Justin shares some strategies managers (and corporate employees) may find useful for their productivity systems in the corporate world.
00:00 Hello and welcome to Process. My name is Justin DiRose, owner of the Productivity Guild and today we’re going to talk about makers, managers and productivity systems.
00:12 I spent about five years of my career in it in a corporate environment all while growing in my productivity junkiehood. Over time I became aware that there are different ways that people need to approach productivity in the workplace and sometimes those ways don’t necessarily line up with what us productivity experts tend to say. So as a result, I’m going to spend the next couple of episodes of process hitting on some of these corporate focused topics. Now a side note here, if you’re a worker in a corporate environment and are looking for other resources on being effective at your job, I highly recommend checking out the Manager Tools podcast. While the name describes managers, yes, it does focus on managers, but there’s a lot of great information on how corporations work and how to advance your career as well as productivity tools every once in awhile in that podcast. I highly recommend it. It’s very high quality and they do a very good job of honoring your time and getting enough information to you that you can act on.
01:11 So before we dive into today’s topic, here’s a productivity disclaimer. Many of us in the productivity space are makers. We make things. Our priority isn’t necessarily usually handling people, but the stuff that we output. Therefore I think the advice that we experts can give can be biased in the direction of people who make stuff. That’s advice like check email once a day, get as much deep work as possible. In fact, to try to schedule your whole day out from beginning to end. Then plan out projects in as much detail as you can. While this advice is not bad on its own, it’s definitely not applicable to everyone, especially folks who work in a corporate environment.
01:50 So when it comes to work, the roles occupied by workers tend toward two ends of a spectrum, either a maker or a manager. A maker is someone who clearly makes stuff. A manager is someone who tends to keep the ship going in the right direction and usually manages the makers. People have some semblance of both of these duties and ends of the spectrum in their jobs and in their work. And this is especially so in the corporate world. Now, while there’s a lot of advice out there for makers in today’s podcast, we’re going to focus largely on the differences that a manager may need to take in their productivity systems to be more effective. Okay, so let’s talk a little bit about what a manager is. A manager is someone whose primary function is to help others do their work. Usually those people are makers and in contrast to makers whose goal is to make things, managers have a goal of making sure the ship sails smoothly and stays on target. Managers often field questions, handle lots of communication and spend quite a lot of their day in meetings.
02:49 In the productivity sense. Being a manager is largely about moving quickly and keeping the group on track. But managers often have their own maker type work to do too and balancing their managerial duties with their maker duties is extremely challenging. So today I want to outline some strategies that will help managers be a little bit more effective in a productivity sense about handling their systems and all the stuff that they have to do and all the stuff that they have to handle throughout their day of being a manager. Now don’t worry if you are not a manager by title or by job function, this podcast will help you out a little bit as well. And here’s why. Organizations and corporations are entirely management driven. This means that the entire culture about the work that’s done is influenced by the management perspective. So while you’re self employed and you don’t have a boss, you can totally go straight down this maker route and just structure your day and structure your work that way.
03:46 But when you are in a corporate environment that is heavily influenced by managerial duties because most of the people in that workplace are managers at some level or capacity, the work that the frontline people or makers do often has a lot of managerial aspects to it as well, such as the communication piece. If you check your email once a day and you only check it at nine o’clock and the boss sends you an email at eight o’clock in the morning that you need to see right away, that’s just not going to fly because the boss has an expectation that you’re checking your email. Now, granted, a lot of this can be corrected with communication and talking with your boss about things like that. We’ll get into that stuff in another episode, but it’s just important to know that this managerial mindset towards work influences everybody inside of a corporation and so that’s why sometimes the work and productivity mindsets that are required to be effective in a corporate environment are different from other areas of life. Let’s dive into these strategies.
04:48 Probably the most important thing that I found helpful as a manager in a corporate organization is to capture everything. You can. Don’t just capture tasks, but get good meeting notes, project ideas, write down efficiency improvements, conversations that you need to have or have had people that you would like to connect with and network with. Whatever it is, capture it. Capturing and processing that later on is your best friend. As a manager, you are often going to have tasks on your plate that you can’t do. That you either have to delegate down to somebody or they’ll just have to sit on a shelf somewhere until you get time to do them, but you don’t want those tasks that get put off to be the most important ones. That’s why capturing everything is important because it gives you a bigger picture to make decisions from, so when you’re looking through a task manager like OmniFocus or Todoist, you can see all the tasks that you have there and make decisions on what’s the most important for you to do right now.
05:46 Email is everybody’s favorite thing to rag on. And especially as productivity experts, we like to say, well just check it once a day, but as I already outlined, that’s not always feasible. So in the world I advise and I’ve found it to be helpful to email as much as you need to, but set limits on yourself. The folks over at Manager Tools really advocate three 30 minute blocks a day for email. And if you can’t actually write through all of your emails during 30 minutes, that’s okay. That’s what capturing and processing is for. So you deal with the emails that you can, you process the ones through, you know, you use your Getting Things Done two minute rule to respond and an archive or forward or whatever you need to do for all those emails in your inbox and then add the ones that you can’t deal with right at that moment to your task manager and deal with them later.
06:34 Now when you add limits, you help enforce Parkinson’s law in a positive way. So Parkinson’s law says that work expands to the time allotted to it. Well if you only a lot, 90 minutes a day to email, it’s really easy to not have email extend throughout your whole day. But if you sit there with your email client open all day long, you’re going to do email all day long, especially if you work in a very high email volume organization, which I know a lot of managers do. So while checking email once a day doesn’t work in the corporate world, you can set some limits. You’ll just have to experiment a little bit to see what works for you and your organization and also what expectations your boss may have. And if you’re interested in trying something out, don’t be afraid to run it by your boss. That’s probably going to be your best friend and we’ll talk about this in another episode, but that’s probably going to be your best friend when you’re trying out new productivity strategies, especially ones where you may disappear for a little while. Talk to your boss about it and get approval first.
07:33 So if you’re a front line manager, meaning you manage people who don’t have any direct reports, remember that your direct reports are likely makers and as much as you’re able to allow them to work as such. I mentioned before this managerial idea influences the way that everybody works in a corporation, but as we know, deep work and being able to focus is really important for people who need to dig in and actually produce something and produce something of high value. So if you have the opportunity to let your workers work in a focused and deep fashion, do everything that you can to allow them to do that.
08:10 While working corporate, I noticed that the most overlooked tool for managing your day was often the calendar, which is really funny, but most of my peers never utilized their calendars. They just put the meetings that they had to on there and they left everything else open, but your calendar is your friend and so therefore block off whatever you need first. Otherwise just like your inbox, often your calendar is another task bucket where people will fill it up before you get the chance to even deal with it. So I know as a manager you will have maker tasks that are projects or deliverables and on your calendar make sure that you can create focus bubbles in your day for deep work times so that you can actually get those things done. Now granted, you might not be able to do four hours straight because you’re a manager and you need to be available. However, you might be able to do 30 minutes here, an hour and a half there, and if you can do that a couple times in a week, that’s a lot of work that you can get done.
09:10 This one is something that I found fairly important to remember because even though we want to capture everything that we can do, remember that if a task doesn’t make it into your task management system, it’s probably because you’re moving fast and that’s okay. A lot of management is moving quickly. Managers need to make snap decisions. They need to be able to often assess the situation and figure out how to approach it in a very short period of time versus being able to sit back and think about it a long period of time and then make a decision on it and whatever’s going on there, but if you’re moving fast and you don’t and you have a task that doesn’t make it into your system, don’t worry about it. Sometimes adding items to your system is not worth the effort if you’re going to deal with it right away. If you’re not going to deal with it right away, then definitely add it to your system.
10:00 The last strategy that I have here is to be sure to do regular reviews. This is advice that spans all realms of productivity, but especially in the corporate environment when things are moving quickly and you’re capturing lot of information and you’re attending a lot of meetings and there’s a lot of stuff you got to keep up on and figure out where it’s at. Make sure you review your systems regularly, not just your task manager, but your meeting notes and your project notes and your project documentation, whatever it is that you need to review it, make sure it’s up to date, make sure it’s clear, make sure you have an idea of exactly where it needs to be and add tasks, your system to advance it there, but I know that when you fall off of that review bandwagon, it makes getting your work done all that much more difficult.
10:46 Well that’s all for this time. If you want to join in on the discussion for this episode or you want to connect with others who are in the process of becoming better on their productivity journey, head on over to the Productivity Guild at productivityguild.com. Or if you want to support this podcast and get access to video modules, productivity courses, and more consider signing up for a Pro membership at the Productivity Guild for just $10 a month. Lastly, if you liked this show, rate us on iTunes or recommend us on Overcast. I’m Justin DiRose and join me next time on Process.