Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

Make productivity great again

Do you ever find yourself facing a mountain of things to do at home without knowing where to start? What about having hundreds of unopened emails in your inbox? If you’re nodding your head, don’t worry – I’ve been there too.

If you need a hand tackling your to-dos, I’d like to share a few learnings from a fantastic resource – a book called Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, by David Allen. Getting Things Done provides a paradigm-shifting way to think about your work, your tasks and your deadlines. The takeaways from the book are helpful for not only being organized at work, but at home too.

GTD e book photoI was first introduced to the book and its methods in a training session at work. I was pleased to learn that some of the practices were already part of my daily time and task management routine. Since, I’ve read the book and I’m more aware of how the principles positively influence my productivity, and I’ve improved how I use them.

Both life and work can throw a seemingly-endless stream of stimuli at you every day. Take your email inbox as an example. Emails can be nerve-wracking because each one varies in the level of engagement required from you. They can demand an answer to a question, include a message that you’re CC’d on only for reference, provide a document or presentation that requires your detailed review, share details for a new project, or even alert you to a crisis. This can be overwhelming without a system that enables you to filter them based on importance, urgency and priority, and then apply your attention appropriately.

The system that can help – with both email, and everything else you need to do – is the Getting Things Done methodology.

This methodology is the key to productivity. It makes you appropriately engaged with the tasks at hand so that they can be managed effectively by understanding the one next step that you need to do. This doesn’t mean that every item on your plate is completed immediately, but instead, you take the right step that ensures you’ll get those things done when they need to be. At the same time, you get them off the laundry list of to-dos that are running through your head.

Why is it important to free up space in your mind by relying on a system, rather than your brain power, to manage your daily to-dos? You can gain a feeling of control and focus your attention where you need it. This will provide the mental capacity to be creative, solve complex challenges, think of new ideas, and focus on being stress-free.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

The philosophy behind Getting Things Done is summed up nicely in the following quote:

“If you don’t pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves.” – David Allen

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of how the Getting Things Done system works. The below Workflow Map demonstrates how random inputs are filtered as actionable or not actionable, and the possible steps you can take based on context, time available and resources.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

What are some of my Getting Things Done habits? I boost my productivity by:

  • Writing actionable to-do lists – It might be intuitive to think about the things that you need to do in terms of entire projects. Rather than just listing my projects on my to-do list, which can be both overwhelming and not actionable, I break down those projects into the immediate next steps that I can take. For example, if I need to write a media coverage analysis report, there are many steps that need to be complete before writing the actual report. For example, a first step would be to compile the coverage and the associated metrics into a chart, and a second step could be to ask my colleagues for similar reports that were completed in the past so that I can start with a template. Writing these micro actions down provides me with a snapshot of all the steps that go into a project and how long they’ll take, so that I can move the project forward while managing my time effectively.
  • Acting immediately – This doesn’t mean that I immediately finish each task. Instead, when something new is put on my plate, I take the first step toward getting it done right away. If I can complete the task within two minutes – like sending a short email response or providing availability for a meeting – then I’ll do it right away. If not, I’ll either delegate the task and set a reminder to follow-up with the person regarding their progress, or defer it by adding it to my to-do list (broken down into actionable steps, of course), setting due dates in my calendar and filing emails/files to reference later.
  • Keeping a clear email inbox – My goal at the end of each work day is to have an empty inbox. To achieve this, I consistently review my emails and move them to designated folders that are based on my projects. If emails include an attachment, before filing the email I’ll save the attachment to my computer or the company shared drive to refer to later. If there’s an action item that I need to complete eventually, I set a meeting or a reminder in my calendar. Find more tips for managing your emails here. This helps reduce the potential for chaos in my mind because I’ve already addressed each email appropriately.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

Want to learn more about Getting Things Done without reading the book? Check out two videos: an animated book summary and a TEDx Talk by David Allen on the high-level principles.

Have you tried applying the Getting Things Done system to improve your productivity? How did it work for you? Share in the comments.

Image credits: Pixabay.com; Laine Jaremey; David Allen & Co.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

Is it time for a change?

Have you ever made a change in your career?

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine JaremeyWhether it was from one job to another, from one industry to completely different one, or a change in the patterns of how you work and lead others on a day-to-day basis, a career change is a big transition. But, have you ever thought about how when you make these types of changes can impact your success?

I was inspired to think about how I would respond to this question myself after reading the March 2018 issue of ELLE Canada. In an article called “Say When,” journalist Sarah Liang reports on a new book called When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, by Daniel Pink. This book covers the scientific research linking the timing of decisions and their outcomes.

Let’s reflect on the title of this post: “Is it time for a change?” There’s more to making a decision than simply going with your intuition or what you feel comfortable doing. Be strategic. The timing of changes or other important milestones in your career can have long-lasting impacts.

“The secret to success is actually getting strategic with the game-changing “whens” of your working life, from major pivot points to the minutiae of the daily nine-to-five.” – Sarah Liang, ELLE Canada.

When does timing make an impact on a career, according to the article? There are four times to consider.

  1. On your mark, get set, go! Although people often can’t control it, when you start your first job can mean boom or bust for your career. The research tells us that those who graduate university in years with high unemployment earn 2.5 per cent less than peers when the rate was low, even 15 years into your career.
  2. All good things come to an end. I’ve heard that it’s important to stay in a role for three-to-five years to give you an opportunity to evolve in the job, and to also appeal to potential future employers who might be reviewing your resume or career history. The article reports that being in a role for three-to-five years is a prime time to seek a boost in position or pay at a new job.
  3. Can’t get you out of my head. You may find yourself thinking about getting a new job or changing careers at certain times of the day or the year. Things like energy ebbs and flows during the day, holidays throughout the year, or even your work anniversary may trigger thinking about moving on to something new.
  4. Like a boss. Good leaders do things like respond to their team members’ emails in a timely manner, and schedule review meetings in the mornings when staff are generally more alert.

It’s clear that looking at the bigger picture in terms of the timing of your career as a whole when making decisions has an impact on both the big and small things, affecting overall success.

How has timing impacted your career? What other milestones or moments make an impact? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Image credits: Elle Canada; Pixabay.com.

Managing career challenges: Lessons from Sheryl Sandberg

4 Challenges JPEG

I was inspired by an interview on CBC Radio’s The Current with Sheryl Sandberg, author of the bestselling book Lean In. As a seasoned strategic business person, Sandberg is well-suited to provide career advice, so I was interested to hear her professional advice.

But this interview addressed a different issue. Sandberg talked about her new book, Option B, which discusses how she dealt with the death of her husband, Dave Goldberg. She talked about how she and her children faced the loss and how she learned to turn grief into joy. She was candid and provided personal anecdotes.

I thought about how the lessons she shared can apply when facing professional challenges. The research and advice that went into her book has far-reaching applications, beyond the type of personal loss that Sandberg faced.

You might find that you’re faced with a professional “option B” if a project has failed, you’ve been laid off or lost your job, or you’re struggling to adjust to a new job. Since work is the biggest stressor for Canadians, it’s likely that any of these work-related situations were to occur, the effects would be far-reaching into one’s life.

The three take-aways that apply to these types of professional situations include:

  1. Build your resilience – The ability to endure tough times is an attribute that can help one both professionally and personally, as with Sandberg’s experience. Sandberg describes a key step in building her resilience as when she and her children set out to play and enjoy a favourite board game, despite their feelings of grief four months after he passed away. Continuing to perform and be productive when faced with a professional challenge, no matter how small, is important for building your ability to be resilient. Making a resiliency a habit will be beneficial in case you face adversity in your career.
  2. Your feelings are impacted by your actions – By changing your actions and your circumstances, your feelings often follow suit. For Sandberg, her feelings of grief changed over time after actively learning how to manage her grief. Facing a professional challenge may evoke feelings of anger, frustration, stress or anxiety. However, taking actions to find solutions can alleviate these feelings. Seeking advice from a mentor, dedicating your time to managing a poorly-performing project, or making (and abiding by) a job search action plan are all positive actions to take.
  3. Rebuild your confidence – After facing a challenge, you might lose confidence in doing things that you once excelled at. For example, after returning to work after bereavement leave, Sandberg lost confidence in her work. She confided in her boss, Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook’s founder), that she felt she wasn’t performing as she once did in meetings. She reported that told her, “you said two really important things today and here’s what they were. He built me up.” This example demonstrates how small steps (such as speaking up in meetings), getting feedback, and engaging a trusted support network are important for building confidence.

Have you read Option B?

Are there any other lessons from this book that apply to a professional setting?

Image credit: cbc.ca (Matt Albiani/Penguin Random House).