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Posts Tagged ‘productivity’

Happy Mother’s Day!! (belatedly).  I trust you all had a great day and for those of you that are mothers you were treated to a special day by your family….and everyone else spent some valuable time with your mom’s and family….at the end of the day we all work hard for the reward of quality time with our families.

Now that we are through busy season, you are probably feeling relieved. But I am sure that the hectic pace of busy season is still fresh in your mind…you recall feeling like part of an act from a circus show where a man takes a plate, balances it on the end of a long pole, and gives it a spin.  Then he repeats the process with another plate, then another, and another until there are about eight or more plates spinning. During the rest of the act, the man runs from pole to pole, shaking the poles carefully in turn to keep the plates spinning. The plate is always just a second away from disaster. It’s a great metaphor for the effort we go through in balancing our client demands, engagements and personal obligations, keeping them crashing and burning and always moving forward.  Now is the time to plan for next busy season to be sure you don’t let any of those metaphorical plates hit the floor. Here are few ideas to make it easier:

1. Know Your Next Deadline.

Plan on getting information in more timely…..communicate with our clients that we would like to set a false deadline the week before the real deadline and get the information in early to avoid the last minute rush…..Also, if you’ve got multiple projects running concurrently, it can be very tempting to just pick the one that is easiest, most fun or for a favorite client and work on that. This can be a recipe for disaster, as it allows other deadlines to creep up on you unexpectedly.   A useful tip is to keep a document with these open project due dates posted in a very visible place, keeping track of everything.

2. Keep Task-Switching to a Minimum.

As many of you likely know, switching from one task to another is a productivity killer. Every time you need to ramp up on something, it takes you a while to remember what you were doing and to get back into “the zone” where you’re working efficiently. Don’t try to divide a four-project day into 8 individual 1-hour segments if you can possibly avoid it. You’re much better off blocking two hours for each project together – or, even better, spending half a day on each project on alternate days.

3. Apply Grease as Needed.

No client ever wants to think that they are at the back of the queue. Make each client feel they are the most important client by conducting a quick triage process on requests for extra work as they come in. Make it a practice to get to client requests that take less than half an hour out of the way at the start of the day; it really helps.

4. Keep Clients Updated.

Even if you can’t deliver everything as soon as the client might like, don’t ever “go dark” on a project. Every client e-mail should get a response, every phone call should be promptly returned, if only to tell them that you’ll be able to consider that more fully tomorrow. On major projects, send out a quick status report every one or two days (usually just a bulleted list of open issues) to let the clients know that their work is still proceeding. If you take this approach, make sure that the list actually changes from day to day. Don’t let open items sit for more than two weeks. Keep reminding the client of the open items because if they forget them, it will be our fault when the pressure is on to make a deadline.

5. Under-Promise/Over-Deliver

It is important to set expectations with clients. Let them know when they can realistically have a draft or completed product and then push internally to beat the date promised by a day or two. As always, when setting expectations, we need to also warn clients that we need complete and accurate information from them in order to do our job, and as stated in point 4 above, if we keep them posted on open items we should also let them know how open items impact our delivery date.

Switching between multiple projects can be challenging, yet it is a necessary evil in our demanding profession. But if you can manage it, the benefits of having more satisfied clients who will consider you as their trusted advisor makes it worthwhile.

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