Articles and Resources - Productivity

5 Time Management Strategies for Busy Managers

A group of time crunched managers and supervisors were asked, “What is your biggest time management challenge?”  The response was surprising and not what I suspected.  In addition to identifying their biggest challenges, they also came up with recommended time management strategies. 

1.  Drop in visitors and frequent interruptions was the most common time management challenge.  While we like to socialize, and catch up on the latest office news, these distractions are counter-productive.  Many of us work in open work spaces or cubicles where it is easy to have drop in visitors.  However, these frequent companions will take the focus away from our current task.  After the conversation, we need to refocus on our work or move to the next task, which reduces our productivity.

Action – While it is tempting to have a quick conversation with a co-worker, save these conversations for wellness or lunch breaks.  (There is a reason why we are given these breaks in our agreements.) If the query is a work-related issue, schedule a time with them when you can give your undivided attention.  If you are fortunate to have an office with a door, simply close the door.  Other employees have achieved good results by putting up a sign on the back of their chair or office door, “working on a deadline”.  Others have a system such as: “green” for come in and talk, “yellow” I am available for important discussions and have a few minutes; and “red” meaning I am crazy busy.  Choose a system that works best for you.  Co-workers and staff may be intrigued by your time management system and will learn how to respect your time.

2.   Lack of delegation – Many managers and supervisors said that it was easier to do the work themselves rather than train and monitor the work by their staff. Others enjoyed their work and did not want to delegate even though they could have been more productive. Other managers were not ready to let go of specific tasks.

Action – Think of delegation as a way to develop your staff and move tasks off your desk.  Carefully survey your staff according to their skills and abilities and pick tasks that fit within their work descriptions and provide them with a challenge that will stretch them. Spend the necessary time to train and coach them on a new task.  Allow time for questions, monitoring, and feedback.  This process will develop relationships with staff, expand their knowledge and abilities, and move work off of your desktop.

3.  Lack of focus are caused from distractions such as surfing the Internet and social media.  It takes self-discipline to remain focused on a task.  You might be tempted to do research that may result in you going down a rabbit hole looking at non-related websites and social media.

Action – Set a goal to get a specific task completed within a certain time.  Periodically remind yourself of the completion time.  Turn off notifications from your email and delete any apps to keep you on target.  Put the phone on answer mode and check for messages after the urgent and most important tasks are completed.   Be sure to reward yourself after the task is completed by a quick update on social media or a favorite website assuming that it is on your own time.

4.  Poor Oral and Written Communications break down working relationships and waste time. Hastily written messages are misinterpreted which can lead to misunderstandings whereas a quick phone call can easily address the issue.  Excessive emails and text messages create pressure to respond to the sender immediately.  There is less face to face communication and reading a text message or email does not have the benefit of observing facial expressions and body language.

Action – Have regular agenda driven meetings with tight time lines so that staff members can provide updates.  Take writing courses to strengthen clarity and conciseness in messages.  Practice effective oral communication techniques such as planning the intent of the conversation, the reason, the ideas, and then speaking.  Practice active listening techniques to listen, pause, confirm, tell, and end the conversation.

5.  Disaster Desk is a concern for many people since they are often searching for items on their physical workspace or computer.

Action -  Take two hours before a long weekend and remove everything off of your desk.   Gradually review each item and return it to its place.  Return items to their “home” after they are used.  Set up a pending file for items that are current.  Set up regular computer and paper files for projects and keep them up to date.  Keep files on the desktop that will be used in the next month, three months’ file close by, and six months in a filing cabinet away from the desk.  Archive files at least once a year. 

Other time wasters included excessive emails, working on several non-related projects at the same time, and procrastination. Each time waster involves a specific strategy to deal with it. The bottom line comes down to making the current task your priority and this can be completed through self-discipline.



More Ways to Get Work Done and Save Time

Why are we not completing our tasks as quickly and efficiently as we would like?

We know what needs to be done; however, we don’t accomplish what we set out to do. 

Perhaps we need to be more focused with organized systems to complete our tasks in a more efficient manner.

Here are five ways to get more work done and save time:

1.  Implement morning huddle meetings.  While standing, each staff member shares their objectives for the day and if they have any challenges.  At this time, they will also commit themselves to one important task.  This process ensures accountability from other team members as well as support.

2.  Avoid the perfectionist tendency.  Perfectionists believe that everything in their world needs to be perfect, such as the perfect e-mail, the perfect meeting agenda, and the perfect PowerPoint presentation.  Instead, accept that everyone’s idea of perfection is different and we cannot satisfy everyone.  Instead, set a deadline for a task, do the task, review your work, and when the time is up, send the work out.

3.  Less social media and more work focus. If we spend 20 minutes a day during our workday on social media, this adds up to 100 minutes a week or 5000 minutes a year.  Instead, concentrate your energy on a single task until your work is complete.  By applying this strategy, you will be surprised with your results.  Remember, it is not about the number of tasks that you begin... it is the number that you finish that counts.

4.  Let’s not procrastinate.  People procrastinate because they are overwhelmed by the task, they don’t know how to do the task, they don’t want to do the work, and/or they don’t know where to begin.  Instead, make the task a priority, set a deadline, strategize how to do the work, take the first step, and keep working on the task until you are done. Don’t forget to celebrate the end result.

5.  E-Mail seems to be our default work location.  Open your e-mail account four or five times a day. For each message, we have the following choices: do it (if we can action it in 2 minutes or less); defer it; file it; or delegate it.

When we implement these ideas, we will free up time and achieve greater results by the end of the day.



Moving From Busy Work to Productive Work

Why are we not completing our tasks as quickly and efficiently as we would like?

We know what needs to be done; however, we don’t accomplish what we set out to do. 

Perhaps we need to be more focused with organized systems to complete our tasks in a more efficient manner.


  • Employees have increased workload with less time and resources to complete their work.
  • The nature of most jobs has changed; traditional approaches no longer work and boundaries are often blurred.  Some staff have not developed new skillsets or adjusted to new work habits.
  • Information is readily available on the Internet; thus making research longer and decision making more challenging.
  • Rapidly changing technology makes employees available 24/7 and they are often expected to respond immediately.
  • Jobs, responsibilities, and priorities keep changing.
  • Employees face more distractions, resulting in less focus on work.
  • Higher standards and expectations are anticipated from the employer and clients.
  • Employees are expected to come up with new and innovation approaches.
  • Less face to face interaction and more reliance in technology results in miscommunication and misunderstanding.
  • Everything seems to be happening faster.

The result is that employees are constantly shifting from one priority to another, feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and at times, underappreciated.  Their minds are constantly skipping from one idea to the next and they have trouble focusing on getting their tasks completed.  Some people call these “popcorn days”, where they are bouncing around from one priority to another and accomplish few outcomes at the end of the day.


Systems and techniques are needed to capture, control and organize work.  The following are five ideas to enable focus and better manage time and workflow:

1.  Set clear expectations for yourself and your staff – Ensure that task expectations are clear for all employees. Revisit these objectives every few months to ensure that they are current. Regularly conduct discussions with your staff about the status of their workload and make adjustments as needed. Also, ensure that your objectives are clear.

2.  Pomodoro Method – Use the Pomodoro Method to block time and work in uninterrupted work spurts.  First of all, determine how much time a task should take.  Set a timer for 25 minutes and work on the task without any distractions.  When the timer goes off, set it for a 5-minute break.  Repeat the process two or three more times.  You will be pleasantly surprised on the number of tasks you get done in short bursts of time.

3.  Use the 2 – minute briefing method – Plan the purpose of the briefing such as to make a decision, share information, to persuade, or to make a recommendation and consider who is your audience.  Consider their experience and background with the concept.  Organize the request into two parts: 1) the request and 2) the rationale.  Communicate the information including some background, rationale, and key points. 

4.  Use your prime time to do your best work while you are at your best.  Determine when your energy is at the highest point and complete your most important tasks during this time such as planning next year’s budget.  Leave less demanding tasks such as meeting team members to discuss the office picnic event for your lower energy times.  (Not saying that picnics are not important…)

5.  Say “no” without causing offense or resentment.  First of all, listen to the request and acknowledge what you believe the request is.  Say, “No” and back it up with reasons.  (These need to be legitimate reasons.)  Offer options such as an alternate time so you will be able to accomplish the task or show someone how to do the task.

By making small changes each day, we can achieve more and obtain better results!



14 Ways To Control E-Mail and Increase Productivity

“Did you get my email?” This was the question Rachelle often heard from her co-workers, as she scanned the 4,298 emails in her inbox. She was missing deadlines and stressed at the thought of looking at her inbox.

After spending a few minutes with Rachelle, we noticed how she processed email.  Each time she received an email notification, she would instantly stop what she was doing and open the email. If the email involved a quick action, she would immediately reply back. If the email required a longer response, she would leave the email in the inbox and come back to it later.

Rachelle would scan her recent emails about five times every day and felt bombarded with the constant e-mail traffic. She relied upon her email account’s search feature to find the items that needed action. While doing this, Rachelle often skimmed messages and missed important deadlines.

After some minor changes to her email practices, Rachelle was able to reduce her inbox and stress levels to zero and she become more productive. Here are some strategies that helped Rachelle:

1.  Come in early and send out your emails without first checking the inbox. Get your priorities completed and then focus on responding to others. This is your time and you need to make the best use of it.

2.  Turn off the e-mail notification system. That’s right, turn it off and keep it off.

3.  Set up rules for certain senders (such as your boss) or projects to notify you when their emails come your way. That way, you don't miss anything that is time sensitive.

4.  Check emails only four or five times a day. Research has shown that constantly switching from one task to another wastes time and we lose our focus.

5.  Use the two-minute rule. If the action or response will take 2 minutes or less, reply back. If a longer response is required, reply when you have a sufficient amount of time, perhaps setting a limit in the range of five to ten minutes. The idea is to be quick and efficient and to move the email out of your inbox.

6.  Set up three special email boxes and put them at the top of the navigation bar.  Label the inboxes as @Action @Pending and @To Read. You can personalize the @symbols. For example, David Allen of Getting Things Done uses @Action and @Waiting For. Classify each new e-mail as follows:

  • @Action – Some type of action or task to be done.
  • @Pending – More information is needed or you need to do some type of checking before you can action it.
  • @Read – Set it aside and when you have some extra time, read the message in detail.

This system will reduce stress and the burden of a full inbox as the list of   items to be reviewed is decreased.

7.  Periodically review each file and action according to your time.

8.  Set up folders for specific senders, projects, topics, and initiatives. This will organize your messages and reduce your reliance on the search feature.

9.  Use the subject line wisely and if the topic changes, change the subject line to reflect the new shift in direction. 

10.  Give the reader important information when they are scanning their emails such as:

  •  Topic – Time Sensitive
  •  Topic - Response Required by
  •  Topic  – For Your Information Only

By indicating the action or non-action required, this will get the attention of the reader and they can prioritize the email immediately.

11.  Clarify standards of service for internal and external client responses. The rule of thumb is usually within 24 hours for external clients and 48 hours for internal clients. The response time may cause some good internal discussions and after agreement, will reduce frequent follow up on messages.

12.  Minimize the use of the CC feature and think twice before each person is added. Consider the value of adding their name to the list. Do they need to action anything? Is this a good use of their time?

13.  Some people like to get a one or two word response such as “Thanks” or “Got It” to acknowledge a receipt. Although others may think that this is a waste of time, consider the value in responding to this type of email. Is this a good use of everyone’s time? If this helps build relationships, go for it.

14.  Reduce the number of emails in your inbox to zero by the end of the day. Make this a daily goal.

By adjusting your email habits, this will reduce the number of messages in your inbox. By applying these ideas, you will be more organized, have a reduction in stress, and your productivity will increase.




How to Keep Productivity High When There is No Team

Normally, the manager will set the expectations and deadlines, while the employees do the work.  But what happens when there is no manager or team leader?

Georgina worked in a self-directed team.  As long as everyone on the team participated equally, there were no problems, but the minute a team member did not pull their weight, resentment set in and productivity went down.  She didn’t want to rock the boat, but she was concerned about the team’s reputation.

A group of managers in a training workshop was asked, “What would you do?”

1.  Take on Responsibility

First of all, everyone must be clear on their responsibilities and how the team will work together, given their existing resources and deadlines. 

One person volunteered, “If I was on the team I would say, we have an issue with incomplete orders, how are we going to deal with it?  Follow with a brainstorming session with the team members, define an action plan with responsibilities and deadlines associated with it."

One team member can take on the lead role for the current problem and others will take turns on handling the lead role for the future ones. Every so often the team will need to go to a higher level for clarification or authority.

2.  Play Your Part on the Team

  • If you are finished your work and see that your team member is bogged down, lend a helping hand.  It is easy to find busy work, but instead look for ways of assisting your team.  They will be very grateful and return the favor in the future.
  • Be a good role model.  Demonstrate what an ideal team member’s contributions should look like.  Watch your team members’ back.  Be there to help them, when they need it.
  • Provide support and encouragement to others.  Everyone will go through difficult times with looming deadlines, difficult clients and a heavy workload.  Acknowledge what is happening with your coworkers and provide assistance when you can.
  • Praise them when it is due.  People want to be noticed for the work that they do.  Provide a compliment for a job that is well done.  Sometimes all it takes is a “thank you.”
  • Avoid negative criticism.  If a task or behavior needs to be improved, use a gentle approach and provide them with a suggestion.  Reinforce the importance of working together.

As a management training skills expert, I advise Managers and Supervisors to empower their self-directed teams and to create the environment which give team members the flexibility to take on responsibility and to play their part on the team.



The Resiliency Factor - How to Bounce Back When Life Hands You Lemons

Mike and Bill graduated with PhD’s at the same time from the same University.  After hundreds of applications, they started their first real jobs in a one year contract position with the same organization.

Unfortunately, after the year was up, both were not renewed due to major cutbacks and reorganization.

Both of them took the news hard and were extremely disappointed.  Over the next 2 weeks they were feeling lost and unsure of their next steps. Mike immediately updated his resume and started to connect with his network. He told himself, “This is not about me.  The economy is down and the government is making massive cuts.  I am very well qualified in my field.  I just need to look for opportunities.”  He ended up getting 3 interviews and 6 months later, moved into a full-time positon.

Bill was bitter and held a grudge against his past employer.  He blamed himself and thought he was let go because he could not perform under pressure.  He said that it would take years for the economy to rebound and felt hopeless.

Nine months later he was depressed and lost hope of ever finding work.

He had gained over 40 pounds, was turning grey and looked 10 years older than his real age.  He struggled in short term jobs and 3 years later secured a position in another province.

Why are these people so different?  It is their ability to be resilient or bounce back.  Some people are able to get over major hurdles in life such as job loss, major change with work, loss of a loved one or serious illness, while others have difficulty coping.

Generally, over time, most people can adapt well to changing situations.It involves resilience and a series of steps which include a strategy to keep going.  The following are some bounce back strategies. 

  1. Change is Life – Get over it and go with the flow.  We cannot control what is happening.  Change is like the seasons.  We can fight the cold weather and complain or take up winter sports or if we are fortunate, go for a winter vacation somewhere warm  It is important to understand that change and resiliency is part of the natural process of life.  Learn to accept it and move on. 
  2. Reach Out and Seek Support - Resilience studies show that people are more resilient when they have strong support networks of friends and family to help them cope with a crisis and also support each other in the workplace.  But you can get an even bigger resilience boost by giving support. In a 2017  study of psychological resilience among American military veterans, higher levels of gratitude, altruism and a sense of purpose predicted resiliency. “Any way you can reach out and help other people is a way of moving outside of yourself, and this is an important way to enhance your own strength,” said Dr. Southwick. “Part of resilience is taking responsibility for your life, and for creating a life that you consider meaningful and purposeful. It doesn’t have to be a big mission — it could be your family. As long as what you’re involved in has meaning to you, that can push you through all sorts of adversity.”
  3. Perceptions – We may start out by looking at a situation, from our own point of view and may not see the complete picture.  But as we examine the situation more closely and have discussions with others, we can begin to see things differently.  Keep in mind that perceptions can be difficult to change after our first impression, so flexibility comes into play. By being open to perceptions, or ability to be resilient becomes easier.
  4. Setting Goals with a Specific Purpose – By consciously setting purposeful goals, it gives us direction and focus.  It gives us a reason to move forward.  When faced with a difficult decision, think about what is most important to me?  What am I moving towards?  Does this action take me closer or further away from my goal?
  5. How Significant Will this Event be 5 Years from Now?  Consider what you are going through.  Will this event be a mountain in your life that had a major impact, or will it be a small mole hill?  Will you even remember this event 5 years from now?  While some people tend to dramatize, and overreact to the mole hills in life, we can learn to be more resilient by thinking about its relevancy.  Rather than viewing this problem as an unsurmountable scenario, think about some creative ways to deal with it.
  6. Use Visualization – Close your eyes and visualize what it be like when your goal has been achieved. Make the goal as clear as possible.  What do you see, hear, feel, taste, and touch?  Athlete Peter Vidmar practiced his gymnastics routine in the gymnasium for years as if he was performing in front of the 1984 Olympic judges.  He visualized 13,000 people in their seats and another 200 million people watching on television.  He lived and breathed this scene each day.  However, when the actual Olympics took place, he pictured himself practicing his routine in his local gymnasium like he had done hundreds of times before.  It is not surprising that this athlete won gold!  What does your big life goal look like when you have accomplished it?
  7. Discover yourself – What activities are you interested in or attracted to?  Make a list.  This exercise will give you a chance to figure out what you need to focus on.  Does this change in life help or hinder your movement towards your focus?  When driving a car, we are told to focus on where we want to go to avoid an accident, rather than the object in front of us. By discovering ourselves, we are better able to put our attention on what really matters and bounce forward towards this direction.

By practicing these 7 different strategies, it will help you bounce back even after the most difficult situation in your life.

More details on the application of the Resiliency Factor strategy can be learned during the half day workshop on this topic.



How To Save Time During Meetings

Are you wasting your time attending meetings?  Are there better ways to spend your precious time?

On average, eleven million business meetings are held each day, 37% of an employee’s time is spent on meetings and a further 92% of attendees value meetings as providing an opportunity to contribute, which leads to job satisfaction.  According to this same study by the MCI Conferencing White Paper on meetings in America, nearly all meeting attendees (91%) admit to day dreaming during meetings, while over 39% have fallen asleep!

So what’s the problem? 

First of all, never agree to attend a meeting unless you absolutely, positively must be present (or if your boss says that you need to be there.)  Instead request a copy of the minutes and/or the Powerpoint deck.  These highlights will give you the gist of what was discussed and will save you time.

However, there are times, when you need to Chair or attend the meeting.  The following are some tips to maximize your time.

When you are the Chair of the meeting:

  • Identify the purpose of the meeting.
  • Pin point the target audience, attendees and decision makers.  Only include the people who need to be there. 
  • Give attendees advance notice, agenda items and brief background information on the topics.  Participants need time to prepare and do research.  It will provide better quality decisions, and reduce the change of another meeting after everyone has done further research and review.
  • Record attendance.
  • Follow the agenda!   Seems straight forward, but it is easy to get off track.
  • Invite a facilitator, if you think that it will be a difficult discussion.
  • Appoint a time keeper.  Allocate a time limit for each agenda item and stick to it.  Ensure that the meeting ends on time.
  • Appoint a note taker.  Ask them to record the record of decisions, the person who will action the decision and due date.
  • Keep your own notes on the items you need to follow up on.
  • Allow everyone equal time to contribute ideas.  Tactfully encourage the quiet members to share their ideas, too.
  • For discussions that involve 3 or less attendees, have a separate mini meeting, either before or after the main meeting.  It will save everyone time and make both meetings more productive.
  • Set up a “parking lot” to capture good ideas, that do not relate to the agenda.  Be sure to follow up on the items and get back to the participants who brought it up.
  • Delegate responsibility to people who asked for an item on the agenda.  Let them lead the discussion around the topic, but as the Chairperson, give them guidance to keep the dialogue on track.
  • Periodically summarize the discussion, ensuring that the Notetaker has captured all of the essential points.
  • Thank the participants for attending.
  • Summarize the next steps for the group.
  • Follow up the action steps within one week of the meeting and report back to the group, as needed.
  • Some meetings may tend to unite or divide the members.  Therefore, start and end with topics that will bring the group together.
  • Many meetings are not productive after two hours.  Therefore, set up the meeting so it will finish on time before lunch or at the end of the day.
  • Set up the next meeting, while everyone is present, along with their calendars.

“The least productive people are usually the ones who are most in favor of holding meetings.”  Thomas Sewell

When you are a participant of the meeting:

  • Review the agenda before the meeting.  Prepare to discuss the items that apply to you.  Bring documents to support your discussion points.
  • Review the attendee list and be aware of what their stake might be at the meeting. 
  • Be clear about your meeting role during the meeting.
  • During the meeting, contribute your ideas, as best as you can.
  • Be prepared to take on action steps, this is part of why you are there.  Be clear about what you are supposed to do, and the timing.  You will be held accountable by the group, so decide on how you will action your plan and report back to the group.

By following these suggestions for the meeting chair and participant, you will have a timely and productive meeting. 



7th Day Reboot Program

“I like being busy and juggling a lot of things at the same time. I get bored easily, so I need to do a lot,” Said Ellen DeGeneres.   Every day we are inundated with messages, meetings and social media.  Texting, e-mails and phone calls fill our day.  While we can physically rest, it is challenging at times to let our mind rest.  We try to take the weekend off, but often return to work on Monday morning, feeling tired and scattered.

Research has shown that we need to take the time to restart and refuel when our tank is low.  However, at times, our tanks can be running on empty.  We simply cannot operate at optimum 7 days a week.

In a recent review of research, Mary Helen Immordino-Yang of the University of Southern California and her co-authors, agree that “when we are resting the brain is anything but idle and that, far from being purposeless or unproductive, downtime is essential to mental processes that affirm our identifies, develop our understanding of human behavior and to make sense of what recently happened.”  Resting the brain is an essential quality for rejuvenation.

According to Devian Franklin, we need to take one day off each week, to recharge ourselves.  It will help us recharge, refresh and prepare for the next week, while reducing stress. 

Hence the 7th day reboot program was started in which participants take one day off each week and do 4 activities:

  • No work
  • Nix shopping or errands
  • No cleaning or chores around the house
  • Nix social media - it keeps us connected and can cause stress

Does this sound too good to be true?  Now that we have all this free time, what do we do with it?

Use this one day to recharge and renew for your week.

  • Take 1 hour and do anything you want to do for yourself.  Spend time with family or friends to reconnect, watch a movie, learn something new or exercise.
  • Spend 1 hour outdoors and enjoy nature.  Go for a walk, hike or run, ride your bike or play mini golf with the Grandkids.
  • Enjoy a power nap.
  • Read a book or meditate.
  • Cook with love and experience 1 new ingredient.  Good health begins with good food.
  • Write in your journal – Who I am, what do I want to do and plan how to get there.

A friend of mine started the 7th day reboot program last Sunday.  After worship, she went out for breakfast with friends, walked outdoors for an hour, followed by a 20-minute nap.  Upon waking up, she read a best seller book for an hour and then cooked a recipe using the spice mace.  She watched the classic movie, Anne of Green Gables in the evening and did not touch social media.  There were no problems sleeping and she felt refreshed and energized on Monday morning.

Try it out and see how it works for you!



8 Ways to Overcome Perfectionism

Several years ago, Pauline made her living by writing reports.  She would carefully craft a 5 or 6-page document and send it to the typing pool.  (She is aging herself here.)  In a few days, the report would come back.  Pauline would vigilantly review the report for perfection, make changes with a red pencil, and return it to the typing pool.  This process often occurred two or three times, before it was finally ready for the meticulous preview of her Manager.  However, once again, the dreaded red pencil would come out.  Eventually the report was sent out.

Pauline had a background in accounting and everything had to balance.  Thus, the contents of each report had to be perfect.

One day, Pauline’s Manager put a new computer on her desk.  It became her responsibility to produce reports.  (The gals in the typing pool were grinning from ear to ear!)   At this point she realized how much time she had cost the organization. 

What’s sitting on the back of your desk for more than 5 days?

 Is it a task that needs to be done but gets delayed each time a new duty comes up?

 Many of us tend to procrastinate, whether it’s planned or not.

These are some of the qualities of a perfectionist:

-    E-mails and reports are double checked, triple checked and checked once more before release.
-    Work is submitted at the last minute 
-    Regularly running late
-    Extensions to deadlines are often requested
-    Nothing is ever “good enough”
-    No room for error
-    Often criticize themselves 
-    Operating at 110%
-    Often feeling stressed because everything has to be perfect
-    Standards of others are never up to par, compared to the standards of a perfectionist.

How to overcome perfectionism:

1.    Set a time limit or deadline for the task and plan the work accordingly.
2.    Review a report or e-mail two times and send it out.  If it is “tricky”, set it aside, review it one more time and send it out.  
3.    If the correspondence is contentious, ask a co-worker or manager to review it and get their opinion.
4.    Resist comparing yourself to someone else.  We all have unique qualities, characteristics and talents.  We work at different paces and standards.
5.    Recognize that everyone’s standards are different.  Therefore, the standards of a perfectionist may not meet the standards of the next person.  
6.    Be realistic.  Recognize that we are human and we make mistakes.  The task does not have to be always perfect.
7.    Learn to ask for help.  When we are learning how to do something new or challenging,  it will take us longer to do it.  Do not be afraid to ask for help.  We will learn something new in the process, and save our time and that of an organization.
8.    Accept feedback and criticism. This is how we learn and grow.

When completing a task, we first need to recognize that we may have some of the tendencies of a perfectionist.  There are several ways to overcome perfectionism.  We need to realize that we are human, not a machine.  To err is human.  What we consider to be perfect, may not be perfect for the next person.  We do the very best we can, with what we have at the time. Adjustments can always be made later.  



10 Ways To Break Through Procrastination and Get More Done

What’s sitting on the back of your desk for more than 5 days?  Is it a task that needs to be done (like this article), but gets delayed each time a new duty comes up?  Many of us tend to procrastinate, whether it’s planned or not.  In a workshop of 20 people, an average of 3 or 4 are self-identified procrastinators, but most of us have at least one item on the back burner at any time.  Unfortunately, procrastination can lead to missed deadlines, increased stress and result in career derailments.

Let us have a look at what is causing procrastination and some proven solutions.

Managers have identified the following main sources of procrastination for themselves or their staff.  

•    Overwhelmed by the task 
•    Don’t know where to start
•    Intimidated by the immensity of the task 
•    Avoidance of the task because it might cause conflict 
•    Undesirable task
•    Considered to be dull and boring work
•    Just don’t want to do it!

After identifying the reason(s) why we procrastinate, the following are some recommendations to get the task done.

1.    Make the task a priority.  It has to be important to be done.
2.    Write it on the top of your “To-Do” List.  
3.    Visualize the end result.  What will it look like when it is completed?  John had a desk that was covered in papers since the day he started.  We asked him to visualize the top of his desk neatly organized with only papers involving his current projects.  This also included his computer desk top and Post-It Notes on the computer monitor.
4.    Set a deadline.  Make sure that the deadline is reasonable and achievable.  There is no point in setting a deadline that you will procrastinate around.  
5.    Schedule the task in your day.  Allow sufficient time for planning and interruptions as you work on it.
6.    Strategize your approach.  How are you going to get rid of all those extra files that have been on your desk forever?
7.    Break larger tasks into smaller, manageable chunks.
8.    Identify the first step.  Sometimes the hardest part is figuring out how to start.
9.    Begin and work on it until it is completed.
10.     Reward yourself!

In conclusion, examine the tasks which are sitting on your desk. If the task has been there for more than 5 days, ask yourself, “Is it important?”  If so, make it a priority item and follow through the process to completion.  You will be glad you did!



7 Tips to Become More Productive From Scheduling

You know that you have a busy day coming up.  Your time needs to be scheduled, in order to get everything done and still have some time for the unplanned urgent requests and interruptions.

These are 7 scheduling tips on how to get become more productive and get more done:

  1. Use a tool to help you keep organized such as a diary, calendar, paper-based organizer, or integrated software suites like MS Outlook. The specific tool will depend on your on your situation, preferences and budget. 
  2. Enter data with ease.  Identify the time that you have available for your work.  This will depend on the design of your job and personal goals in life.
  3. Block time for the priority tasks that you absolutely must complete. These tasks will often be your performance objectives.  If you are a manager, allow time for training, coaching and supervising your staff.  Allow ample time to communicate with your Manager and peers.  
  4. Review your To Do List, and schedule the high-priority urgent activities, as well as the essential tasks that cannot be delegated or avoided.  Consider important deadlines and if someone is waiting for your task completion, then book the time.  
  5. Block in contingency time. Normally, the more unpredictable your job, the more contingency time you need. The reality of most of our working environments is constant interruption.  We don’t know when the interruptions will happen, but if we leave space in the schedule, we will have the time to deal with problems when they arise and it will not through us off schedule.
  6. Set aside discretionary time for additional last minute high priority items. 
  7. Allow time for planning, creativity and social time, after the important items are scheduled.

By scheduling your day with purpose, it helps you to make better quality decisions and increase your productivity over the time.  It gives you a sense of control and reduces stress.  Scheduling will only take about 10 to 15 minutes each day, but is well worth the time and effort at the end of the day, as we successfully check off all of the priority items and say “done”.


Teach Your Staff How to Fish Through Delegation

Peter is pressed for time and needs to get three tasks done by the end of the day, but there is only time for two. How can he meet the deadlines without working double time? Delegation is the answer.

When I spoke to several Managers, many said that they don't want to delegate because they can do a task faster themselves, rather than teach someone else how to do.  However, a question to ask, "Is it critical that you do the task?" Some Managers enjoy doing that task and don’t want to give it away. Does that sound familiar? On the other hand, once we invest our time to train the employees, they are set for success. 

Keep in mind that we want to delegate the task – not dump something that we don’t want to do. The aim is to help them learn and develop their competencies. 

The following are 10 tips on how to teach employees to fish through delegation.

  1. Delegate to the lowest level possible. The folks who are nearest to the task will be best suited for the work. They will have the most knowledge and day-to-day details of the job. If we delegate too high up, the task could be redelegated, which is not desirable.
  2. Include them in the delegation process. Make an announcement to the staff. "We need someone to do the monthly activity report. Who can help out?"  Empower them to be part of the decision making process. People who put their name forward will be more committed to the task.
  3. Ensure that the person has the proper information, access to resources and capable of doing the task.
  4. Make the expectations clear. As I mention in my workshops, the number reason why people fail is because of unclear expectations. Explain what needs to be done, why it needs to be done and the expected completion time. Let them determine how best to do the task. After all, our way may not always be the best way. Delegation helps to develop trust. Ask them to explain to you their understanding of the task or confirm by e-mail. By confirming the expected results, there is a clear understanding of what needs to happen. Set up time frames for checking in and monitoring. Provide support, if they need it. But please – no hovering!
  5. Match the task with the responsibility. You can delegate the responsibility, but the ultimate accountability will default to you. The buck stops with you!
  6. Step back and let them do the work. Be prepared to answer questions and to make some adjustments, as necessary. Please – no micromanaging!
  7. Avoid upward delegation. If there is an issue, brainstorm solutions with them and don't be tempted to take the task back. By solving their own problems, they will develop confidence and problem solving skills.
  8. Discuss how success will be rewarded such as future opportunities, financial reward and recognition. Give them credit for the good work.
  9. If something goes wrong, the delegator will take ultimate responsibility. There is no scapegoat. What can both of you learn from the experience and how can it be corrected in the future?
  10. Review the outcome and results. What did they accomplish? How did it meet the expectations? 

Through delegation, Managers will teach their staff how to fish and feed themselves, rather than coming to you for food. Managers will save time, get tasks done and develop staff all at the same time.

"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." - Mainonides



5+ Ways to Prioritize and Get More Done

Are you too busy?  Stretching to meet deadlines?  Short on time?  The most effective way to find more time and increase performance is to prioritize tasks. We need to make conscious choices as to where we spend our time.  It comes down to focus on the most critical tasks to completion.  It is not the number tasks that we have started, but what has been completed that counts.  

Here are 5+ ways to make it happen:

  1. List what needs to be done.  Write it down so it is in front of you.  A physical reminder of the tasks is a constant reminder that they need to be completed.
  2. Prioritize the tasks beginning with the most urgent and important ones. Urgent tasks are usually brought to you by someone else, which may throw off your priorities. Consider if the urgent task fits with your long term goals. Rely on your instincts.  Urgent tasks are often a crisis situation that cannot be diverted.  Afterwards, go to important tasks such as planning and relationship building.  These important tasks can give us more rewards over the longer term.
  3. Begin with a task that will give you the most value or financial payback.  If there is a client with potentially more major contracts, give them immediate attention whereas a client who you rarely see will get a lower priority. Provide each client with your best work but at different priority levels.
  4. Unplanned tasks usually involve quick decisions and we often don't have time to fully analyze the situation.  Work on the task if it takes less than five minutes.  More time demanding tasks will go on the priority list.
  5. Some task priority considerations are:
  • Can it be delegated or eliminated? Remember that when we delegate a task, it is meant to help another person grow, rather than dumping the tasks that we don't want to do.
  • Can it be eliminated? I used to prepare a monthly report but no one ever asked questions about it.  One month, I decided not to submit it. Three months later, someone inquired about the report. As it turned out, they wanted to have a report on file in case there was a question from their superiors.  
  • Can it be combined with another job? For example, can I clean out the stock room and take inventory at the same time?
  • What is the deadline? Immediate deadlines require immediate attention, while longer term deadlines can give you some breathing space.
  • How much time will the task take? If the task takes 30 minutes, we could fit it into most schedules, while a full day task needs a block of time.
  • Is someone else depending on this task to get their work done?  If our staff need some figures to complete the budget, our uncooperative methods will impact an entire process.
  • Is there pressure from the next level up? If it is, we are on their radar and cooperation is a good idea!
  • What are the consequences if the task is not done today?  If there are none - then we can delay it, but if it will get us into trouble, it is time to do it.
  • What are the long term consequences? If there are serious consequences, then it needs to go to the top of the list.
  • Will anyone notice if it is not done this day? If I can get by today, then I have bought myself some time.

By carefully analyzing each task and placing it in the right place on the priority list, we can get the right things done, at the right time, and for the right reasons.

For dozens of more ways to save time and get more done, attend Helen's Time Management Essentials workshop.



Productivity Boost Model

Mary was frustrated. Each morning she came in with a work plan, but within the first 20 minutes she was pulled in different directions with urgent requests and a constant barrage of disruptions.  Mary knew that she had to do something.
Then Mary adapted the Productivity Boost Model as a daily habit. She became more organized, focused on the most important tasks and shut the computer off at night, knowing that her day was productive.
Do you want to save time? This model will help you become more productive, reduce time wasters and get the most important things done.
The 5-Step Productivity Boost Model:

1. Triage (like a hospital ER) what needs to be done

  • List the items on your “to do list”
  • Determine what really matters
  • Establish your work requirements
  • Decide on what is most important

2. Schedule it

  • Determine how long the task will take
  • Order and prioritize the most important tasks

3. Focus on getting it done (think of Maxwell Smart’s cone of silence)

  • Maintain laser sharp focus
  • Collect the information by doing research, attending meetings, and checking e-mails
  • Avoid distractions
  • Stay away from multi tasking

4. Analyze what happened, after the work has been done

  • What worked well?
  • What could have been done differently?
  • Were there any people or process problems?
  • How could time be saved, if you had to do it again?

5. Take Care of Yourself

  • How is your energy level?
  • Are you getting enough rest, exercise and eating properly?

By following the 5 steps, you can get more done and feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. 

Other tips to save you more time and energy are available in the Time Management Essentials Workshop: How To Save Time – When You Don’t Have The Time. Learn how to better organize, plan and manage your time, increase productivity, and reduce stress.



7 Tips to Manage Interruptions

You sit down and start to work on a task. Just as you nicely get into it, the phone rings, followed by a "ding" announcing the arrival of an e-mail and a co-worker pops into your cubicle to catch up on the weekend activities. How do you minimize the interruptions, not offend anyone and still get the work done?
The following 7 tips will help you maintain production and get things done. 

  1. Come in extra early or stay late to avoid the busiest time of the day (and while most interruptions occur.)
  2. Wear a headset and listen to soothing music or white noise.  It will drown out interruptions and help minimize your stress.
  3. Position your workspace away from favorite socialization areas such as the lunch room, coffee pot or photocopier machine.
  4. Set up a physical barrier such as a bookcase, plant or screen to block people from seeing you as they walk past your work station.  As the saying goes, out of sight, out of mind.
  5. Temporarily set your phone to automatic messaging. 
  6. Keep your daily "to do" list in front of you.  Whenever an interruption comes up, look at the list and remind yourself of your top priorities.
  7. After keeping your nose to the grindstone and getting things done, remember to REWARD YOURSELF.

Other tips to save you more time and energy are available in the Time Management Essentials Workshop:  How To Save Time – When You Don’t Have The Time.  Learn how to better organize, plan and manage your time, increase productivity, and reduce stress.



Time Management Essentials

How often have we said, "Where did this day go?" E-Mails, meetings, and telephone calls place demands on our time. We only have so many hours each day to get our work done.  Time management skills have a direct effect on our efficiency, quality of work and stress levels. 
Handling E-mails can be a big time consumer. Every time we hear a "ding" indicating that a new e-mail has arrived, many of us are programmed to leave what we were doing and open up the new e-mail. Unfortunately, with each distraction, we temporarily stop what we have been working on and switch to a new task. While some e-mails are urgent, most are routine. For a person who receives 80 e-mails a day, it could mean up to 10 distractions every hour. 
Action Required – Please note that these tips will require personal self discipline and behavorial modification – but totally worth the change if you are serious about saving time.

  • Turn off the new e-mail notification. This will save you disruptions and allow you to focus on the task at hand.
  • Check messages only 3 or 4 times every day. First thing in the morning, before lunch, 2 pm and before you leave the office. Once again, it will allow you to focus on one task at a time. Studies have shown that multi-tasking does not work.
  • Clean out your inbox each day. File messages by subject or action required.
  • Process each e-mail only once when you open it ie:  Action it immediately, forward it to someone else, file it for future reference, or delete it
  • When sending a message, state the action required in the subject line ie:  To be actioned by (date), For Information Purposes Only, Share with Others. 

Other tips to save you more time and energy are available in the Time Management Essentials Workshop: How To Save Time – When You Don’t Have The Time. Learn how to better organize, plan and manage your time, increase productivity, and reduce stress.



7 Ways to Increase Trust in the Workplace

During a management training session, the question was asked, "How important is trust?" Several responses agreed that trust was overwhelming important to the success of an organization. "Without trust, I have nothing. I have complete trust in my employees," said one experienced manager.

Personal experience has shown that trust has a direct relationship to productivity. With high trust, productivity soars, and with a low level of trust, productivity goes down. 

Trust takes time to build, but it can be quickly broken in a matter of minutes. Some indicators of low trust are excessive red tape, extreme bureaucracy, and intense office politics that result in low morale, absenteeism, fraud, disengagement, and staff turnover. So, how do organizations build trust?

Seven ways to increase trust are:

  1. Model Trust - Trust starts at the top with senior leaders and funnels down to managers and supervisors. Senior leaders must have integrity and demonstrate sound values and ethics. They must model trust. Employees will observe and practice the examples set by leaders.
  2. Trust is Reciprocal - In order to build trust, you must trust others. As difficult as it may sound, take a risk (within reason) and place trust in your manager, co-worker or even a teenager! Every time they follow through, your trust will increase. They will take notice and build their level of trust with you. Then the circle of trust will expand.
  3. Communicate, communicate, communicate.  This is crucial, especially when units are going through change.  According to most employees, the most important thing that they need is the uncompromised truth. Even if the news is bad – they want to know. Tell others what you know and what you don’t know. People cannot get enough information, especially when change is imminent. Don’t hold back, tell them the way it is and you will build trust.
  4. Follow through – Do what you say that you will do. Every time you have a conversation, it will either build or erode trust. 
  5. Ask for help – Admit it, there are times when you need help from others – so seek it out. Encourage others to share their ideas and experience, remember the saying, two heads are better than one. By placing trust in others, it shows that you trust them.
  6. Support – Provide support to others when they need it, but without taking away responsibility. Step back and watch others learn and grow, but step in and respond to their needs when they need encouragement.
  7. Listen with empathy – Be present when listening. Try to understand their feelings and where they are coming from.  

To see how well your team practices trust behaviors, take the Reina team trust quiz at



Develop Your Management Skills Through Employee Engagement

At a recent course, managers were asked to prioritize their top goals for the year. After brainstorming for a few minutes, the majority indicated that greater employee engagement was one of their most important objectives. Managers agreed that they could be an island of high engagement in a sea of low engagement, but each Manager is responsible for the engagement of their direct reports.
A study by Kenexa, an HR strategy firm, found that of the 64 organizations studied, the organizations with highly engaged employees achieved twice the annual net income of organizations whose employees were less engaged. It is well worth the time and effort.
So, how does a manager foster the right environment for greater staff engagement? According to the Conference Board of Canada, the following are the top 5 factors:

  1. Trust in managers and integrity of management
  2. Nature of the work and involvement in decision making
  3. Being able to see how their performance fits within the bigger picture of the organization’s performance
  4. Opportunities for career growth and development
  5. Pride in the organization
  6. Relationships with co-workers and team members
  7. Personal relationship with direct manager or supervisors

So there you have it folks, 7 ways to obtain increased employee engagement. A manager needs to communicate on a regular basis with staff in other to get their thoughts on their work and workplace. A manager is the main contact between the organization and the employee. If we don’t engage an employee, who will?


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