How to plan your work week after a long holiday

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Welcome back! Did you have a great time with friends, family and loved ones this Thanksgiving? Excellent! Now you can start digging yourself out of at least half a week of work. Take the initiative to organize yourself and your work to avoid the post-vacation burnout.

  1. Catch up on corporate communications. Sit down, focus and start from the bottom up. One of the biggest things to tackle when you come back from vacation is managing your overflowing inbox (still using email?), notifications from your social collaboration platform, or updates on your task management app activity stream. Once you have understood what has happened (or hasn’t happened) with your projects you can better organize your time for the work ahead.
  2. Create two task lists, personal and work-related, of all the projects and items that require your immediate action this week. Pay special attention items that have deadlines, require action from others or a group meeting. Add due dates to tasks and get reminders in your email or push notifications on your mobile devices to stay on top.
  3. Set priorities on each task so you know which ones need to be completed now vs. “now now.” This saying comes from a buddy of mine who used to live in Kenya. Kenyan time dictates that if someone says the bus is coming NOW, you have about 15 minutes before it arrives. If the bus is coming NOW NOW, you have about 3-5 minutes. If the bus is coming NOW NOW NOW, it’s already left. Hah! A pretty good joke for a Monday, right? No? Ok, moving on.
  4. Break up tasks into more manageable sub-tasks. A task like “Complete and submit RFP for Company XYZ” seems daunting. Break that down into steps like “1) Set up meeting with legal to review RFP guidelines, 2) Set up call with engineering team to recap technical product specifications, 3) Determine pricing with product and deployment team, 4) Compile list of 3 customer case studies, 5) Complete template and submit RFP to Company XYZ by Dec 31st, 2014” and sweet success seems that much closer!
  5. Delegate, delegate, delegate. Take a look at the sub-tasks ahead of you and see who you can assign them to in order to help you complete your projects faster. Utilize colleagues or outsource work to freelancers with services like odesk to get organized and lessen the load. If you can’t delegate things at the office, delegate what you can in your household. Technology is always your friend with this as several apps can help you with securing resources and overall project management. Services like TaskRabbit act like virtual personal assistants to help lighten the stress from everyday chores like cleaning the house, doing the laundry or balancing your bank statements. Or try Google Shopping Express and have everything on your shopping list delivered to your front door by the time you get home!

It’s easy to become overwhelmed when you return to work from a long vacation, but with these simple tips you’ll bounce back in no time!

Tips for leading great meetings

Ever get stuck in meetings that drag on and on and get virtually nothing accomplished? We’ve all been on the phone during conference calls where we go through the weather forecast, weekend plans or baby announcements from each and every single participant before anyone even begins talking about what needs to be talked about! There is a time and place for catching up and unfortunately project meetings are neither of those. Don’t be annoying; be that person everyone refers to as the boss that gets $#!% done!

Make an agenda. Stick to it.

Even if you aren’t 100% sure what you need to talk about during the meeting, bullet point a few top line tasks and leave room for discussion later on. Address the agenda once everyone (or enough) people are in the meeting to get the ball rolling.

Set meeting end times to 5 minutes before the top of the hour/half hour.

This is a trick I learned from Project Managers at Google. Set meetings to end at the :25 or :55 hour mark as meetings always (I debated between saying tend to or typically, but this happens too often to not be considered a truth) run late. We get caught up in debate or just plum lose track of time—those 5 extra minutes are crucial to making sure you wrap up everything that needs to be discussed in the meeting and that you don’t 1) make your participants late for other meetings or 2) make people who are waiting for your conference room late for their meeting. If we all become a little more conscious of others time as well as our own we’ll prevent that snowball effect of late meetings that really throw off everyone’s day.

Remind everyone how much time we have in the meeting and address heftiest item LAST.

This requires a little bit of planning. Like, 2 minutes of looking at your agenda to determine what will most likely drive the bulk of the conversation. And while it seems counter-intuitive, you will actually accomplish more by getting the little things out of the way and saving the latter half of your meeting for the big discussions. The time constraint might even encourage faster resolution. We hope.

Thank your participants for their time.

It’s a small and simple gesture that shows your appreciation for people meeting today (which is a rarity what with the advent of this thing called the “Cloud” and “Social Collaboration”). Understand that everyone has taken time out of their busy schedule to meet you at this specific date and time. Don’t hold them up and don’t waste their time lest they dismiss your meetings in the future…

Take things offline when available.

Simple rule—if it doesn’t pertain to at least 90% of the participants of the meeting, table it and take it offline. Make a note of when you will be following up with participants, create another separate meeting if needed or collaborate online.

Remember that one meeting that left you stunned at how efficient and productive it was? Let’s make that EVERY meeting.

Love,
Your Partners in Productivity

How to manage your time at work so you get out at 5pm sharp

Time management is an essential skill that many of us have, unfortunately, NOT mastered. It’s the reason why we’re late for work, why meetings run long and why we usually can’t get our butts out of that office chair by 5:00 PM. We then compromise by working through lunch or, worse yet, working on the weekends. Managing your time at work these says is less about keep work strictly at work (because, let’s be honest, who can afford to do that anymore when we are so connected?) but keeping a healthy work life balance with effective task management. Let’s get started with a few basics that will help you establish a foundation for helping you get what needs to be done on time everyday of the week.

Set yourself up for four solid hours of work each day.

I know, your overachieving self probably aims to get in a full eight hours of work done each day. But just think of all the legitimate distractions you face during the 9-to-5 like meetings, last minute requests, urgent fixes and technology issues that may prevent you from actually getting work done. An once your work flow is interrupted, it takes a while to get back into the groove of it. If you’ve set yourself up for more work that you can realistically finish in one day, you 1) end up staying much later than intended and 2) set yourself up for feeling of failure and disappointment. Be realistic with what you can humanly handle and set those expectation with your colleagues and peers. Make a to-do list for your weekly tasks and projects and reinstate those feelings of accomplishment as you check more and more things off that list!

Do a 4pm wind-down.

Set aside the hour before your workday ends to wrap up. Don’t set any meetings for this time. Go through your Producteev tasks, emails and if someone is making a request, notify them that you will get back to them first thing tomorrow morning. If you coworkers are sending you last minute requests frequently, you should share this list with them as well! Make a generic checklist of all the things that need to wrap up everyday, focus on that, and give yourself a pat on the back as you wrap up and leave the office at 4:59 PM.

Repeat after me: “There will always be work.”

You won’t ever really finish everything that needs to be done. The best you can do is prepare and schedule yourself for the work that needs to be done to meet those deadlines. Once you acknowledge that there will always be works that lingers at the end of the day (and know that you can address that the next morning) you will feel a huge weight lift from your shoulders. Reorganize tasks, give yourself a much needed break and prepare for tomorrow!

These mantras will not resonate with everyone, but if you can take away one thing from this, know that you can achieve a better work/life balance with just a little organization in your day.

Until then, stay productive!

Linda