Guest Post: by Dawn O'Connor
Productivity Ninja, Think Productive Canada
Dispelling the time management myth for the busy
Anyone who has worked in an assistant-type capacity understands that most of your time is not your own. Whether you are an executive assistant, administrative assistant, project coordinator or office manager, the day-to-day trials of balancing your work with that of your boss, your peers, and your inbox can be overwhelming.
We need to acknowledge that time is a finite resource, and that greater productivity will result from improved self-management vs. time management. We cannot manufacture more time, but we can make better use of the time we have by harnessing our attention and focus to become a productivity ninja.
1. Zen-like Calm, Preparedness and Agility
Maintaining zen-like calm is the first step in becoming a productivity ninja. Staying calm helps you defeat stress and allows you to focus on what is important. There will never be enough hours in the day to get everything done — so try not to worry about it. It may seem counterintuitive to lower your expectations, but the sooner you get real about how much you can (or cannot!) jam into your “To Do” list, the sooner your stress levels will decrease and the more you will actually get done.
Being prepared is about more than just being ready to field calls or to drop everything to take minutes at an emergency meeting. It’s about being mentally prepared for anything that comes your way. You can do this by taking regular breaks to refresh and refocus your mind. Working through lunch can actually harm your productivity!
Having agility in the work place is not about being a gymnast, but about being mentally alert and actively looking for opportunities and threats. Surrounding yourself with reliable and trustworthy business allies will help you be agile. If an opportunity or crisis arises, you are better equipped to handle it with a solid support network in place.
2. Weapon Savvy and Unorthodoxy
As an administrative professional, you need to anticipate the needs of others, effectively schedule your time and theirs, and perform a host of other activities that make you an event planner one day and a logistics specialist the next.
So you don’t want to be wasting time fussing with your technology. The weapon savvy Productivity Ninja is an expert with computer tools. Start by applying Zero-inbox principles to master your workflow, instead of letting email dictate your priorities. If you use Outlook, try the Task feature to manage follow-ups, project details and delegation. Or consider productivity apps like Toodledo, Teux Deux or Producteev.
No matter the tool you’re using, be sure to download your brain to a trusted system so that you don’t rely on memorization, which can fail you when things get busy.
Unorthodoxy means challenging the status quo. It can sometimes mean breaking rules and bumping up against bureaucracy. If you see something that doesn’t work well, like a process with multiple data entry points, don’t be afraid to ask why it’s done that way. You might be surprised to find the answer is “because we have always done it that way.” Then you can be a superstar by making it work more efficiently.
3. Ruthlessness and Stealth
Your crazy day often includes sacrificing your work in order to help others, being constantly bombarded by phone calls and emails, and dealing with ever-changing schedules and meetings.
Sometimes you need to be ruthless and simply say “no”. Every time you say “yes” to something, you are inherently sacrificing something else. So be clear on your priorities and try saying, “Yes I can do that, if something else comes off my plate.”
In order to emulate the ways of the productivity Ninja, you need to have periods of uninterrupted time away from your co-workers and your inbox. Consider setting aside dedicated time in your schedule, or “going dark” from the internet to support your Ninja efforts. How stealthy can you be? Perhaps you can book a meeting room just for yourself, or sneak out to Starbucks with your laptop and get some serious uninterrupted work done. And maybe treat yourself to a latte while you are there. Even Ninjas need a treat every now and again.
To learn more about the ways of the Productivity Ninja, check out www.thinkproductive.ca or read the e-book ‘How to be a Productivity Ninja’ by Graham Allcott (proceeds go to charity).
Productivity Ninja, Think Productive Canada
For eleven years Dawn has trained and coached thousands of people to help them maximize their productivity at work. Recently she joined forces with Graham Allcott, the founder of UK’s leading productivity training company Think Productive. Together they share a vision to deliver practical solutions and a fresh perspective on personal productivity to companies of all shapes and sizes across Canada.