Powerful Prioritisation With Emily Link

Productivity and powerful prioritisation with Emily Link

In March’s live training session, Emily Link (from Interactive Workshops), lent us a helping hand with productivity and prioritisation. If you often find that you’re overwhelmed with your workload, re-watch this playback in order to reflect on the common traps you may be falling into and find some new strategies to try.

The full video transcript is below the video so you can follow along or move to points that you’re most interested in. We had two break out sessions in this training, so instead, use this time to self-reflect and write down the answers to Emily’s questions.

For example, common productivity ‘traps’ discussed included:

  • underestimating the time it takes to do tasks
  • saying yes to everything
  • procrastination

Strategies covered include:

  • prioritisation ‘boxes’ (urgent, important, not urgent, not important)
  • the Pomodoro effect (working in 25 minute stints)
  • blocking out your calendar/diary and having certain rules around protecting your time

Enjoy this catch up with Emily!

Training transcript

Lauren

On a scale of one to 10. How overwhelmed are you? Just on average, take your average week at the moment? How overwhelmed Are you by your workload and your work?

I’m going to introduce the fabulous Emily Link. We’re really lucky to have Emily today because she this is what she does. She’s an actual facilitator of training sessions for a company called interactive workshops and they deliver these brilliant training sessions for really big names like brands like Airbus and Red Bull. So that’s amazing. She specialises in individual and team performance. She has a fantastic background in teaching and a Master’s in Educational Leadership. It’s really great to have Emily here. Passing over to you now, Emily, thank you very much.

Emily

I am so pleased to be here today. Thank you so much for having me. And I’ve just had a little look through the chat. We are going to be looking at some of the top tips and strategies all around being more productive, more effective. Time is only finite. Unfortunately, we can’t make more of it. And many of our clients want to call sessions like these time management sessions. And I’m not really sure you can even manage it. I think it’s just more kind of thinking about different strategies you can deploy in your day-to-day life that can actually have quite a big impact. And in all honesty, if I were to actually practice everything that I preach in this, I would also be more effective and productive. So part of this is actually a reminder sometimes for me to think “Yeah, actually, I should categorise my to do list. I should put it into a matrix. I should delegate more if I’ve got people in my team.”

So as mentioned, this is day to day, my role is to actually design and deliver many programmes at the management and leadership levels, sales team strategy days. So it would be great to connect with as many of you as possible, if that might be something you’re interested in working on the future. I have been interactive workshops for just under three years, and it has absolutely flown by. I used to, as mentioned, to be a teacher, it’s quite nice now to work with people that say thank you. And don’t throw chairs back at me at the end of the day.

Let’s dive into the session. It’s enough about me, it’s much more about you. We are interactive workshops. – it pretty much does what it says on the tin. We’re going to have a very short breakout, but I’d like you to discuss something in that breakout room. Just to have a conversation.

First of all, go and say hello be people first check in find out how each other are especially if you don’t know them. Maybe find out what they do. I’ve got some brilliant things coming into the chat of what people do. But equally, let’s focus in on this topic around time and being productive and prioritising. I’d like you just to think about what slows you down. What are some of the traps you might fall into? That are time stealers… someone mentioned her home-schooling being a particular one, but what other things may be actually prevent you from getting everything done that you’d like to get done? Someone also mentioned conflicting priorities. Those are the kinds of things I’d love you to have a conversation around, have a conversation in your room and then come back and join us. I’d love to get a few insights from you. So please feel free to come back and give us some feedback around what some of those traps you might fall into.

[Break out rooms – pause here and use this time to brainstorm your productivity traps]

Emily

What came up for up? What insights did you have a conversation around? [Member] was saying that she says yes to everything wants to do and we had a very good conversation about that. [Member] is setting unrealistic timeframes for how long tasks will take. [Member] mentioned managing other people is a trap.

Thank you very much for sharing, it’s just helpful to get an idea of maybe some of the things that you’re facing, that might be time stealers. And they do align with some of the things that we have identified.

Perhaps these are some of the traps you fall into. And someone mentioned the estimating issues of kind of it[ task] may be taking longer than we thought it was going to we might have blocked out time in our diary.

We have an in house Studio Team, a graphic design team who absolutely smashes it out the park for this because they will commit to a task, they will then measure how long it takes them – start a clock, and then actually review and then say, “okay, that task took broadly this long, therefore, I know to book in that amount of time next.” And for me, that is a great cycle to get into. It doesn’t work every time in terms of the nature of my work but it’s just an interesting concept that they’re actually trying to build in a bit of a feedback loop to where they have got it wrong, and also provided themselves potentially a bit of buffer time.

So being conscious of the fact that we might overestimate how long it’s going to take us. So therefore, putting in some more time around the edges so that the stress and the pressure doesn’t build up.

And we’ve got other things that are not enough organising, multiple to do lists, and not categorising them can be a trap. I sometimes just spend time organising my to do list, which is not a productive use of my time. But you know, just move it around. Does anyone here actually just write on their to do list I think they’ve just done so they can cross it off to get the dopamine hit.

You might be a person that just wants to be involved in everything. Is there some scope sometimes to say, “look, I probably don’t need to be in that meeting, I don’t need a consult, you can give me a summary afterwards?”

The amount of emails I get into as well, it’s kind of having some guiding principles around those, that actually mean that you’re able to say no or to delegate to somebody else. Because otherwise they can be huge time stealers. You might start putting it off – this might be something you’re very familiar with if you were one of those people when you were revising for exams that needed the fear to get you started…. And so literally the day before you let I do have my a level tomorrow, I better start revising now. And equally with client work or your deliverables, you might put off the big items till the end of the day or till the last minute, and then they end up taking more time, they actually require quite a lot of work from your side and some deep thought. And then maybe you don’t produce as high quality because you haven’t put that at the front of your day.

Stephen Covey, you might be familiar with him as he’s very well-known, he writes the book around Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and then an eighth book around the eighth habit, but one of his key things is around actually having big rocks at the start of your day. And then actually having the smaller pebbles, the admin tasks, you know, not just diving into emails straightaway because those things usually take five minutes to reply to. Get the big stuff out of the way before you can move on to those smaller items.

And the final one – interruptions in this virtual world, the amount of things just flying in at us – there is a communication saturation, whether it’s someone calling you on teams, whether it’s zooms being put into your calendar, whether it’s WhatsApp popping up on your phone, whether it’s the first line of an email, whether it’s a small child running around at your feet, there are so many things that are taking you away from the day to day and our personal in our private lives are being blurred like never before.

And trying to compartmentalise our day in our brain is becoming really difficult because we’re not having really clear boundaries between things. We’re not having hard stops, or even social events. We don’t have to leave work at a certain time at the moment, you can press play on your Netflix episode whenever you fancy because that is usually the main plan for the evening. So it’s kind of thinking about how you can maybe be really effective in the timeframe. And we’ll talk about a strategy that you can deploy to try and block out some of those distractions and actually focus because we can’t get rid of them altogether. But maybe we can schedule in when we’re going to allow ourselves to check our emails or our phone. The small children, on the other hand might be more difficult. But hopefully, they’ll be back at school on Monday.

I’m going to give you a couple of minutes to write down everything you know that you need to do today. And tomorrow. You might already have this on a to do list, but just take two minutes to write a little bullet point list.

Okay, so what I’m going to ask you to do now is we’re going to think about how we can categorise that list.

And you may have seen this before, it’s quite a famous matrix called the Eisenhower matrix from President Eisenhower himself. It’s just a way of kind of prioritising what you should get done, what others should be doing, what you should be putting off for a little bit later and what you should just get rid of because it’s on your to do list and actually adds no value. And if we don’t check it, we end up doing those things…. And that’s actually just wasting our time.

So, there’s four boxes. If you don’t use the traditional pen and paper, draw just a little full box model that you can just literally a little cross that you can put some things into, I’m just going to talk you through each box, just a couple of points on each one.

So, we’ve got up in that kind of top left-hand corner, the urgent and important. It’s urgent, it’s important, it’s the kind of thing that maybe requires some thought, and you need to do it. It’s prioritised by you, you have the brain, the ability, the capability to do it, it needs your brainpower on it. So, all the things that should be first, and also kind of have that priority need to go in that box. So put whatever bullet points on your to do list that were those kinds of do-it-first, urgent and important pop them in there.

If we move across to kind of the right-hand side, we’ve got the less urgent and important. These are the things that are very easy to fall off the to do list. But they are still very valuable. They just don’t necessarily have as much time pressure on them right now. But they might in a week or so as time. Okay, it’s not really urgent, but I do know that it has a value to it. Therefore, can I actually put some time in my calendar and schedule it and so I know that this is when it’s going to happen? And you might want to provide a bit of a rule for yourself here and say, ‘Look, I can only move that thing twice.’ We know that they might move based on life in general, but you want to say, ‘I’m going to let my allow myself to move that just twice.’ You might even want to mark it as 2.0 so that you know you’ve moved it already. Because if I keep moving it, that could cause me problems further down the line.

Now for those of you that have people you can delegate to this one speaks to you, that might not be everyone in this in this kind of pool here. But if you do have people around you, that are able to take on some of your workload, this is if there’s a time commitment on it, but maybe it’s less important, you can share that responsibility with someone else. So therefore, you can get it off your plate and actually share it with them whilst still providing the support and the feedback to get it done to a good quality. And I’d say the earlier you do it the better – we say early is easy, late is laboured.

If you are delegating late to someone, you might even want to push this box. above your

urgent and important tasks on time. So, the start of your day, you say, okay, there’s three things I need to delegate, let me have that conversation with so and so to actually share that data, say about the day to work on it, because otherwise, you’re going to slow them down, if you give it to them late and stress them out!

And then the final thing, less urgent, less important box… really, why are you doing it? Get it off your list, if it has no value to you, and no real pressure in terms of time, then actually just cross it out. But there are some things that can fall in here, around the kind of piece of admin etc, that maybe you think are really vital, but you could maybe set up automated things to do that for you. So, looking into the tech that can support you too. Just really giving yourself a bit of a sanity check on what is urgent and important. And if it doesn’t fit into either of those, then get it off the to do list.

I’m going to put you back into a short little break out. In this one I just want to have a conversation, particularly around the urgent and important box. What are your priorities? Share that with each other, and also just challenge each other. So, you should be able to justify why something is in that box and not in another box, just get a little bit of sanity check on it. Because if you can’t justify it, then maybe it shouldn’t be in that priority box!

[break out rooms]

Emily

There’s one last thing I’d like to share with you. And so, I just want to ask you a simple question. Raise your hands, if you think you’re a good multitasker. Oh, we’ve got some hands going up. Surely men are worse at it than women. Is that not right? Is that not the old saying? Well, those of you that didn’t put your hands up, maybe you already know the game that I’m going to play, because actually, multitasking is a bit of a myth. I’m just going to show you why that might be.

So if you’ve got a piece of paper, I just want to draw two lines on it, like you can see on my screen there, but with space that you can draw and write above and below the line. So just make sure they’ve got quite a decent space between them.

Okay, we’re going to do one round, this first round, all I’m going to do is count in intervals of five. And I’m going to ask you to produce a little task for me.

  • Write down, on the bottom line, the numbers one to twenty, and on the top line write the sentence “I am a great multitasker.”
  • Time yourself completing the activity
  • Then the second time, write one letter on the top line, then the first number, and so on, going back and forth from each line
  • Record your time to see any difference

[completing multitasking exercise whilst Emily counts in 5 second intervals]

The numbers one to 20 – I’m pretty sure you probably know that number sequence… but the fact that we’re asking our brain to jump from one between the other [in the second round] (and their simple tasks!) means that we do make mistakes.

And if we would extrapolate that to our work context, when we’ve got our head focused on a report, we’re in some deep thinking, and then suddenly we see one line of an email pop in and we have a little check out, ‘that looks interesting… I’ll just click on that.’ They estimate that it takes 23 minutes for you to get your full focus back onto that report that you were doing. So actually, you’re slowing yourself down.

The final top tip is something called the Pomodoro Technique. And it was actually invented by a university student who had too many things he was trying to do all at once, and actually said, ‘If I were to focus for 25 minutes, I could get so much more done.’ And the neuroscience supports that that is a good amount of time to focus to have your full attention. And then after 25 minutes, you can give yourself a five minute break to process what you’ve just done, or allow yourself to be distracted, or go and get some fresh air, go and stand up make a coffee.

And if you’ve seen those little tomato timers, that’s what he was using… a little timer that then rings after 25 minutes. And if you do that in full cycles, you should then take a longer break. And then it’s also particularly important at the moment for wellbeing, knowing that it’s very easy to be glued to our screens for most of the day and not get the fresh air because we’re not just taking five minutes to move between meetings, which means our brain gets to decompress before going into the next thing.

It now literally takes seconds to fly from this thing to the next thing. And we’re asking our brain to do that every single day! So try to schedule it in for 25 minutes. And the research would suggest that you can be more effective and productive.

Please feel free to connect, you can check out our website as well. It’s been a pleasure to join you today!

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