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A Project Manager’s Guide to Improving Productivity

Operational Efficiency Productivity

As the Project Manager for Mojo Media Labs, I like to think that my job isn’t to micromanage everyone’s workload, but rather to help remove any obstacles that prevent our team from being able to do their best work.
I’m always on the lookout for simple life hacks that will help me and the team work smarter, and I’ve come up with a few that I personally love. I’m not saying that all of these are ride-or-die tips that will magically turn everyone into superhuman workhorses, but I do think that adopting a few of these will help you feel less stressed and more efficient.

Productivity Tip #1: Keep Your Desk Tidy

According to a survey conducted by Office Max, more than two-thirds of Americans admit that they are disorganized and could use improvement in their organizational skills. Of those surveyed, 90% felt that this disorganization has a negative impact on their life, affecting their productivity, state of mind and motivation.

Here are a couple of tips for organizing your workspace, which will help with headspace:

  1. Purge any hard copies of documents from your workspace that you no longer need. File everything else in its appropriate place.
  2. Invest in some simple storage solutions for your desk accessories. This will make sure everything has a place and you know exactly where to look for what you need.
  3. Determine what items need to live on top of your desk and which can be stored in drawers. If you use it every day, keep it handy. If not, move it so it’s not taking up space.
  4. Organize your computer desktop. Delete or file anything that is living on your desktop so you have a clean slate to look at every day.

Productivity Tip Monica Gellar CleanNow, I am somewhat of a self-proclaimed neat freak (I’m the “Monica” of my friends), but I do recognize that there are certain personality types that prefer to work in a state of “organized chaos.” If you’re one who prefers a level of messiness at your workstation, try tidying up once a day for a week and see how that makes you feel. I think you’ll find that you will spend less time looking for things, keep distractions at bay, and will overall be more productive.

Productivity Tip #2: Avoid Multitasking

Ahh, multitasking. Although this is a typical buzzword answer to the ever-common interview question about your greatest strengths, it isn’t as great as we like to make it out to be. In fact, it most likely isn’t your greatest strength because only about 2% of the population can actually multitask effectively. The rest of us are just context-shifting back and forth between two tasks and losing efficiency along the way. Studies show that when trying to focus on multiple tasks, especially when they are complex or unrelated, productivity is lost in the mental shift between the two tasks.

Try to avoid doing mental acrobatics as much as possible by carving out time in your day to complete large or involved tasks. Then bundle your smaller tasks, like catching up on email or responding to Slack messages, into like categories and plan to complete them in chunks to prevent context switching. Of course, things will come up throughout the day, but if you have time blocks for items that you know you need to complete, you can fit those unplanned tasks around them and avoid detracting from your attention.

Productivity Tip #3: Create a Template for Everything

This is one of the tips that I was late to adopt, but now can’t live without. I have created a template for things as simple as weekly client status emails to much more complicated and involved documents like process standard operating procedures (SOPs) and task lists. The idea is to create a template for something that you do often and include all or most of the items that you think could be necessary so you can just delete what you don’t need when you sit down to use it. You can pare down and customize for each instance, but it’s much easier to delete from the template than to add to it every time you need to use it.

A little work on the front end when you’re creating these templates will save you time each and every instance you utilize them. Don’t reinvent the wheel, templatize it!

Productivity Tip #4:  Define How (and Where) Your Team Communicates

More than ever before, technology has gifted us so many tools and resources to increase the speed and effectiveness of communicating in the workplace. Here at Mojo, we use several tools to communicate as they all have their unique benefits and purpose. We use Slack, email, a project management tool, as well as comments and suggested edits in GoogleDocs. You can understand how it could be a challenge to ensure everyone communicates in the same tool, for the same purposes. The way to solve this is by clearly defining a process for communication using your various tools.

For example, I LOVE Slack because it keeps everyone connected and provides the team with a place for day-to-day messaging outside of email. That said, it can become a black hole if you’re using it for document sharing vs. collaboration. Document sharing, for us, happens mainly in our project management tool to streamline projects. You’ll have to see what works best for your team and the tools that you are using and develop a standard agreement for everyone when it comes to how and where you communicate. That way when you’re looking for something specific, you don’t have to search through four different tools to find it.

Productivity Tip #5:  Utilize Your Mornings to Maximize Efficiency

Of the Nine Habits of Productive People, two of them have to do with utilizing your time in the morning to maximize your efficiency. I’m a morning person and I find that I do more of my best work before lunch than I do in the afternoon. The productivity of my day can depend on how my morning goes. Now, not everyone is like me and you might find that they work best at night but that doesn’t mean that this tip isn’t for you. If you work during typical office hours, you’re going to have to be up early so you might as well use that time wisely.

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to take time before work to mentally prepare for the day. Spend time in the morning eating breakfast, drinking coffee, meditating, or working to get you in the right mindset to start your day off right. Try to not look at your calendar or email first thing and spend a little time on yourself so you feel ready to take on the day. My morning routine includes drinking coffee while listening to some of my current audiobook, while hanging out with my cats. Do what works for you!

Productivity Tips Cat

Once you’re in the office, schedule your workday so you can do your more challenging tasks before lunch and plan your monotonous tasks and meetings for the afternoon. Your mind will be fresh and you will be able to focus without the fatigue from the entire day wearing you down. Morning huddles with your team to align on priorities are also something that we love at Mojo. I like to time block my mornings so I can have dedicated time to accomplish the items on my to-do list that are complex and need my full attention. 

So there you go; those are my top five tips to help improve your productivity throughout the day. Simple as they may be, they’re all low effort and very high impact. Get started today on creating some new habits to help you tackle 2018 head on.

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