Tag Archives: time management

Telecommuting: Keeping Your Offsite Employees on Task

Telecommuting: Keeping those offsite on target.

telecommutingWith the economy in the state is in today, telecommuting is fast becoming a popular alternative for employees. The question is how to keep these employees on task so that productivity is still achieved at a maximum level. Telecommuting offers flexibility which is highly desired by many employees; however, companies are sometimes hesitant to offer this opportunity due to bad experiences in the past with employees who did not pull their weight and were a drain on the company. Most remote workers understand the need to work harder than their counterparts on site and strive to make it happen.

Although there are many advantages in being an offsite employee, there are disadvantages too. Telecommuting employees are not able to participate in the water cooler conversations that happen on site. They do not get to develop strong personal relationships with their cubicle neighbors. They also tend to bear the brunt of blame when things go wrong. Looking deeper at these disadvantages; however, reveals that they might not be as negative as they seem. Water cooler is often centered on gossip, employees can still get to know their team without being in a cubicle next to them and people often try to find scapegoats wherever they can, regardless of where they are located.

Remote employees need to recognize that although a flexible schedule contributes to a better work and life balance, they need to be accountable, stay connected and communicate in ways that lets the office know what they are working on as well as establishing relationships with the teammates back at the office. Do not give off the appearance of a robot that sends emails and has an electronic voice. If you take the time to get to know the onsite employees at your company, you will be appreciated and accepted by them even if you are not physically with them all the time.

Consider these five tricks and tips to help you maintain those relationships and stay productive:

1. Track your work output – Let your manager or supervisor know what you work on every day. If it makes sense, keep your teammates up to date too. There are lots of resources on the Internet, including free online tools to keep track of work output.

2. Use Instant Messenger like it is your best friend – Most likely you are working near a computer with Internet accessibility. Utilize an IM program that allows you to send links, information or questions whenever you think of them. This makes you feel connected to those at the office and lets them know that you are actually working. The conversation that you have with IM is more fluid than simple emails.

3. Stick to a schedule – Although a flexible schedule is one of the desired outcomes for an offsite employee, having clear work hours is still a necessity. This makes you accessible to your teammates at the office so they know when to get a hold of you.

4. Set up weekly communications – If you are unable to make it to the office once a week due to distance, set up a weekly communication with key members of your team. Video chats or conference calls are important whether you perceive a need or not, so you can show off your personality and talk shop. You will find that there is always something to talk about even if you did not have a list of topics ready beforehand.

5. Make your voice heard – Just because you are not physically at the office does not mean you are not a vital part of the team. Make your voice a part of the conversation when emails are sent or during conference calls. This is an excellent way to digitally brainstorm with your fellow teammates and clarify what happens at the office when you are not there.

Keep these five tips in mind when working at a company that allows the flexibility of telecommuting. Get to know your fellow teammates, stay connected with management and communicate regularly on what you are doing to ensure that you stay accountable and visible from your office at home.

To help with the idea of productive telecommuting, why not check out our next article on the “Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE), What it is and How it can Help Your Business.”

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Increasing Productivity & Effectiveness: How Parkinson’s Law can Help Your Company

Using Parkinson’s Law to increase productivity in your company.

parkinson's lawFor the worker bees of the world, productivity is king. They work long hours, hoping to show their boss how dedicated they are to their job with the hopes of promotion. Sadly, those who live by the words “work harder, not smarter” are most likely wasting most of those 40 hours a week, when they actually could be getting more work done and still have a good bit of personal time to spare.

The idea is not new. In 1955, noted British author Cyril Northcote Parkinson opened an essay in the Economist with the following words: “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” The essay describes how the British bureaucracy had become bloated because officials favored the appearance that civil servants were working hard over the much more efficient alternative: working smarter, and shorter hours.

When workers in any context are given an ample amount of time to complete a task, Parkinson’s law posits that they will use all of that time to complete the task to look like they are busy. Not only is this a waste of resources, but it also actually creates stress on the worker as the task inevitably becomes more burdensome than necessary because they have drawn it out to fill a large gap of time. Parkinson’s law dispels the notion that just because an employee spends more time working on a task that it must result in a better quality end product.

It is not too difficult to incorporate these principles in your daily life and work routine so you can get more done in less time. It boils down to good time management, and changing the amount of time you think a certain task takes to complete. Start the day with a list of tasks, and for each one write down the amount time you think you need to complete them. Now cut that number in half.

This may cause you some apprehension at first, but give it a try. Most people overestimate the time it takes to complete a task because they are used to stretching the job out to fill an entire workday. Think of it as a game, and the objective is to beat the clock. This will make your work more fun and engaging as well. You may want to get your hands on a digital timer, as it is easier to time your tasks that way versus using a clock.

As you get used to this process, you may need to adjust your times if you find that getting them complete in the allotted time period is just impossible. This is likely if you are already fairly good at estimating the minimum amount of time you need to finish a job. Don’t cut the time down to the point where the quality of your work becomes rushed or shoddy. The idea is to experiment and find the true amount of time it takes to complete a task when you are purely focused on its completion.

The easiest tasks to squash are time-fillers such as checking email or maybe browsing the web for work-related articles. Cut down that 30 minute morning email routine to just five minutes. Then you have time left to get a jump-start on your next task, or perhaps find time to look at a few things that interest you. Everyone needs a little “me” time to get through the day.

As you become adept at reducing the amount of time it takes to get work done, you will find that you have extra time to do with what you want. You could take on more work, squeeze in some personal errands, watch a few videos on-line and still leave early on Friday.

Parkinson’s Law is only part of the battle to Increase Productivity!

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Efficient Meetings: Stop Wasting Time!

Efficient Meetings: Stop Wasting Time!

How many times have you sat through an interminable meeting, wondering why on earth you are there? I have often found myself resorting to counting ceiling tiles with boredom, or planning the week’s grocery shopping in my head. The last meeting I went to was so pointless that I had a great opportunity to think about who I was going to invite to my birthday party. Not all meetings are like this, of course, but the majority are. The annoying thing is, it only takes a few simple time management tips to create efficient meetings– but it seems that most people running meetings don’t know about these. Meetings are an essential part of human existence. When you sit for hours with your accountant going through your tax return you might dispute this! But we humans are social animals. Meetings are not just about business. We might meet with friends to plan a party, or with family to plan an event like a wedding or holiday.

The key word here is plan. Every meeting needs a plan.

Things come in threes: and there are three parts you need to think about when planning a meeting: the preparation, the meeting itself and a recap at the end.

Preparing for your meeting

Whatever the size or scale of your meeting, it will need planning. The three P’s of meeting planning should help:

Purpose: What is your meeting’s aim? You need to have a goal. Don’t just hold a meeting because you always do. If the purpose of your meeting is just to update people, why not send an email instead.

People: Once you know what your meeting is for, you can make sure the right people are attending. Remember – top of anyone’s list of time management tips is the reminder that people’s time costs money. Think for a moment how much an hour of someone’s time costs your company. Will your meeting achieve enough to justify that cost? Are you engaging people at the right level? Managers are busy people who may want to send a deputy to your meeting, but if it is management-level authority that you need, then this might be a waste of time. Use time management tips to help in reducing meeting time.

Papers: All good meetings need to communicate in advance. You should send out a formal agenda – or at least an email with some idea of the meeting’s content and purpose – so that participants come ready to engage with the topic. Good time management tips include sending the papers out in good time (up to 48 hours in advance) and keeping them brief. This gives everyone a chance to read and absorb the topics.

Running the meeting

A good meeting has a limited agenda. This is where your pre-planning comes into play. An hour-long meeting should only have two or three topics for discussion. If you include more, and you risk over-running your time, and over-loading your participants with information.

If you worry about meeting time management, tips to follow include making sure that everyone knows what the agenda is, and then sticking to it during the meeting. If new topics arise, make a note of these for the next meeting.

Someone should take notes of your meeting. A formal meeting may need ‘minuting’ in detail. Even for an informal meeting, it is a good idea to make a note of any actions – who has agreed to do what. If there are more than two or three participants, it is generally not a good idea for the person running the meeting to take the notes at the same time.

Action replay

At the end of every meeting, there needs to be a recap of what has just happened. This helps to focus the participants on what has happened. The person running the meeting should summarise the proceedings of the meeting (very briefly!). It is also a good idea to run through any actions which people have agreed to undertake. After the meeting, send out a quick email with a summary of actions, and formal minutes if required.

This might all seem like a lot of work – but it pays off in the long run. If you everyone is in agreement about the purpose and outcomes of a meeting, it will be more effective, and hopefully shorter. You might even decide that you don’t need a meeting at all. Then you would have more time to plan that birthday party in peace.

While I was planning my party, I came across a new problem – there were many duplicate contacts in my phone’s address book and in my outlook contact list. Fortunately there is software that can help with removing these duplicate contacts – leaving me with more time for party planning, and other fun activities.

Armed with techniques for efficient meetings, Stop Wasting Time!

Additional relevant articles:

Pomodoro Technique and The Results Curve

Increasing your workflow with The Pomodoro Technique and The Results Curve

I’ve planned out my work session and set my timer. Now I have to get to work – the timer is ticking away, so there isn’t a moment to lose! Since I’ve given myself a limited time frame in which to accomplish as much as possible, I want to be as productive during that time as I can. Probably more than any other aspect of The Pomodoro Technique and The Results Curve, methods for maximizing productivity will vary from person to person. However, the creators of these techniques offer a few suggestions for increasing productivity within your work time.

Pomodoro Technique and The Results Curve

Francisco Cirillo, the creator of the Pomodoro Technique, offers a suggestion for structuring each work session to keep you on track. He recommends using the first 3 to 5 minutes of the session to review what you’ve accomplished on the current task so far. This keeps the task fresh in my memory and cements what I’ve already learned. Reviewing what I’ve already done can also help me clarify what steps should be taken next.

Using this structure, I would work on the next steps in my task for 15 to 20 minutes after reviewing my previous accomplishments. Then I use the final 3 to 5 minutes of my work session to review what I’ve accomplished during this work session. Cirillo recommends starting the review at the end of the work session and working back to the beginning. He calls this an “effect-cause procedure”; I determine what I accomplished at the end of the session, then work towards the beginning to determine whether that’s what I actually intended to accomplish. This helps me to evaluate whether my work flow is helping or hindering my productivity, and I can tweak it to accomplish more next time.

In “The Accomplishment Zone” of the Results Curve, Pierre Khawand states that accomplishments occur when we are focused on a task. The resulting suggestion is simple: I must stay focused on a task long enough to get into the “zone” where my productivity increases. Khawand suggests that it takes around 30 minutes to reach this zone, but it’s been my experience that I get there much faster when I’m working on a task that I truly enjoy and find interesting. It might take the entire 30 minutes, or even longer, if it’s a task I don’t particularly care for.

At first glance, it appears that the work structures from the Pomodoro Technique and the Results Curve contradict each other. The Pomodoro Technique asks us to set aside a few minutes at the beginning and end of each session, while the Results Curve encourages us to focus on one task for as long as possible. However, it’s my opinion that these strategies actually complement one another. Reviewing previous work at the beginning of a session can plunge my brain into the middle of my task and help me get to that focused, productive zone more quickly. Once I’ve reached that zone, I don’t snap out of it when I perform the review at the end of the session; instead, my high level of concentration helps me to evaluate my work flow and quickly form ideas for how to make the next work session even more productive.

With these time management methods, you can effectively complete tasks at the intended time and be more productive. As you are refining your workflow using task lists, you can also clean up your Outlook, Mac, Gmail or Google Apps address books by removing duplicate contacts using the Scrubly duplicate contact remover tool. You can scan your contacts free by visiting http://www.scrubly.com.

by utilizing the Pomodoro Technique and The Results Curve, you will soon be on top of managing even the most daunting projects!

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