Monthly Archives: June 2011

Time Consuming Conversations – Time Wasters or Absolute Best Use of Your Time?

21 Jun
by Bridget DiCello

One of the biggest time wasters in your business day is time spent talking with other people!


One of the absolute best uses of your work time is productive conversations with people important to your success!

Where is the difference?  Working productively with the right group of people is the key to multiplying success.  However, people are social creatures, who often fear something new, who wish to preserve their self-image and self-confidence, and don’t always get to the point in a conversation.  Therefore, if you wish for your ‘people time’ to be productive, it must be done purposefully.

Schedule appointments to talk.  If you plan to meet with another person and have a conversation, do it purposefully.  If you just ‘stop by’ their office or give them a call without a plan, you may end up wasting both of your time.  And they may do the same with you.

Set expectations ahead of time.  If you need to talk to them, plan a time and day and have an “agenda.”  Set a time and day on your calendars, even 15 minutes from now, to give each person time to “have their first reaction” and to prepare for the meeting.  Have the conversation ahead of time:  “When we speak, I will… and you will.. in order to accomplish [goal, task or decision].”  This works both up and down the chain of command.

For example, “I’d like to talk to you about the production logs.  How about Tuesday at 1pm for 30 minutes?  Before then, I will review the log for my areas of concern.  And you could review the log compared to last month’s as well as looking for overall opportunities for improvement.  When we sit down, we’ll go though the last two months, each sharing our observations.  Does that work for you?”  Make sure you get their commitment to the agenda you suggested.  If they don’t agree, edit or change it so that you can both prepare appropriately and not end up arguing about the agenda during the meeting.

If someone comes to you and wants to talk right then, tell them you are right in the middle of something, would like to be able to give them your full concentration and are wondering if you could come see them in 20 minutes.  Then, ascertain from them what it is they need from you when you come see them.  This asks them to think through the results they desire (which they may really not have done yet), and allows you to prepare as well, saving you both time and potential frustration.

Get very good at asking questions.   In these situations, you want to remain in control, specifically of making sure something productive comes out of the conversation.  Gladly take that responsibility.  In order to do that you need to ask questions from the standpoint of genuine curiosity to see where they are coming from and how that relates to what you are trying to accomplish.  With the information you gather, you can then notice excuses, frustrations in the form of roadblocks, and cries for attention that can get in the way of productive discussion.

When you talk, you share information.  You rarely can change anyone’s mind by talking.  By asking curious questions, you get the other person talking.  When they talk, you hear how they are really thinking.  When they talk, you can prompt them to consider your point of view.  Help them to get to a conclusion, considering what you value.  When they talk is when they think through things and may change their mind as a result.

It’s up to you to work to understand the other person.  The difficulty with having a conversation is that it is with a person – who has their own feelings, experiences, biases, expectations, etc.  The first thing they say is rarely the whole picture – as it is for you.  Ask your questions.  Give them time.

Schedule a follow up conversation if important to them or to you.  Set a time and date and the agenda for that conversation as well.

Top 10 Productivity Tips – A Focused Mind

16 Jun
by Bridget DiCello

With summer officially ready to start next week, have you finished your spring cleaning?  Spring cleaning is not only about pulling out the cleaning products and getting rid of clutter.  These practices are great and can clear your workspace and make you more productive.  However, productivity also comes from a clear head which allows you to be focused and efficient.

Top 10 Productivity Tips – Try them and see if you ‘spring’ forward:

1.  Make the right decision every moment of every day. This is my definition of good time management.  It’s a realization that we make many decisions every day of how to spend our time, whether planned or unplanned.  The more we can make those decisions consciously, according to clear goals, the more productive we will be.  Most people welcome distractions to some extent – as a relief from something stressful, difficult or unpleasant.  Act very purposefully in each moment of the day and pinpoint those times you tend to make decisions to do things not in line with your goals, however small.

2.  Revisit your goals. Dust them off.  Clean them up – do the reality check and adjust the ones that are unrealistic, get excited again about ones that might be a stretch but that you are passionate about, tweak others given your knowledge of the year so far.   And if you never did write them down, do it now.

3.  Identify what must be done this month, this week and today/tomorrow to achieve your goals. One of the best ways to be productive and make the best use of your time is to be focused and plan.  I’m not talking about the strategic five year plan.  I’m talking about knowing the 3-5 non-routine things that you want to accomplish this month to ensure you are further ahead and closer to your goals than when you started the month.  Then, decide what 2-3 things you need to do this week to make that happen.  Then look at your plan for today or tomorrow and decide what 1-3 things you need to do in those 24 hours to move forward on the week’s goals.

4.  Know your Best Time of Day. We all have a time of day where we are most productive.  Are you a morning person?  A night owl?  You only really wake up at noon?  Observe your productivity and effectiveness.  What time of day are you at your best?  When you determine when that is, schedule your most important activities at that time.  Avoid doing trivial tasks or putting out fires during that time.

5.  Schedule your day, week and month. Very few of us have schedules that never get interrupted or rearranged.  But, that is not a reason not to plan at all.  Plot out your month, schedule your week and map out your day.  Leave some “Wing it” time to fit in the little things that pop up.  Schedule a block of time to do the emails, phone calls, etc. that fill your day if you are not careful.  When at the end of the day you have not done everything you wanted to because of fires and interruptions, immediately reschedule the activities that you didn’t do for tomorrow or later in the week.

6.  Get rid of the Things to Do List. They haunt most of us.  Instead of putting something on the list, simply schedule it somewhere in your day or week.  If you cannot find anywhere to put it, that means it is really not important enough to you to get done, so don’t torture yourself with leaving it to haunt you on a list.  You may want to keep a “To Do Someday” List for those things that are great ideas, but are just not a priority right now.  Then, put it away and only look at it periodically.

7.  Schedule appointments to talk. If you plan to meet with another person and have a conversation, do it purposefully.  If you just ‘stop by’ their office or give them a call without a plan, you may end up wasting both of your time.  And they may do the same with you.  If you need to talk to them, plan a time and day and have an “agenda”.  More thoughts on that next week…

8.  Do a time log. After you have planned your month, week and day, and taken all the things to do list items and scheduled them somewhere, for just a few days – record what you actually did.  Compare your reality to your plan.  Maybe you need to adjust how you do what you do, become more effective, learn to say no, or delegate more.  Unless you have a good picture of what you are actually doing, it’s hard to have a basis for productive change.   And no, you really don’t know what you spend your time doing until you log it.  Try it and you’ll see!

9.  Stop Procrastinating. Many managers and leaders are procrastinators.  I never believed that about myself until I understood the connection between procrastinating and being a perfectionist.  For the perfectionist, it is rarely ever the right time or there is not enough time to do it right so, “Why do it?”  Not to say that perfectionists are not productive, just that certain things that are new, different or particularly important get put off for the more immediate, urgent and familiar tasks at which they can more easily succeed.

10.  Keep track of information. You may mistake being able to do a lot with being organized.  It’s amazing how much time we spend looking for something, finding information twice, having a conversation or part of it a second time, or sorting through the volumes of information we use to run our business.  Review your systems for collecting, sorting and using information in your business and to develop your team members.  Do they effectively support your mission or do they slow you down?

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