Ignore the noise: Productivity life hacks from a game-changing leader

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Like many working parents, I sat in front of my computer last week distressed. Another snow day with four kids off from school. How would I get anything accomplished?

I thought I’d tap into my inner “productivity whiz” to make it through the day with a few more items crossed off my to-do list. Oddly enough, it was during a recent feedback exercise that I discovered my talent for “getting stuff done.” In speaking with peers, managers, colleagues about our strengths and challenge areas, I learned that one of my strengths is productivity and the ability to move quickly and get things done. One colleague so fondly described this as the ability to “execute the hell out of something.”

It got me thinking…what’s the secret to awesome productivity? I spoke with Bianca McCann who is Global Lead with SAP’s HR Expert Network, and the very first person I thought of when this topic came up. Bianca is always moving fast and producing amazing results. Even her professional bio reads “Bianca prides herself on producing game changing innovations and results by connecting people, programs, and processes into something larger than themselves.” It doesn’t get much better than that.

Here is what Bianca says is the secret to her productivity success:

Bianca McCann, Global Lead, HR Expert Network, SAP.
Bianca McCann, Global Lead, HR Expert Network with SAP.

“To steal a line from the NFL – to really get things done we have to ignore the noise. There is a fine line between appropriately acknowledging the noise around you and not letting it derail you. Finding a way to focus on the task at hand and not be distracted by the mounting pressures and distractions that are part of daily life is critical. Limit the compulsion to engage in the noise around you, mentally or literally. Even just one noise-free hour will sharpen your focus and boost your productivity.”

Here are few simple tips to boost productivity – including Bianca’s (#1):

1. Limit Distractions – Do you jump to your inbox every time the “new mail” icon appears on your screen? Close email – even if just for an hour. The world will not end if you wait an hour or two to respond to an email – and you will be able to focus on your task at hand.

2. Pick Up The Phone – Many times we can get an answer or solve a challenge quickly by picking up the phone instead of sending an email. Added bonus – you build a stronger relationship by talking and avoid potential misunderstandings that happen in email.

3. Follow Up – Recap each meeting with a quick summary and action items. This does a couple of things – ensures you understood the actions correctly, keeps a record of who is doing what, and useful for reference purposes.

4. Keep A To-Do List – My list, updated weekly, keeps me organized, focused, and allows me see my progress.

5. Bring People On Board – also known as “Delegate” or “Influence Without Authority” – You simply can’t do it all, no matter how good you are. Know when you need help and ask. Even if you don’t manage a team, many times you can find folks who are interested in volunteering for projects or, if you are working on a critical project, your manager may be able to shift resources to get you the support you need.

What do you think? What are your productivity life hacks?

Follow Bianca McCann, @HRLightning, on Twitter. This post first appeared on Liz Brenner’s blog, Lead With Intuition.

Liz Brenner

Liz Brenner is currently Vice President of Marketing Employee Engagement at SAP. Liz has spent over 8 years in various marketing and operations roles at SAP. Prior to SAP, Liz spent over 10 years in consulting and operations roles at BearingPoint, Arthur Andersen, and in the energy industry. Liz’s blog, Lead With Intuition, is a compilation of inspiring lessons from top business leaders to empower you in your pursuit of success. Follow @LizBrenner on Twitter.


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  • http://www.virtualadmin.ie/ Lisa Nolan

    These are great tips for an age old problem. Another one I use is to race myself. I set a time (usually in half hourly slots) to get [x] finished. I keep a close eye on the clock and ignore other distractions, as mentioned above, until I reach the end of the half hour or finish the task, whichever comes first! If the work is really intensive, I might set a time to finish and reward myself with 15 minutes off and away from the desk.

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