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Maximize the value of your time & join my Productivity Challenge!

Millions headed back to work today or will do so tomorrow after hopefully a happy & restorative Christmas & New Year break. As we head back to our own production lines, many of us carry new year goals & resolutions. We also know that these goals ride precariously with the ebb & flow of our busy lives & each year they can be so easily washed away.

I am passionate about Clifton StrengthsFinder® & the much greater performance gains available to us when we focus on our strengths rather than our weaknesses.

So where better to turn than to my No.1 strength, Maximizer, to find a new year resolution that will be both valuable & achievable. For me, Maximizer is all about maximising the amount of value from resources & situations, whether that's for myself or my deeply held desire to help other people maximize their potential through coaching & other training experiences. When I look back on the past year, I know I could have done more: I know that I have at times badly eroded both the value I get, & the value I could be giving: this is an 'ouch' moment for a Maximizer!

It’s a familiar story. For all the advances in productivity since the era of the title photo above, we are now swamped by messages across multiple channels, with many of these messages offering low value. Giving in to the temptation to constantly check these messages brings huge inefficiencies to what we could all be achieving.

Better management of communication channels, especially email, appears to be a popular topic. Last Friday, journalist Rhymer Rigby wrote in The Times newspaper how he plans to spend less time on email through more fit for purpose crafting of the emails he sends. On New Year's Day, in The Sunday Times Style magazine, Louisa McGillicuddy meets the "email whisperer", Jocelyn K Glei to bring us helpful ideas to control our inbox. On average, the article cites, 'office workers look at their inbox 74 times a day'. In an 8 hour working day that would be once every 6½ minutes. The article continues that, 'every time you switch tasks, it takes at least 25 minutes to get back into the "creative flow".'

Years ago, a tough French boss I worked for decreed with a touch of exasperation in his tone,

“Justin, you must only check your emails twice a day.”

Wise words: whenever I apply them, my productivity goes up.

So why do we do ignore what is obvious wisdom? Why are we so drawn to interrupting ourselves? Many reasons; I'll highlight just two:

  1. Responding to a communication can be quick & that feels good - & it's easy to ignore the damage done to productivity on more important, difficult tasks as we can't measure that damage so easily.
  2. We believe we must be seen to be fast responders, that somehow this is what is expected. In some situations there is a need to be ready to respond quickly. However this is more genuinely the case when the expectation is explicit between both parties: it's agreed up front as being necessary. Ask yourself this - have you created an arbitrary de facto expectation that you will respond within 10 minutes simply by doing just that? That's not a great business reason, but people will happily take advantage of it if you let them.

So that’s it: I’m cutting it out, starting now!

Don’t worry, I’m not shutting the channels down - I’m simply going to introduce more rigour to the day.

So here’s my resolution: starting today, "see what is there" email checking is going to be done 3 times a day...

... batch processed, exactly as Jocelyn K Glei recommends. And except for genuinely dead time (e.g., waiting for a train) my resolve is the same for the other channels I use.

If I fail (& that's much more unlikely now that this is public!) I’ll post a comment below the very same day. If I am successful, I will let you know how it has improved my productivity, because that is the best reason to give it a try.

If you want to join me with this or share your own productivity challenge, please comment below...

... & then come back again in a couple of months to let us know how you got on.

If you prefer to share more publicly, head over to my LinkedIn profile instead where this blog is repeated as a posting!

Here’s to a more productive & valuable 2017! Happy New Year!

Links to the articles mentioned above & for more information

For more help on email management, you might like to try Jocelyn K Glei's book, Unsubscribe, with subtitle, How to kill email anxiety, avoid distractions, and get real work done. Head over to Jocelyn's website, http://jkglei.com

To see Rhymer Rigby's article in full, where he considers ambition & keeping resolutions simple, visit The Times website here. You may need to take out a free limited content subscription.

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