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Tag Archives: time management

Want to amp up your productivity? Control interruptions

Since the start of this year, the topic of our video series has been Productivity Tools for Leaders.  Today we’re up to strategy #12 and I’d like to talk about what you can do to control interruptions.

It’s imperative that you control interruptions

If you want to control interruptions in your workday, it is very important to take ownership of it.  Because if you sit around waiting for others to stop interrupting you, you’re going to be waiting a very long time!

A ground-breaking study conducted by Gloria Mark in 2005 showed that the average office worker spends only 11 minutes on any given task before s/he is interrupted.  If you think that’s bad, wait, it gets worse!  After someone is interrupted, it takes on average, 25 minutes to return to the initial task.  Do you see the mathematical problem here?  At this rate, you’ll never get anything done.  So it’s up to you to deliberately, thoughtfully, firmly, and respectfully control interruptions.  Now there are lots of things you can do to manage interruptions but in today’s post, I’d like to share two specific ideas. Continue reading

Use technology to block distractions (that come from using technology!)

It’s been three weeks since my last post in our video series on Productivity Tools for Leaders.  In How to manage distractions (aka the “Squirrel syndrome”), I put forward what turned out to be a controversial idea.  The idea of designating Internet-free times each day or week to block distractions got a lot of responses from all of you, but interestingly, from both ends of the spectrum.  Some of you told me that the idea was Draconian, but just as many thought it was brilliant!  And it was suggestions from the latter group that lead me to today’s strategy.  Today’s tip to focus and block distractions is to use an app!

To focus and block distractions, use an app!

Yes, I get the irony.  I am proposing that you use technology to block distractions that come from technology!  But if you think about it, it’s actually poetic.  If you are willing to admit that the “squirrel syndrome” is a huge drain on your productivity, then there are apps out there that can help you block distractions … like the Internet.  I’m going to share five of the apps that were brought to my attention.  Please keep in mind that I am not endorsing any of them as I haven’t had a chance to really use them myself – I only just heard about them recently.  But I did look them up, and it seems like they could be valuable.  Here’s what I learned: Continue reading

How to manage distractions (aka the “Squirrel syndrome”)

If you want to be productive, to get things done, then you need to manage distractions.  And one of the biggest distractions that we all face – the Internet!  Which brings me to today’s strategy in our series on productivity tools for leaders: designate Internet-free times each day or week.

Avoid the “Squirrel syndrome” by designating Internet-free times

Now don’t get me wrong, I love the Internet.  I mean where else can you look up the menu at a restaurant, watch cute cat videos, and unequivocally shut down bar arguments on stupid subjects.  Nowhere else but the Internet!

But once you get on the Net, it’s kind of like going down the rabbit hole.  Continue reading

Another idea to overcome procrastination

In my last two video blogs on productivity tools for leaders, I’ve focused on specific ideas to overcome procrastination.  So today, I’d like to give you one more idea on this topic.  If you’ve been putting off tasks on your to-do list because they feel so large that they are overwhelming, or because it’s something you just really don’t want to do, then overcome procrastination by scheduling them into 25-minute blocks.

Tackle unappealing tasks by scheduling them into 25-minute blocks

Research shows that 25-30 minutes feels manageable and attainable to most people.  Half a day, or even an hour may feel intolerable, but we can do anything for 30 minutes.  So schedule difficult or unappealing tasks into 25 minute increments with a five minute break in between. Continue reading

Overcoming procrastination can be as easy as simply getting started

In my last instalment in our series on productivity tools for leaders, I shared a tip on overcoming procrastination.  Go public got such positive feedback that I decided to share a couple more in our next two videos.  Today’s idea on overcoming procrastination is take advantage of the Zeigarnik effect.

Use the Zeigarnik Effect to your advantage

The Zeigarnik effect, so called because it was observed by Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik, states that people remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks. Continue reading

To overcome procrastination, “go public”

Are you guilty of procrastination?  If so, you’re not alone.  Strategy #7 in our ongoing series about productivity tools for leaders is a tip on how to overcome procrastination.

As a leader, you’re constantly juggling many priorities, and there are always a few items on the to-do list that seem to slip from one list to the next.  Usually, the procrastination is either because the task is so large that the even the thought of tackling it is overwhelming.  Or it’s because the task is just something that you don’t really want to do.  Either way, the end result of procrastination is that the task gets pushed further out into the future.  And sometimes it simply just doesn’t get done. So the idea I want to give you today to overcome procrastination is “Go public!”  Let me explain.

“Go public” to overcome procrastination

When I say “Go public”, what I mean is that you should publicize your time frame.  In other words, establish a deadline and then tell others. If you announce to your colleagues that you’ll have a first draft completed by Thursday, your credibility is now at stake and you’ve just made yourself accountable for action. So tell your client that you’ll have a proposal to them by Monday afternoon.  Or commit to getting a report to your boss before you leave that day.  When you publicly voice a deadline, you have given yourself a powerful motivator to overcome procrastination.  This approach works superbly if you have a tendency to get easily distracted.  So try it.  And let me know how it works! Share your success (or failure) by adding your comments below.

If you’re finding this series on productivity tools for leaders to be helpful, here are the links to previous instalments that focused specifically on making meetings more productive:

Or just access this whole series and others in our Video Archives.

Use a “parking lot” to help you achieve objectives in your meetings

In our last edition of our video series on productivity tools for leaders, I talked about how the time-keeper is a very important role in a meeting in order to achieve objectives.   You might recall that the time-keeper’s job is to let participants know when the allotted time for an agenda item is over.  But sometimes, an agenda item crops up that really does require additional discussion beyond the time frame allotted in the agenda.  Which brings me to today’s tool to improve your productivity so that you can still achieve objectives.  Use a “parking lot” to make your meetings more effective.

Use a “parking lot” to achieve objectives

Let’s say you are chairing a meeting and you have a great time-keeper who is making sure your meeting agenda stays on track.  But now the allotted time has run out for something under discussion that still warrants further conversation.  When this happens, you, as the chair, needs to step in and offer two choices. Continue reading

Not getting things done in your meetings? Here’s a powerful way to change that

Since the beginning of this year, I’ve been sharing specific ideas on the blog about getting things done, on improving your productivity.  As I have mentioned in earlier video posts, many leaders tell me that poor meeting management seriously hampers their ability in getting things done.  And in fact, my last two instalments in this video series (four-column agendas, “action minutes”) have focused specifically on ideas to overcome this.  So I thought I’d share another tip today on how you can make your meetings a powerful source of getting things done.  It is to assign three key roles in every meeting.

Assign three key roles in every meeting

There are three critical roles that are required for every successful meeting.  The three roles are chairperson, timekeeper, and minute taker.  Now, this is important, the three roles must be filled by three DIFFERENT people.  If you’ve been to the meeting from hell, you already know what happens when the same person plays all three roles – it doesn’t work out that well!  Continue reading

For amazingly productive meetings, switch to “public action minutes”

In our last video blog in our series on productivity tools for leaders, I gave you one idea on how to have useful and productive meetings.  Specifically, to issue an agenda using a four-column format.  Today, I’m continuing on that theme of productive meetings with another tip – always take and issue action minutes within 48 hours.

Always issue action minutes

Now I know what you’re thinking: 48 hours?  Yes I know, some of you are lucky if those minutes arrive the day before the next meeting!  But let’s just talk about this for a moment.  I have yet to meet one person who says to me “Oh Merge, I love taking minutes.”  In fact, almost everyone I know just hates it!  Some of you would much rather walk across hot coals than be volunteered as the minute taker for your next meeting!  We hate taking minutes … BECAUSE for most of us it’s a lot of work and it’s a pain in the neck!  Yet there is a way to get past this.

Are you ready?  This is a cool tool!  A very effective and painless approach to taking minutes is to focus only on recording action items.  Use a three-column format.  Take a sheet of blank paper and draw two vertical lines to create three columns.  Then title the columns as follows: Continue reading

One practical tip to eliminate loss of productivity in meetings

One of the biggest complaints I hear from leaders is about their loss of productivity due to the time they spend in meetings.  Most leaders attend more than 60 meetings a month.  Research shows that over 90% of meeting goers admit to daydreaming; over 70% do other work during meetings; and almost 40% say they have occasionally dozed off while in a meeting.  Clearly, loss of productivity due to meetings is happening every single day.  So for the next four video blog posts, I’m going to focus on specific ideas to stop the loss of productivity that is occurring for you due to those meetings.  Today’s tip: always, always issue a four-column agenda, distributed at least 48 hours in advance of your meeting.

Always issue a four-column agenda

The most common reason we don’t issue agendas is because it seems like a lot of hard work.  But it doesn’t have to be!  One of the best, easiest and most effective ways to develop an agenda is to use a table format using four columns.  Take a sheet of blank paper and draw three vertical lines to create four columns.  Then title the columns as follows: Continue reading