Whether you’re working independently or as a team, SNAP is an easy acronym you can use as a reminder to that you can increase your productivity by working smarter, not harder. So often, the time-wasters and inefficiency traps we fall into can be prevented with a Strategic Natural Automation Process. That’s a SNAP. Get out of the trap with a SNAP.
A good strategic plan begins with an analysis. What is your goal? What are your most common distractions? Who are your stakeholders? What are your resources? What is the highest and best use of your time?
One popular tool for helping determine what you should be doing on a project and what can be delegated is the Eisenhower Quadrant System. It’s a 2×2 chart where tasks are listed in each quadrant. Starting at the top left corner and going clockwise, the quadrants are labeled “Urgent and Important,” “Important but not urgent,” “Not important or urgent” and finally “Urgent but not important.”
Focus your energy on delegating or completing the tasks in the first quadrant immediately. Often, some of the other tasks are dependent on the outcome of those first steps.
David Allen’s book Getting Things Done is a great productivity tool for learning how to plan your tasks strategically and eliminate useless activities that don’t help you reach your goal.
To everything, there is a season. Our bodies and minds go through a predictable pattern on a daily basis whereby many of us are often more productive in the morning and more easily distracted in the afternoon. Pay attention to these patterns of attentiveness and use them to craft a daily schedule that flows more easily.
After a meal or a cup of coffee, we may find ourselves sleepy or hyper-focused. Pay attention to how various foods and beverages affect you and keep a snack bar handy or skip the afternoon coffee if you find it counter-productive.
When we see an email notification it feels so natural to address it immediately. Consider turning off those notifications if you find that they’re a distraction. Allen recommends checking email once a day. Often, that’s not feasible in the workplace but you can certainly check it less often, like 2-3 times a day that you can control.
A plant can’t grow if the seed isn’t planted. Task dependencies can throw you for a loop if you’re not prepared. Have you ever approached a coworker wondering why they didn’t finish something only to discover that they need information from someone else before continuing? Be sure that everyone on your team has the resources they need in order to move ahead at a reasonable rate.
If you find yourself typing out the answer to the same question over and over again, stop. Just. Stop. That can’t possibly be the highest and best use of your time even if it’s your job to respond. There are so many work-related tasks that we find ourselves repeating. Automate them.
Likewise, if you’re constantly opening the same spreadsheet report week after week and making the same changes to get the number or chart that you need, consider hiring a coder to develop a script that does it for you.
Take a good hard look at the way you’re working. Are meetings with stakeholders cutting into the time you’re devoting to work? Can some tasks be outsourced or delegated? Processes often evolve as a piecemeal result of “Let’s start doing this too” or adding tasks to the workflow at the wrong time. Efficient use of your time can free your mental and physical resources for better and faster outcomes. You can get a lot more done when you’re focused on reaching a goal.
A good project manager can help craft a process that’s efficient and gets results. Work with your PM or learn PM skills online to fine-tune the practice of creating processes that actually work. You can even download project management apps and software that help pinpoint the nature of the project in order to work it through faster.
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