Top tips from Mesmo Consultancy (and Associates) on how to save time and improve business and personal performance by ‘Taking Control of your Inbox’ and using proper business email etiquette.
Welcome to this guest post by Anne McGhee Stinson
Distractions – the impact on our performance
Minimising distractions at work is a key priority at work for those who want to improve their performance and well-being. Why is minimising distractions more important than ever before?
In a recent Harvard Business Review Article entitled Learning to live with Complexity the author states: “….[B]usiness today is fundamentally different than it was just 30 years ago. The most profound difference, we’ve come to believe, is the level of complexity people have to cope with.” This rising level of complexity is spawned by new technologies, a global landscape, and more collaborative work environments. Virtually everything about the way we work is changing creating massive distractions in the workplace.
While the complexity continues to increase we haven’t reckoned with the impact it has on our capacity to focus. Neurologically, our central nervous system is hard-wired to pay attention to the most distracting element in the environment. This response system is what kept us safe as a species of hunter gatherers, because the rustle in the bush may well have been a hungry lion.
Unlike today; our distant ancestors had the benefit of a period of recovery after surviving the lurking lion. They went back to the cave, ate, slept, and recovered in peace. There was no 24-hour news coverage, and none of the incessant demands of the modern workplace including back to back meetings, hundreds of emails, projects, teams, travel schedules etc.
External distractions are only part of the problem. In an overloaded society; the internal distractions caused by too much input, financial worries, relationships and family pressures take their own toll. Human beings have a limited amount of attention and energy to spend at any given time and because we are so inundated with complexity, information and data, our days are constantly filled with lurking lions causing our attention to be exhausted.
From a professional perspective, this can translate into an inability to access innovation, creativity, intelligent risk-taking, decision-making and our full performance potential. It can also mean we are missing opportunities for strategic connections, deepening relationships, mentoring, coaching, guiding and so forth. From a strictly personal vantage point, people are experiencing more stress, anxiety, isolation, and fear than ever.
Distractions – how to minimise them
Organizations must address these challenges with a new approach and train the skills most essential to success in complex, distraction laden work environments.
Initially, we must learn how to manage attention and energy at work, learn to reduce distractions, manage time and information input. These are the critical skills that will help employees stay productive in an ever-changing work environment. Some simple adjustments include:
1. Turn off all the bells, chimes and notifications on your phone and computer. Instead schedule focused time to process incoming information.
2. Schedule routine 1:1 meetings with team and staff to reduce ad hoc interruptions during the day.
3. Work from home or a remote location where you are less likely to be distracted by open office environments.
4. Establish communication guidelines to set reasonable response time expectations.
Next, we must learn how to maintain focus on the priorities that matter most. Author Daniel Pink noted in his book “Drive” that an interesting change occurs in our brain when we commit to such a goal. He states; “Once we consciously focus on a goal, the brain subconsciously evaluates goal-relevant information in our environment that is consistent with achieving the goal. Like radar, it selectively notices incoming data that may contribute to or influence the goal. Concurrently, the brain inhibits irrelevant information to protect our delicate cognitive capacities from overload.”
5. Identify your priorities are, and create an emotional attachment to them to keep you focused.
6. Rigorously manage your calendar to make certain you’re are spending your time on what matters most.
7. Learn to say “no” or “not now” to less important priorities.
8. Limit your priorities to no more than 7-10 at a time.
9. Schedule routine meetings to address accountabilities on each priority.
Limit distractions and focus on what matters most. It’s a simple solution to a complex problem; and it works.
This guest post was from Anne McGhee Stinson, Managing Partner, InteraWorks (Elevating the Human Experience at Work) www.interaworks.com
The ‘Honours List’ fiasco could so easily have been avoided if the Cabinet Office had followed a simple security processes.
No doubt there were several versions of the spreadsheet containing the honours list and we all know how easy it is to upload/send the wrong one. However simple steps like those above will reduce the risk of a disaster such as that created by the Cabinet Office.
Tags: Honour Lists Disaster
Will you enjoy a digital detox over Christmas and switch off from work emails? If ever there was a time of year to have quality time with family and friends, it’s Christmas. Nonetheless, many people find it hard not to check their work emails. They feel someone expects them to be reading emails even on Christmas Day. But do they? Or is it just a cover-up for some form of email addiction, fear of missing out, personal inadequacy, etc.
We have written many times before about the importance of having an email free vacation. A full digital detox would involve switching off from all digital devices. However, the Christmas period is probable one of those times when you will want to use digital media (eg WhatsApp, FaceTime etc) to contact family and friends who are not going to be with you. That does not mean you should also take a quick peak at work-related emails and social media posts. Make the Christmas break a time to re-balance the work-life balance and have quality time with those you care about and who really care about your well-being.
Here are five top tips to enable you to safely switch-off from work related emails, relax and enjoy at least a partial digital detox.
Remember too that this is a high risk time for cyber attacks Click here to top tips on how to improve your defence to potential cyber attacks especially at home.
Top tip on email etiquette: punctuation matters, even on the least formal email and the apostrophe is one of the least-understood marks. One of the difficulties in writing email is that it has replaced so many forms of business communication from the telephone conversation, through the informal memo, to a letter even a short report. Whatever the formality of the document, it is the punctuation that gives your words voice tone and makes your meaning clear.
Over 90% of the people who attend my in-house workshops on punctuation name the apostrophe as the mark they would most like to understand and be able to use correctly. Whether it’s whether one is needed at all, whether to place it before or after the ‘s’ and how to use it when names end in ‘s’.
Most people look blank when faced with rules such as, place the apostrophe after the ‘s’ on a plural unless the plural is not made by the addition of ‘s’ in which case the apostrophe is placed before the ‘s’. And who can blame them!
One of the best-kept secrets in punctuation is that there is actually only one rule that matters, because it encompasses all the other ones and ensures that the apostrophe is always in the right place.
Before you can use the rule you have to answer three simple questions:
1.Is anything owned?
The apostrophe is a hook, it hangs on a word to warn the reader that it is not a plural, the ‘s’ indicates ownership.
2.What is owned?
This might be something tangible like a pen or laptop, or something less so like an office. It might be a mood, feeling or advice. The terms ‘owned’ or ‘used’ are generally used to loosely describe this.
3.Who is the owner?
This might be a named person, a group, and organisation, etc.
So the punctuation rule that everybody needs? Draw a circle around the name of the owner and the apostrophe will always go on the circle.
Good email etiquette and punctuation means its easier for people to read your email and less scope for mis-understanding. All this saves time, reduces email overload and hence helps improve productivity and well-being.
Joanna Gutmann, author of Readability and leader of in-house workshops on punctuation and the mechanics of writing gives a useful tip to get the apostrophe right every time.
Do you use smart meeting management tools? We have seen how Microsoft Outlook Scheduler can help save time finding dates. But what about organising all the associated paperwork eg minutes. Read on with a Guest Blog from from Ashley King of Matchware
Five ways time and £191 Billion are wasted on meeting management
Studies suggest that the cost of unproductive meetings in the UK is a staggering £191 Billion. It is incredible that businesses in 2019 are literally throwing a significant amount of money down the drain, money and time that could be better spent elsewhere within the business to make it more profitable. It may come as no surprise to see the 5 common meeting complaints that follow:
1. That meeting was a waste of my time
2. People haven’t done their actions from last meeting
3. It is taking a long time for minutes to be generated
4. Gathering information from previous minutes is a lengthy process
5. Meetings are regularly running over their allotted time
Often when I discuss the common meeting complaints with people who regularly attend meetings, I receive the nods and smiles that cover a lot of frustration when they are thinking about their meeting process.
How can you save money and time organising meetings?
By working towards changing the complaints above, businesses can save literally thousands, whilst freeing up time to take advantage of opportunities that were once unattainable as a result of everyone being tied up in meetings.
There are incredible opportunities for PA’s/EA’s to make changes to the meeting process that drive several efficiencies for their companies, whilst also getting the recognition as the valuable asset they truly are.
How to make the changes?
From speaking to thousands of PA’s and EA’s, I’d suggest starting with looking at the meeting process. In most cases, looking at how software can help can make a huge difference. OK, so you have had the same process for years and “it works”, but it can be the cause to the complaints above.
It is quite popular for businesses to have quite a manual process in place, but have you honestly critiqued your meeting process? It fascinates me that in 2019, many haven’t, and many continue to use a manual process. Many are still doing the same things people were doing 20 years ago!
Knowing how technology has improved our lives so much over 20 years, is it possible that there is software to help the meeting process too? Of course there is!
OK, what can I do to change this?
In simple terms, you can leverage software. Things that take you 10-20 minutes can be done in 1 or 2 clicks. Over the course of the meeting process, there can be significant savings in time for organisers and attendees of meetings. Through software like MeetingBooster, you have several tools at your disposal that help meetings to run with a clear purpose, on time, avoiding unproductive and over running meetings. Imagine what businesses could achieve if they clawed back the time lost in unproductive meetings to focus on driving the company forward? Imagine being the one that made it possible for your business?
Ashley King, Matchware