Productivity Skills - FAQ

Why is goal setting important?
As well as setting goals for your team as a whole, you will usually be expected to set targets for each team member as part of their annual appraisal process. How successful you are in doing this will have a big influence on not only their productivity but also in how they perceive you as a manager

Which goal setting theories can help me?
There are three goal setting theories that can help you to be a more effective manager. For example, if a goal is set using the SMART method it may be either too complex or too simplistic. On the other hand, when using the '4CF', a goal statement may be produced that is not as clear as one produced by the SMART method.

What is the 4CF method of goal setting?
This method is based on Dr Edwin Locke and Dr Gary Latham's goal setting theory which posits that that there are five fundamental principles to setting effective goals.

What is the SMART method of goal setting?
The SMART method of goal setting specifies that all goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound.

What is backwards goal setting?
This method of goal setting uses the strategy of working backwards from what you want to achieve, which makes it easier to determine the individual steps that are needed.

How can I prioritize my personal goals?
Prioritizing goals is just as important as setting them as it enables you to work effectively and rationally in attaining those goals that are most important and aid in you completing others.

Why is delegation such an important management skill?
There is no other skill that will increase your productivity to the same degree as being able to delegate successfully. As a specific skill, delegation is one that becomes increasingly more important as you progress through levels of management and will greatly increase your own productivity.

What are the principles of successful delegation?
The degree of authority delegated to an individual should be adequate to assure their ability to accomplish the results expected of them. In addition, you should avoid micro-managing the task, take the time to set up adequate controls and be prepared to allow others to make mistakes.

What are the six stages of the delegation process?
There are six stages you should follow so that your delegated activities are successfully completed. This logical process allows you to clearly define your requirements at each stage and will ensure that your personal productivity is optimized.

What are a managers responsibilities regarding delegation?
There are certain competencies and behaviors you must adopt to ensure your success when delegating work. These include giving full responsibility, focusing on the results, not on the process, providing the necessary resources, giving constructive feedback and providing backup and support when needed.

How should a manager monitor delegated tasks?
One of the most difficult problems you will face when monitoring delegated task is the so-called over-reporting problem. This becomes a greater risk as the complexity and length of the task increases.

How should delegated tasks be reviewed?
Once you have delegated a piece of work, it is vital that you not only monitor progress, but also provide regular feedback to the team member. Feedback is also a major contributor to motivation and empowers people by enabling them to build upon their successes and lets them know that their efforts are appreciated. This should improve their performance and enable them to keep their problems and concerns in perspective.

How can I manage the interruptions during my working day?
There are a variety of ways you can avoid the guilt often associated with avoiding interruptions and one of the most effective is creating a screen that allows you to work undisturbed. The type of screen you will use varies according to how long you require total focus on a particular task and upon your organization or department.

How can I regain control of my time?
For you to be an effective manager you must incorporate practices that enable you to control the number and type of interruptions. A key element of your own productivity is ensuring you maintain good working relationships with all colleagues and external partners.

What is the best way to identify interruptions?
Almost everyone would benefit from a strategy for dealing with incoming calls. For example, use Voicemail or a colleague to field calls whenever possible, learn to 'close out' calls quickly when they have achieved their purpose and always get back to people when promised or they will keep calling you to check progress.

What is the best way to limit socializing at work?
The distinction between socializing and networking usually comes down to the topic of the conversation. Generally, if it is work related then it's networking, if it isn't, then it's socializing . The latter are best conducted in your own time, for example, breaks, lunch times or after work.

How can I protect my core working time from interruptions?
There are some well-known techniques that will help divert interruptions from interfering with your protected periods of time. Many of these are simple to introduce and use in your working practices. You will have to select those most suited to your role and work place.

How can I manage telephone interruptions?
The key to your success is to ensure that you do your best to reduce interruptions by phone. Such calls break into your train of thought and destroy your concentration. This has the dual impact of reducing your effectiveness on you current task and more often than not you have to break off totally to solve or find information required by the interrupting caller.

What is the best way to handle incoming calls?
The only way to avoid being interrupted quite so often is to make it clear to your work colleagues that you check your emails at particular times and if they need an urgent response then they should call you. This is usually quite difficult to get across and you will have to accept that you will upset some people by not replying to their emails straightaway.

What is the best way to handle outbound calls?
Whilst the phone can be a source of major distraction with all the calls you receive, it also an important tool, along with your email, in keeping others informed and up-to-date as required. If these outgoing calls are not managed effectively, they will also become a major interruption to your effective working.

How can I stop myself continuously checking my emails?
The ubiquity of Smartphones means that most people are now in the situation where they have emails arriving every few minutes. The problem is that it is impossible to know whether an email is important or trivial without looking at it.

What can you do to reduce your workload to a manageable level?
When it comes to personal productivity, the single biggest problem that people have is over commitment. This issue is both the hardest to recognize and the most difficult to address. Being over committed means simply having too much work to do on a day-to-day basis.

Does your own behavior contribute to your excessive workload?
The biggest contributor to over-commitment is the inability to say 'no' to work requests, which results in people taking on far more work than they can realistically manage. This applies to requests from co-workers as well as bosses.

How can you negotiate your workload with your boss and colleagues?
There are two main groups you will have to negotiate your workload with; one being your boss and the other, your colleagues. Whilst you may employ the same tactics for either group, the risks are greater when negotiating with your boss.

How can you learn to say 'No' to excessive work?
If you feel that you would like to become better at saying no, then try prompting yourself to think more carefully about the task involved each time that you are requested to take something on.

What is procrastination?
Procrastination can be defined as the act of replacing high-priority actions with tasks of lower priority, or doing something from which one derives enjoyment, and thus putting off important tasks to a later time or voluntarily delaying an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse off for the delay.

What are the symptoms of procrastination?
There are several symptoms of procrastination including: trivializing the task, blaming external factors, assigning spurious priority to another task, distracting yourself with routine or inconsequential work or convincing yourself that you will perform the task better if you leave it until the last minute.

Why do people procrastinate?
The reason that people procrastinate is quite simple. It provides an instant reward in the shape of a relief from immediate stress. In other words, by not starting a task that you know will prove stressful, you feel a sense of relief that, though temporary, is nonetheless very real and satisfying

How can I stop procrastinating over boring or pointless tasks?
This trigger plays a role in many instances of procrastination and is often the root cause of other triggers like resentment or feeling overwhelmed. After all it is only natural to feel angry about being asked to do something that you feel is boring or pointless.

How can I stop procrastinating over tasks that involve confrontation?
A fear of confrontation is something that causes many people to put of starting a task which may lead to conflict with a subordinate, a co-worker, a customer or a supplier.

How can I stop procrastinating over tasks that I resent doing?
This is often a symptom rather than a root cause of procrastination. If you feel that the task is boring, pointless, unpleasant, overwhelming, or unclear, or you are afraid of failing at it, then you would naturally resent being given responsibility for it.

How can I stop procrastinating over tasks that appear overwhelming?
The best way to deal with jobs like this is to assume that you are right - it really is an impossible task for you to do with the time and resources available. You need to sit down with the intention of quantifying the work involved so you can prove this to your boss.

How can I stop procrastinating over tasks that I don't know how to begin?
This is another very common trigger, particularly when there are two or more equally valid approaches to the task. It could be that: you don't feel you have the authority to make this fundamental decision, you don't have the information you need to make it or you simply can't decide on the 'best' course of action.

How can I stop procrastinating over tasks that I am afraid of completing successfully?
Fear of success may sound like an unlikely reason to procrastinate. After all, why would anyone fear success? This is one trigger that people find difficult to admit to because it implies that they are fearful of the consequences of their achievements. However, there are at least four valid reasons for fearing success.

Is there a link between procrastination and lack of motivation?
Procrastination has several possible triggers and it can be difficult to isolate the main cause in each case. It is also possible to confuse procrastination with a general lack of motivation and they are to some extent intertwined and mutually reinforcing.

Which productivity tools should I consider using?
Personal productivity tools are useful but they are no substitute for adopting the right behaviors . Personal productivity tools include: the urgency/importance grid, ABC analysis, Pareto analysis, the reverse schedule, the closed to do list, calendar tools, to do list tools, launcher and hotkey tools, monitoring tools and miscellaneous productivity tools.

What is an Urgency/Importance Grid?
An urgency/importance grid is a quick and easy way to help you prioritize tasks. Even though the placement of tasks on the grid is highly subjective, it is often better than just looking at a list of tasks.

What is an ABC analysis?
The ABC categorization is another quick way of helping to prioritize tasks. Try it as well as the urgency/importance grid and see which one you prefer.

What is a Pareto analysis?
The Pareto Analysis is a useful technique for prioritizing problem-solving work, enabling you to ensure that the first piece of work you complete also resolves the greatest number of problems.

What is a reverse schedule?
A reverse schedule is a way of setting milestones and a start date by working backwards from the required task's completion date. Even though it is a relatively straightforward process to perform, many people do not allocate sufficient time to allow the planning benefits of creating a reverse schedule to be realized .

What is a closed to do list?
A closed list is one where nothing can be added to it, until all its items have been completed. It is designed so that all of the items will be finished within a specific time frame, for example, an afternoon, a day or a week.

Which calendar tools should I consider using?
There are dozens of calendar applications available but your best option will probably be one that the people you work with can share. If this is not an issue for you, then 'Google Calendar' would be a good choice, but you may also want to look at '30 Boxes' and 'Backpack' before you make a final decision, as they both have extensive functionality and are worth investigating.

Which to do list tools should I consider using?
These are an essential productivity tool and are well supported by both free and low cost apps. Choosing something that integrates well with your calendar and can be shared with other members of your team are probably the most important considerations.

Which launcher and hotKey tools should I consider using?
These tools are designed to save time by reducing the number of keystrokes that you need to make. Whether this is worth investing in will depend upon how many times a day you perform a particular task or series of keystrokes that could be pre-programmed.

Which monitoring tools should I consider using?
If you find it difficult to avoid wasting time on sites like FaceBook, LinkedIn and Twitter as well as personal email, then you should consider using a tool to block access to these distractions during your core working hours.

Which miscellaneous productivity tools should I consider using?
There are literally hundreds of productivity tools available on the Internet, many of these tools are free or sold for a nominal price and cover a wide variety of activities. You need to decide which of your every day activities or tasks take up more of your time and effort than you feel is reasonable. When you have this list, you can then research the best available productivity tool for you.

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