Being the first face people meet behind our CMS (content management system for the web acronym impaired) is a pretty powerful and amazing job. I love getting to work with the wide variety of departments and areas across campus. I love working with the nerdy, troubleshooting, website builder part of my brain and the fun, content and marketing driven side too. But I find on more occasions than I’d care to admit that I lose myself in my machine or get trapped in email purgatory.
For anyone who has been to my office hours in the past few months, you may have noticed the “100% Human” sticker on my laptop. This is to remind me that I need to take the time to be H.U.M.A.N. or honest, unafraid, mindful, active and nice. This poignant acronym came from Dave Cameron, a speaker at HigherEd Web in Portland. He won the best overall presentation at the conference in the fall, and it was completely deserved. His presentation was inspiring. I found myself nodding throughout the entire thing. “How does he know my feelings?” I thought to myself.
He not only shared great tools I could utilize to increase my productivity, but also reiterated that I was on the right track with many of my current habits.
Here are a few of his suggestions that may help you increase your own productivity and prevent you from considering ALL THE THINGS all the time.
- Be honest. This means admitting your mistakes, providing yourself and others useful feedback and admitting when you don’t understand. Coming from a journalism background, I love to ask questions and I am never afraid to ask questions when I don’t understand or want to learn more. I truly believe there are no stupid questions and I make it a goal of mine to ask a good one every day if I can.
- Be unafraid. Mistakes are definitely how you learn and Cameron put it best: “Don’t be intimidated by the rockstars.” Find what makes you confident and use it to your advantage. Whenever I catch myself looking down, especially as I am walking, I force myself to put my head up high. Just walking with a little attitude immediately gives me confidence to tackle my day.
- Be Mindful. By focusing your time and attention on the things that matter, you will allow yourself to be more productive. But mindfulness easily gets lost when you get stuck in email purgatory. Cameron had some great tips for improving your email habits, which most people spend 30% or more of their day dealing with.
- Decide if it needs to be now or later
- The 2 minute rule. If the email or task will take less than two minutes, do it
- Get what you need from message or send what you need to send and then get out (literally quit program)
- Be quick and thorough.
- Pay attention to details.
- Create rules for emails to go directly to folders
- Create a folder system for days of week to put tasks in weekly folders to deal with on specific days
Email is NOT:
- Instant messenger
- Daily inbox of what to do-project management system
- A telephone
- The boss of you
I regularly rely on my calendar to schedule time to get things done. By implementing the folder strategy Cameron recommends, I am able to prioritize my time and tasks better and also respond to people more quickly and efficiently. While it doesn’t work 100% of the time, it does help me not lose track of emails.
I also block off time on my calendar to get projects done. I won’t schedule meetings during those times so I know I can get projects done. I create daily and weekly checklists, and it’s the best feeling in the world when everything is checked off at the end of each day and each week. It makes me want to give myself a “Good Job!” sticker! Why can’t we still have those elementary school charts? I guess treating myself to a coffee or treat is a fair reward though.
- Be Active. I use music to keep my toes and fingers tapping throughout the day and I also force myself to get up from my desk at least once an hour. Even if it’s a quick walk around the office, or to fill up my water bottle, stretching it out makes me feel better.
I’ve implemented Cameron’s strategy of productivity first. I try not to open my email up for the first hour of work. Instead I focus on accomplishing a task I need to complete. I follow the same procedure after lunch.
I love his suggestion of ending the day with getting things in place to start the next day off right. Hit the ground running and your day will go by in a flash.
- Be Nice. That doesn’t just mean to your co-workers, but to yourself. Be proud of what you accomplish and share that pride with the people you work with. Communicate about what you’re doing and where you’re going to be when appropriate. Be social and show your co-workers you care about them.
I try to plan one lunch per week so I can get out of the office and be social with the people I work with either in the Webcomm office or throughout campus. I also try to follow-up when people do great work because it feels good to give compliments.
Even if you just try to be 20% more human every day, it can make a huge difference. Cameron’s resources for email productivity, time and habit tracking, and task managing are great ways to start. He also shares some great books and music that may just inspire you to be more H.U.M.A.N.
Check out his full presentation at bit.ly/HumanAtWork