Archive for February, 2011

Telecommuting: How To Increase Productivity From Your Couch

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Congratulations, you can work from home! It’s a great freedom to be able to combine your household with work, to not have to commute… But with freedom comes responsibility. What if you spend all day caught up in home affairs? Or you’re sitting there in your pyjamas with no-one to check on you and you find you’re not getting much done at all?

Working from home could cost you your sixpack

Working from home could cost you your sixpack

Part 8/8: Telecommuting: How To Increase Productivity From Your Couch

1. Create a divide between home and work. It can make a world of difference to have a separate work space. Ideally, you have an office or studio at home or in the neighbourhood. Failing that, just a room with a door you can close. If none of these things is available to you, you can always buy a Chinese screen. Et voilà – instant office.

2. Put on your work clothes. Don’t keep running around in your pyjamas! Dress like you would at work. Because you know what? You actually are. The clothes bring you in the right mood to work, and it’s a lot less embarassing when your colleague pays you an unexpected visit.

3. Come on time. So you don’t need to do traffic jams – enjoy that extra cup of coffee! At the same time, respect the working hours that you’ve set out for yourself. If not, you could end up being one of those people that loafs around all day and then when there’s fun to be had, ‘has to finish something’. Shame!

4. Don’t watch TV. Don’t go to the movies, or the launderette. You’re working, so work. Of course, be sure to take a well-deserved break now and again and remind yourself how great it is to work from home.

5. Go out to lunch. Working from home is liberating but also isolating. Keep in touch with your friends and colleagues, forge new connections and connect to the world by going out to lunch. Better yet, go to business networking lunches!

6. Have someone to answer to. It’s easier to work when there’s someone watching and when we need to justify our time. So get one of these mechanisms to work for you (without making it disagreeable). Ask on of your colleagues or friends to check on you.

Telework - increase productivity from home

That’s the end of this series of articles on productivity! I hope your work and life have taken a spectacular new turn because of them. If not, maybe you picked out just one element that you’ve been able to use at work to be faster, more efficient and effective.

Here’s the other articles again:

  1. 6 Surprising Causes Of Procrastination
  2. How To Overcome Procrastination – RIGHT NOW
  3. The One And Only Way To Increase Productivity
  4. 10 Simple Ways To Improve Productivity Right Now
  5. How To Set Priorities – Stephen Covey’s Time Management Grid Revealed
  6. How To Manage E-mail Overload In 3 Easy Steps
  7. Managing Email Overload: 8 More Fast And Easy Techniques

If you have any feedback, please let me know!

PS.: Now that you’re here, do leave a comment. Even if it’s a small one! A blog is so much more fun when people react to it…
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Managing Email Overload: 8 More Fast And Easy Techniques

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

After last week’s article about dealing with an overflowing inbox, this week I’ll add some more handy tricks to have less quantity and more quality email in your life.

Less email

Part 7/8 – 8 Practical Solutions To Email Mismanagement

1. Delete newsletters. Face it: you’re never going to get through all those interesting newsletters and offers. Let it go, you can find whatever you need in Google when the time is right. So delete all those daily, weekly and other digest mailers from your ‘To process’ and press that Unsubscribe button.

2. Send less emails. Call, or visit. Get your answer from the horse’s mouth, and avoid endless email conversations with half the world in CC. Do not mail someone who is sitting across from you! A good test: when you feel the impulse to send a mail ask yourself: ‘Can I solve this myself?’ You probably can, can’t you!

3. Summarize. Some people are addicted to email. They’re like living status updates, including every thought they have and sending it to everyone even remotely connected. Very tiring, especially when they contain small todo’s for you. How to deal with them? Scan the contents quickly, don’t answer them and collect them in your ‘Action’ folder (see the previous post on email management).

Plan some time to process them. Then group them by sender, go through them in one go and write down the todos. You can even send that person an email with your list, just so they know you’re on it.

4. Send shorter emails. Do not rewrite the bible. Long emails are tiring to read and no-one really gets what you’re saying anyway. Less is more. Keep it under 4 sentences. Or how about this for a short answer: resist the urge to answer at all. If you want a friendly chat with lots of fluff, call them.

5. Check your emails less. 3 to 5 times a day should do it. You can always be on top of things and make sure everything is take care of. Even better: you can let things run their course while you get your work done.

6. Make rules. You could apply a CC filter that makes mails that aren’t addressed directly to you go to a separate folder. You can plan some time to go through it, without wasting time on email conversations. Stop being irritated with it, just ignore it.

7. Feel free to delete a lot of emails. Emails is like stuff in the attic: very hard to get rid of. What if you ever need any of it again? I can personally say that I’ve hardly ever needed any of my emails again, and when I did I found another way to deal with the situation. Live in the present, let go of the past. You can do it!

8. Avoid working double. When you get the same question all the time, write down your answer in a document or email template. Or put it on the website, and refer to it in your answer.

Get less emails

The next and last article of this eight-part series will lift the veil on how to work from home and still be efficient.

Don’t forget to check out the previous articles in this series:

  1. 6 Surprising Causes Of Procrastination
  2. How To Overcome Procrastination – RIGHT NOW
  3. The One And Only Way To Increase Productivity
  4. 10 Simple Ways To Improve Productivity Right Now
  5. How To Set Priorities – Stephen Covey’s Time Management Grid Revealed
  6. How To Manage E-mail Overload In 3 Easy Steps

PS.: Now that you’re here, do leave a comment. Even if it’s a small one! A blog is so much more fun when people react to it…
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How To Manage E-mail Overload In 3 Easy Steps

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

Do you have control over your email, or do you suffer from email overload? You may actually be neglecting your work and losing incredible amounts of time. Many people could safely change their job to ‘Email Specialist’, because all they seem to do all day is send emails to and fro.

Do you recognise this story? You’re working on something and a mail comes in. You lose focus and read the email. You may be busy for five minutes writing a reply, or performing a quick task. When you’re done, you have to return to the work you were doing. You need to get into your work from scratch again, losing you time again regaining your focus and flow. Getting started is the hardest part of any job and we make ourselves do it over and over by allowing email to distract us.

Tired of e-mail overload? Ready for a new way, with less time spent finishing tasks and less time handling emails – and at the same time getting more done? Let’s get it on!

Email Time Management

Part 6/8 – Dealing With E-mail Overload – In 3 Easy Steps

Lesson One: Email is not your friend. We instinctively look forward to email because it brings us exciting news and fun tasks. Sadly, most of the time it brings you routine stuff that just distracts you from what you could be doing. Keeping your mailbox open all the time is one of those universal habits that doesn’t make any sense. If you want things to happen to you, you need to make them happen.

Email is like an unruly child that you need to take charge of. If you don’t, it’ll take over your life with its endless interruptions and often senseless requests. So let me show you a way to deal with email that takes only five minutes to set up. It’ll help you keep your email in check and give you more space to do your real job.

First Aid for Email Overload

You have a serious case of email overload and you’re losing the pedals. No worries, here’s what to do!

  1. Create an ‘Action’ folder in your inbox.
  2. Go through your mail, pick out the 10 to 15 most important ones and put them in the ‘Action’ folder. Work from here as long as your inbox isn’t cleared.
  3. Create a ‘Temporary’ folder. Put your complete inbox in here. Everything! You’ll be working through this in parts later, for now you can stop worrying about it.
  4. Hey presto, your inbox is empty! Add the most important email tasks to your todo list and start with Email Overload Prevention.

Mail Management

Email Overload Prevention

When dealing with email overload prevention, carry out the following steps.

  1. Work from top to bottom, from recent to older.
  2. Go through your COMPLETE inbox every time you open it. So don’t leave your email open all the time; open it and then deal with the inbox. That means you can’t just ‘check your mail’ anymore, there’s work to be done!
  3. Process quickly. Take one of the following actions with every mail. Don’t spend more than half a minute on any given email.
    • Delete (as much as possible)
    • Archive (when it contains information you may need later)
    • Answer (quickly, in maximum four lines) and delete/archive
    • Put in the ‘Action’ folder and add to your todo list. IMPORTANT: DO NOT work on ANY of your todos while processing your mail! No, not even the small ones.
    • Clear the inbox, close your email programme or turn of the internet.
  4. Limit your email time. Open your inbox a couple of times a day to process it, then close it again.
  5. Only do email. Think of the Golden Rule of Productivity: choose one thing and dedicate yourself to it. There is a difference between emails and the work that they contain – keep them separated. Make a list while you process your emails, then close your email and start on the work (according to your priorities).

Inbox Management

Taking care of old business

So now you’ve got your emails under control. Great! You’re still sitting on a giant dungpile of emails that may or may not contain something important. Here’s how you deal with it:

1. Process it in little parts. There’s nothing more deadening than quickly going through hundreds of emails. Do it in little blocks of 5 minutes and it actually becomes fun! It’s an ideal break from some other work, a no-brainer with instant results.

2. Use the same procedure as for your inbox. Start on top, 30 seconds max per mail, delete as much as possible, only do email…

Do this and your inbox could be cleaned within the week, and the email monster tamed. Congratulations on regaining your freedom! Here, have a badge.

Email Time Management

The next article describes a few more handy tips to deal with email.

Don’t forget to check out the previous articles in this series:

  1. 6 Surprising Causes Of Procrastination
  2. How To Overcome Procrastination – RIGHT NOW
  3. The One And Only Way To Increase Productivity
  4. 10 Simple Ways To Improve Productivity Right Now
  5. How To Set Priorities – Stephen Covey’s Time Management Grid Revealed

PS.: Now that you’re here, do leave a comment. Even if it’s a small one! A blog is so much more fun when people react to it…
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How To Set Priorities – Stephen Covey’s Time Management Grid Revealed

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

The previous four articles in this eight-part series respectively covered the causes of procrastination, how to overcome procrastination, the Ultimate Way to increase productivity and 10 ways to improve productivity. This week another important part of time management: setting priorities.

What often goes wrong in our work is that we allow unimportant tasks to precede more essential things. Because they’re faster, easier, more urgent. That way, we end up in a rut of endless operational tasks that never allows us the time to work on those dream projects of ours. What to do?

We run around saying: ‘If only I had more time, I could get everything done.’ The good news is: you do! The bad news: you’ll have to let some things go. If you don’t, more time would just give you more meaningless tasks to fill it up with. What you need is to stay conscient of and focused on what’s really important. That’s the only way to get the big things done in life!

Priority setting - Time Management

Part 5/8: How To Set Priorities – Covey’s Time Management Grid

An excellent and easy way to decide on priorities is Stephen R. Covey’s Time Management Quadrant. I’ve been using this to create clarity in my todo’s for ages, which has completely changed my view on my work. I used to be stressed all the time and complain about not being able to do what I wanted; now I just decide what I want to do and make time for it.

So let’s get to it! Take at the quadrant below and put it on a big piece of paper, but keep the squares empty. Now what are these quadrants all about?

Stephen Covey's Time Management Grid

Stephen Covey's Time Management Grid

Things in Sector I are both Urgent and Important. These are most often things that come from others: deadlines for clients, reports for you manager… Things that need to be done yesterday, or things will blow up. Sector II contains things that are important, but not urgent. It’s our real goals, the things we want to realize in life. Sadly, it’s also the things that we delay because of things in Sector I – or worse, in Sector III: things that are urgent but not important at all.

A good planning creates a balance between sectors I and II. Ideally, you should clear out Sector I completely and work only in Sector II. As for Sectors III en IV: it may sound harsh, but I think it’s best you let them go. Especially as long as there are still things to do in Sector I or II.

How to decide what’s important (or not)

If you find you have nothing to put in Sector III and IV, you’re probably taking on too much. Choose what you really want to get done, and what you could live without. Let them go for the time being. Focus on those things that are essential to you, and forget about all the rest. Result: more focus, less clutter!
Assignment: fill in all of your work, projects, dreams… in these quadrants. Take a look at your planning and work: are they in concordance with your priorities? If not, adapt your planning!

Prioritizing - how to set priorities

The next three articles in this series will deal with Email Time Management and getting things done when working from home.

Don’t forget to check out the previous articles in this series:

  1. 6 Surprising Causes Of Procrastination
  2. How To Overcome Procrastination – RIGHT NOW
  3. The One And Only Way To Increase Productivity
  4. 10 Simple Ways To Improve Productivity Right Now

PS.: Now that you’re here, do leave a comment. Even if it’s a small one! A blog is so much more fun when people react to it…
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