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Mark Twain famously said that if the first thing you do in the morning is eat a live frog, you can go through the rest of the day knowing the worst thing is out of the way and behind you. So, what does eating the frog mean? The “frog” is your worst task, the task you put off for hours; or the task you dread doing. Believe it or not, in order to be more productive, this task should be done first. Unbelievable right?
Productivity can be interpreted in many ways, shapes and sizes. Whether being productive is making a to do list, focusing on working towards goals, understanding when you’re most productive during the day, how we are most productive depends on our own individual styles and what works for you might not work for me or someone else. Recently I was asked to be a panel speaker at the Committee for Ballarat Connect Conference which was held in May this year. The theme for the panel session was eat the frog, and being the first public speaking event, the topic consumed my thoughts for months of preparation. Productivity is something I thought I have always done well so I was ecstatic to share my wisdom and experience on the topic.
During the eat the frog panel session, I was intrigued by another panellists’ views on productivity. Productivity to this person meant not writing a to do list and he loathed the thought of anyone else using lists. My first initial thought was “how can anyone survive without a to do list, how would they operate, what does this look like for them”. Then this comment got me thinking a little bit more, I was hooked on this one comment and couldn’t get the thought out of my head. After reflecting on the comment, I realised something… we are all wired differently. Who’s to say my way of productivity is right? Different styles, different personalities and different quirks, we all have them. I have been lucky enough to find the style of managing productivity that works for me early on in my career. However, I know others haven’t been so lucky and still struggle with what works for them to enhance their productivity.
In listening to the panellists explain their quirks and ways of “eating the frog”, something I learnt along the way is that productivity isn’t just about time management.
Some of my key tips to making sure you’re productive, not just managing your time are:
- Take the time to plan and prepare
I have found taking the time to prepare first thing in the morning is key to setting my day up, sometimes even the week. Being an Executive Assistant at a Recruitment agency requires a fast-paced turnaround of tasks, which means I must be on the ball and accept that not every task will be ticked off the to do list. Planning and preparing for the day will ensure you overcome the hardest, worst and painful task first to get it out of the way. Ensuring you take the time to plan for the day will allow you to tackle the frog before it turns into a toad.
- If you don’t know, ask
Procrastination can be the biggest time waster known to overpower someone. In the past I’ve fallen into the trap of procrastinating, by leaving the dreaded task until later as I didn’t have the knowledge/resources myself and needed assistance from my colleague/manager. I soon learnt this was not an effective way to operate. Asking your colleagues for assistance and researching how something needs to be done is the easiest way to overcome procrastination. Procrastination can take up a lot more time than the task itself and it’s best to hit it on the head.
- Find the style that fits you
Not everyone has to adhere to my wacky ways of colour coding, endless lists and countless sticky notes. It’s about finding a productive style that fits for you, what does this style look like for you? You may like to work from a digital diary or you still like the old-fashioned paper diary. You need to find the style that fits for you. Productivity only works if you are willing to make it work. Steering a colleague in the direction of using a daily list and colour coding when they aren’t inclined to work that way will crash and burn before you can say “where is my list?”. To help you find your style, trial different methods and work out what gets you the best outcome to the end goal of productivity.
- Make sure you know what is important
During our panel session, a guest asked the question; “what do you do if you plan and something urgent comes up?”. In order to know what the priorities are you need to understand the urgency of the task. For one person the issue may be a toad but to another person it might simply be a tadpole. Understanding the timeline and the urgency will ensure you can complete the task without putting unnecessary stress on yourself and your colleagues.
At the end of the day we are all wanting to achieve the same end goal of being productive. Some people might take the long road and some might take a short cut, in the end it is up to you what productivity looks like and how you manage your responsibilities effectively.
Taylah Driscoll joined the Inspire HQ team in early 2017 and she now is an Executive Assistant and manages the customer service experience while providing executive support to the team. Taylah has an extensive background in customer facing roles and understands and appreciates the importance of building lifelong relationships with Inspire HQ’s client and job seekers. She has a passion for helping people achieve their career aspirations. Find more useful information and advice at www.inspirehq.com.au