-mail client and start using a customer service SaaS (software as a service) tool.
I’d just like to leave a small comment related to this tool, which is used by more than 83,7% of the corporate world market. Microsoft Excel is a powerful work tool. I don’t have any doubt about it. Now, notice its primary definition: «Microsoft Excel is a spreadsheet program, leader of the industry, an advanced tool for the visualization and analysis of data.»
Only. And it’s a lot already. It’s powerful.
Why do we have to develop everything in Excel? If you want to do everything in Excel, at least use the online collaboration mode tools that allow you to be agile and productive in creating and editing those documents in real-time. My biggest pet peeve in all of this is seeing that we use these two work tools, E-mail and Excel, without questioning it most of the time, as if they were two dictatorships of the corporate world as if it wasn’t possible to even think about other options.
Are there alternatives depending on the functions you want to perform? Probably, you’ll just have to search.
Alternatives to increase productivity
Do you want to use an alternative to Excel? It also exists. It’s called Airtable.
I’m linking you here with a list of tools that can be useful to you, depending on what you want to do.
Once more, the idea of this essay’s theme is not giving tips on how to be more productive. You can discover that easily on the internet. The idea is for us to understand if:
1.º Am I productive?
2.º Do I want to be more productive?
3.º Can I acknowledge my habits?
4.º What are the habits that I want to change?
5.º If I were to draw a mind map with my ideal work process, how would it be?
6.º According to the type of person that I am and the organization I help, how can I adapt my process to everything, as if putting together a puzzle?
My productivity framework is extremely personal and was inspired by Agile – Kanban, Lean, GTD, Inbox Zero, Pomodoro and Checklist Manifesto. It is based on myself and in my characteristics.
There isn’t a “tip”. There’s no “the one”. There’s no online tool that “fits you”. What I feel is that, through experience and iterative tests, you have to find a set of actions that, intertwined, form your own framework. Everything starts with the same principle, which is our ability to ask ourselves about how we work: “and what if…?”.