Justin discusses four main strategies to consider when approaching building a productivity system in the corporate world.
00:00 Hello and welcome to Process. My name is Justin DiRose, owner of the Productivity Guild. And today we are talking about productivity systems in the workplace. Corporate work is about working with other people and when other people are involved, unexpected things happen. People cause things that you can’t control. And so therefore having a solid, flexible system that takes into consideration that others are involved in the work is a great goal for productivity in the workplace. So today we’re going to discuss four main strategies to help you build an effective productivity system to work in a corporate environment.
00:37 Strategy number one, use the tools you want that you actually can. I used to work in IT and I understand that businesses have technology requirements, especially the bigger the organization, the more standardized that companies like to be when it comes to their technology. So that means oftentimes that if you’re a Mac person, you might have to use a PC at work.
00:58 I know that was the case for me when I, when I worked corporate and it wasn’t the most fun. But I did realize during that time that I needed to adjust the tools that I was using to account for the systems and the technology that I had available. So if you’re in that boat, it’s important to take that into consideration when you’re choosing the type of tools that you’re using to get the work done. There are different categories of tools that you can consider in this environment, so if you are a web based tool fan and then you can use them at work because they’re not necessarily blocked. Though some corporations do like to block tools like Dropbox, like Todoist and things like that, but if you can use those tools, make sure to check out applications like Todoist, Evernote, Notion and Asana.
01:43 These are great tools that have a lot of capability for interoperability between different platforms because they’re based on the web. Now, if you’re a Mac person that doesn’t want to give up a tool like OmniFocus, Bear or something else that’s native to the Mac and Ios ecosystem, you may need to bring your own computer or iPad app, access those systems. Though I will be honest, that getting data into and out of those systems will be harder because you’re not necessarily working directly on those devices. I did create some workarounds when I was in corporate and I was still using OmniFocus. By actually heavily using OmniFocus mail drop feature actually created an auto hotkeys script, which is an automation tool similar to keyboard maestro, but for windows that automatically pops open a new outlook message that sends the message directly to OmniFocus. I’ll put a link to that in the show notes, but you may have to look at doing some crazy stuff like that in order to get your system to work a little bit better if you’re wanting to stay on native applications.
02:45 Additionally, you’re also going to need to keep your organization’s technology and security practices in mind. Some organizations frankly don’t want any company information in a tool or system that they don’t control. That means you may be stuck with something like Outlook and OneNote for your productivity system. I went down this road for a while when I worked corporate and frankly you can get a very effective system with those tools alone. You just have to think about your system a little bit differently in order to make it work. You can also use plain text. It doesn’t have all of the features that have full task manager does, but it does get the job done if you just need to write some items down.
03:25 Strategy number two, schedule, schedule, schedule. Your calendar is your best friend. It’s important to block the time off that you need during the week before other people do. I talked about this in the last episode because I’ve seen it be a pattern for some people in the corporate world to not use their calendars for the time that they need in the week to get their stuff done. I will caution you in this area though. You need to have a little bit of balance with it and not to get overzealous with blocking off your schedule because people do often need to schedule meetings with you. I ran into this in the corporate workplace myself. I was managing two teams on the support desk of the company that I was working for and I ended up feeling like I needed to make sure that I had enough time to manage both of them. And so I tended to block things out on my calendar pretty heavily. This worked for a few weeks, but then my boss approached me and said, hey, I don’t know when you’re actually available, so can you make sure that you, if there’s anything personal on your calendar, just adjust the way that it appears on their, because in Outlook I know you can have settings in there that say, Hey, I’m free during this time or it’s tentative or whatnot. Um, he asked me to use some of those just to make it a little bit easier to schedule meetings and know what we’re actually hard items on my calendar and what we’re not. It’s important to be aware of what other people are doing in your organization in order to make sure that work continues to flow together. Again, corporate work is about working with other people and so having that calendar blocked off for the things you need is very important, but also having open times in your calendar too so other people can schedule meetings with you that they need to have with you is important as well.
05:06 This leads into strategy number three that communication is everything. There are a lot of productivity strategies out there that will disrupt a normal workday in a corporate environment. Things like scheduling deep work, things like needing to step away from the office to your clear head and do a review. If you’re going to do something that’s disruptive to your work day or could potentially be disruptive to others who are trying to reach you, make sure that you communicate with your superior. If you’re going to try something like that, having those conversations will save you a lot of headache down the road because you can help your boss understand that you’re really just trying to do something to help yourself be more productive and add value to the organization because just running around to meetings all day and responding to chat messages and emails isn’t necessarily always the most valuable thing for you to do with your time. However, those things are valuable because communication is how an organization runs. Additionally, you can utilize your systems to help you remember to communicate when the work is done and communicate when there are roadblocks to your work.
06:12 Communicating when the work is done is very important, especially in the culture of work that’s developing today that’s much more remote. You’re not necessarily just going to be able to run in to your boss and the hallway and say, Hey, I got that report done. It’s on, it’s in your email inbox, or hey, it’s in the shared folder over here. It’s not as easy to do that because a lot of times our supervisors anymore or being co located away from us. Therefore, communication when the work is done is extremely important. Same thing when there are roadblocks or you’re stuck on a problem and you need some help to figure it out. It’s important to make sure to reach out to them, but you can utilize your task manager or whatever you’re using to take a look at that project and say, I’m not exactly sure where I’m supposed to go with this. I’m stuck on this task. Maybe I need to reach out to somebody to help.
06:57 Now strategy number four, use your system to help set limits. In the world of knowledge work, it’s really easy for us to overburden ourselves because we don’t necessarily have a good grasp of how much time something is going to take, especially when first taking it on. But our system can help us set limits on the amount of work we’re working on at any one given time. If we keep it up to date, so if our system is up to date, that means we have a better picture of the big picture of all of the work we have on our plate. So then when somebody asks you to be part of a new project or wants to bring you in to be part of another team, your system can tell you more effectively just how much you can get involved and how deep that involvement can be.
07:44 But in order for something like this to work, you have to do regular reviews of your system depending upon the number of projects and tasks that you work on in a given week, whether you’re working through a fewer number of slower but longer projects or a large number of smaller projects that can move quickly, you may have to do reviews more frequently depending upon which one of those camps you fall in. If you’re on longer projects where the tasks take longer than you may only need to do a review once a week or so. If you’re doing shorter projects and lots of smaller tasks, which is tends to be the direction. I think that corporations are moving more towards now, especially with methodologies and ideas like Agile and Kaizen, and Lean. They want to make sure that they’re moving through things as quickly as possible because the more things you get through, the more money that you tend to make, but if you’re moving through more things in a given day or given week, you may have to do regular check ins with your setup every day or every couple of days just to make sure you stay on top of that.
08:45 But it’s those reviews that really enable you to have a solid picture of what’s going on in your work life so that you can better make decisions about what types of projects and responsibilities that you can take on. Obviously there’s going to be situations where a boss comes and tells you, say, Hey, I need you to do this by this date and you might not have enough bandwidth to actually do that. That’s when the communication piece comes into play and not in a backhanded way like sometimes you can hear about when talking about taking on work that your boss asks you. But really having an honest conversation to say, okay, I have these things going on over here. In your mind, what’s the priority? So that way you can better prioritize your work because often your boss has a priority list and you have a priority list and it’s important to make sure that those lists stay in sync. So at the root of setting limits then therefore is the strategy of communication.
09:36 Remember, work isn’t about getting everything done. It’s about getting the right things done. You want to make sure that you have prioritized the most important tasks, not only for yourself but for the vision and mission of the organization and department that you are part of. But it’s important to remember in this place that sometimes the right things to do relate to people and relationships. While productivity in the corporate world especially has the connection to efficiency. Don’t forget that things like getting up and to get some coffee and chat with coworkers sometimes are just as important as getting the work done because often your best asset in the workplace are the professional relationships that you build.
10:19 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.
10:43 Lastly, if you like this show, rate us on iTunes or recommend us on Overcast. I’m Justin DiRose and join me next time on Process.