Power Tips to Increase Your Impact
All of us want to be more productive. David Horsager is a productivity expert. His work has been featured in numerous publications from The Wall Street Journal to The Washington Post. His research is focused on the impact of trust, and his client list ranges from the New York Yankees to John Deere.
His latest book is The Daily Edge: Simple Strategies to Increase Efficiency and Make an Impact Every Day. I recently asked him about five of the thirty-five tips included in his new book.
Manage Your Energy
Tip 7. Managing your energy is something few think about. We are often on autopilot. How do we become more conscious of our energy? What’s the best way to use our energy through the day?
Before you make any changes, you have to become aware of how you are spending your time. Take two weeks and log it. Keep track of both your time usage and the level of energy you feel at that time. Then, take time to study it and make a few adjustments with how you spend your time. Log for another week if you need to in order to gather useful information.
Try scheduling an early morning meeting and then not another until after lunch. See how creating this pocket of time affects your daily productivity and energy levels. Maybe you need to schedule as many meetings as possible on one day so that other days are left more open. I have learned that morning is my most effective time, so that is when I tackle writing, research, and other more difficult projects. I try to protect a morning power hour so I can have at least one uninterrupted hour on my most difficult tasks first thing in the morning. My team knows to try to schedule meetings with me right after lunch. Since I am an extrovert, the people I meet with during that low-energy time of day end up energizing me for the remainder of the afternoon!
You can’t dictate everything about your schedule, but you can influence it to meet your needs. A lot of people squander their most valuable time doing their easiest activities and tackle their toughest tasks when their energy is at a low point. Don’t let that happen to you! Leverage your time and schedule so that it works for you. Awareness and intentionality come first. If you can do this, it will build momentum and your work life will be easier.
Tip 13. Email. Some people really struggle with it. What tips have you seen make a difference for those who find it a challenge?
If you feel you have an e-mail problem, it isn’t going to go away any time soon. Ignoring your lack of a system will compound the problem and affect the rest of your work life. Some people have hundreds if not thousands of e-mails in their inbox. This is a very common area to struggle with because of the sheer number of e-mails we receive every day. Managing it is simpler than you might think once you have a process in place. It’s going to require getting disciplined about it. I know an executive who went from 57,000 emails to 9 in his inbox! He called and said, “I’ve never felt better!” Before you get too overwhelmed thinking about it, consider the following ideas.
- Get rid of the chime or prompt. Ask yourself: Are the e-mails coming into your inbox worthy of dropping everything to read and respond? If the answer is no, then turn off the notification function.
- Let them bundle. You think things are urgent, but the cost of interruptions is enormous. See if you can only check e-mail at the top of every hour. So much time is spent managing e-mail. Don’t fall victim to this.
- Get in the habit of going through these four steps. The minute you open an e-mail, archive or delete if at all possible. Deal with it right away. Don’t read it now and also read it later.
- File it or archive it. Get it out of your inbox once you’ve replied. It takes your mindshare if it’s always there as a distraction. It’s overwhelming. Feelings of being overwhelmed are the killers of productivity. Try setting up filters for certain e-mails you don’t want to see until you are ready. For example, I auto-filter newsletters for when I have extra time to read on the plane or in a taxi.
- Flag it for later or attach it to the calendar. If you know you will need to reference it prior to a meeting, flag it for a later date or attach it to your calendar. Again, our mindshare is limited, so avoid constant exposure to something you don’t need to look at for a while. The information will be there for you when you need it.
By the way, e-mail with an emotional context can absorb an enormous amount of time. Leave the emotional conversations for a phone call or an in-person meeting. You will be less likely to be misunderstood and e-mail will be preserved as a means for information sharing – the way it was intended.
Tip 15. We love to grumble about meetings. How do we make them work more effectively?
People grumble about meetings for good reason. Meetings can both waste time and kill morale. Good and fruitful things happen in meetings, but only if you have the right people in attendance and the meetings are conducted well. It wouldn’t be realistic to do away with meetings altogether. It’s the synergy created from combining our thoughts and ideas that allows most projects to succeed.
Here are some suggestions for making meetings work better:
- Hold fewer meetings. Lots of meetings are unnecessary. Eliminate the unproductive ones from your calendar.
- Only invite people who need to be there. If someone doesn’t need to be at a meeting, take them off the list and let them keep working.
- Start them off on the right foot. If you are leading or chairing the meeting, be clear about what you want to accomplish. The clearer your vision or mission for the time, the more likely you are to achieve it.
- Set shorter agendas. Meetings tend to fill available time. So, if you set aside an hour to go over a new initiative, it’s likely to take at least that long. On the other hand, if you make it clear that you only expect things to go on for fifteen minutes, there’s a much greater chance you will get to the point faster.
- Always have an agenda. Never hold a meeting without an agenda. Agendas help unify the people in attendance. They also communicate expectations for what is to be accomplished.
- Schedule them back to back. By having another meeting to go to, you give yourself (and any other parties) a deadline to wrap things up.
- Go public. Coffee shops and other public locales can make for great places to meet because you’re less likely to be interrupted by your staff, the office phone, or other distractions you might have in your workspace. Just be sure the time you spend getting away doesn’t outweigh the minutes saved.
Tip 18. We all have met people who are seemingly successful, but you are shocked at the messiness of the desk. Why is this so important? Is it an indicator of performance?
I used to think the messier the desk, the more creative the person. Really creative people live in chaos and it works for them, right? As I got to know more people like this, I realized they spend lots of time searching for things and also hop from one task to another as they are constantly distracted visually. While it’s true that some people cannot function in a messy environment, I would go so far as to say that a messy environment is an optimal environment for no one.
We can focus on the task at hand much more effectively if we are firing on all cylinders. The time it takes to search for things really adds up. Some of you might not like to hear this, but I have found the greatest, most effective leaders have a clear desk. They understand that messiness is a distraction that costs time.
If you feel as though you are pretty far from a clear desk, pick something you can do today that will help you toward that goal. Keep at it until you can create systems that allow you to sustain the clear desk. For most of us, committing a day or two to the task is enough to get back on track.
Tip 32. Since it’s so important, why is saying “no” so difficult?
Why do we say yes when we shouldn’t?
- We want to feel needed.
- We haven’t weighed the consequences.
- We feel undue pressure. If the culture is that you say yes to everything, that is unhealthy.
- People want to please everyone and they feel pressure to show value.
Every choice is a sacrifice.
While it’s good to be generous with your time, you can’t do everything and do good work.
The bottom line is this: When you say yes to something, you are essentially saying no to something else. We don’t think about the sacrifices or consequences to answering yes. The challenge for leaders is to say yes to the right things and no to the wrong things or the not-best things.
Here’s my advice for whether to say yes or no:
- Always stop and think. Pause. Don’t answer in less than a day if you don’t have to.
- Ask: What am I saying no to if I say yes to this?
- Process any big decision with at least one other trusted advisor. Whether it is my wife or a close advisor, I consult with at least one other person. It has protected me from mistakes. A note about choosing your inner circle of advisors: Don’t choose all agreeable people. Make it a well-rounded selection of wise people, ones who are willing to challenge you if they see a red flag.
The Daily Edge: Simple Strategies to Increase Efficiency and Make an Impact Every Day