How To Be A Productive Leader Even Though Your ‘To Do’ List Is Expanding

How To Be A Productive Leader Even Though Your ‘To Do’ List Is Expanding

by Chris Atkinson in career
porductive%20leader
Today’s pharma leaders are busier than ever before, and it takes a cool, calm and competent manager to make headway on company goals while simultaneously putting out the everyday fires of running a team.  

It is possible. By wringing every last moment out of the day, you can push your team to new heights and get the respect of senior management - all while keeping on top of your admin.  

The key is in your productivity. There are ways to find ‘lost’ hours in your day and week and reclaim a sense of order and control over your schedule.  

Here are six ways you can supercharge your productivity.  

1. Banish the idea that you are a master multitasker. 


…….You are not. However, don’t worry, your CEO isn’t either.  
In fact, nobody is.  

The idea that our brains allow us to concentrate on multiple tasks at once is a myth: what we are actually doing is known as ‘rapid-task-switching’.  



The danger is that each time we switch between tasks, we lose momentum, thereby dragging down productivity. It’s been shown that up to 40% of productivity is lost when we switch tasks, as it takes up to 20 minutes for our minds to ‘warm up’ to the new task at hand.  

There’s more.  

When we try and do two things at once, our ability to do either well plummets. In a study where people ‘tried’ to study while watching television, it was proven that the information was passed to the wrong part of the brain, ending up in the striatum rather than the hippocampus. 

The solution? Try to finish off a task in one sitting. We know - sometimes that’s not possible, particularly for managers who have many competing demands. However, you should be aware of the dangers of ‘attempted multi-tasking’, and this should also affect how you manage your team.  
 
Ask yourself, do you need to pull that person away from what they’re doing? Are you asking them to fit too many different tasks into one day, and therefore making them feel like they’re up against an impossible task? Are you doing this to yourself too?  

 

2. Turn off your email and phone notifications.  


It’s been shown that merely being aware of an email notification drops your short-term memory by 10 points. It’s that distracting. 
 
The solution? Disable the email popups on your screen and phone, and turn off any ‘notification dings’ that break your concentration. If you’re doing high cognitive work that doesn’t require an internet connection, turn your Wi-Fi off.  



Ideally, you’ll structure your day to only respond to emails at set times, such as 8, 1, and 4. Put an auto-response on your email if you need to, telling people to call if it’s urgent. While your role of a manager may make this impossible, consider encouraging your team to do it.  

3. Break big tasks into small tasks.  


This applies both to you and your team. When you break large tasks into their smallest constituent parts, you achieve two things.  
 
1) You reduce multitasking and therefore loss of productivity simply because the task is small.  

2) You motivate people to work faster, as the end is in sight.  

This is what we call a win-win. Clever managers understand that human motivation works best when faced with short-term goals—even better if you’re building incentives and rewards into reaching regular milestones.  

4. Do an audit of your working week. 


If you’ve never tracked your time for a week, prepare to be surprised. A great exercise is to plan out your week in advance, estimating how long you’ll spend on each task. Then use a time tracker to monitor everything you do for a week. Then compare the two. Now, do you see why you never get your to-do list ticked off?  

You’ll almost certainly notice that there are specific tasks that consistently take up more time than you expect. You’ll be able to assess where you waste time or get bogged down in things simply because you’re not very good at them.  

Are these tasks you could outsource or delegate? Alternatively, could you get some training from the IT team on how to use your project management software to its capacity, rather than just for the basic tasks?  

Additionally, you’ll learn how much time you need to leave free in your schedule to make room for the inevitable ‘unexpecteds’ that crop up in a manager’s day. This will alter from day to day, but by creating a bit of room in your day, you give yourself a fighting chance to get your entire to-do list ticked off.  

5. Know your productive times of the day. 


When do you power through the work? Is it mornings? Late afternoons? Schedule your high pay-off and high priority activities for times when you know your brain is at its highest function. Emails and admin should be done at times when your mental energy is flagging. 

6. Schedule time each week to assess your progress and make at least one forward move.

  
It’s dangerously easy for a week to pass by without any real progress being made on your big leadership goals. That’s why you need to schedule an unbreakable appointment with yourself each week to assess where you are with the important stuff. Are you moving the team forward or just frantically treading water? Try to do one thing, no matter how small, that pushes you towards the goal. It’s a good idea to schedule this time for when no-one else is in the office, so there are no distractions.  

Above all, be realistic about what you can achieve. If you put too much on your list, you will doom yourself to failure, and feel like a failure. Set realistic expectations for what you and your team can accomplish in a day, and get a boost of achievement and motivation when you hit that goal.  

Get to it! 

Until next time,  

Chris 


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