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3 Steps to a More Productive Day: Focus Tips For Managers

By Jayne Jenkins (1059 words)
Posted in Management on February 28, 2013

There are (3) comments permalink

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By Jayne Jenkins, CEO, Churchill Leadership Group

We all have 24 hours in a day, but why does it feel like some managers get more done than others? Do they survive on 4 hours sleep like Margaret Thatcher? Maybe they don't have families or they possess magical superpowers?


For me I need 6-7 hours of sleep, and to be honest, there is enough data on human wellness out there to convince me not to give up this true "regeneration time." I am a high energy A-type personality and for a long time I have prided myself on being an excellent multi-tasker. I run a home, family, business, a hectic social life and still find time for yoga and massages. However, wisdom has shown me that it can be exhausting and I may not be using my time as smartly as I could. You see, there is research available today that proves when we multi-task we are splitting our brainpower. That means while we think we are giving our best attention to each activity, we are in fact short-changing ourselves. While switching between tasks was just a normal part of my day, I read a lot of literature explaining that multi-tasking isn’t as productive as you’d think because you don’t necessarily get more done, or done in a way that makes you feel fulfilled. I decided to change my ways to become more productive each day.  Follow these steps and you can too.


Step One: Build Your Action List(s)

Each evening, take the time to identify priorities that “must get done” the following day. Consider why and what the consequence would be if you do not achieve them well. Next, develop a "nice to get done" list.  This list is secondary to your action list.  IF you have time, you can start knocking this list out.


Step Two: Determine Your Strengths

Review the activities on your action lists to see which ones play to your Strengths. For those that don't play to your Strengths, question whether you should do them at all.  Delegating them to someone who is strong at those activities is a great way to ensure they get done well, while you can focus on other actions. I personally have a goal that 70% of my time each day should play to my Strengths. It is a good way of measuring the productivity level of my day.

  • Why STRENGTHS? The data is decisive – when people are able to play to their strengths every day, individuals and companies see better results in many areas. For decades, The Gallup Organization has conducted ongoing workplace surveys around the world to explore what makes managers and teams great. These surveys have posed thousands of different questions to leaders in 8,000 business units & measured answers against 5 key business outcomes:
    1. Turnover/Retention 
    2. Customer Loyalty
    3. Productivity
    4. Safety
    5. Profits


The conclusion of their research boils down to one question showing the greatest correlation to the most business outcomes:

“At work, do you have the chance to do what you do best every day?”

 Teams whose members strongly agree are:

      50% more likely to have low employee turnover

      38% more likely to be high-productivity teams

      44% more likely to earn high customer satisfaction scores


Unfortunately only 2 out of 10 people answer “yes,” & less than 25% of employees say their managers discuss their Strengths in performance reviews. (Jrnl of Applied Psychology vol 87, pp 267-278).


If you take the time each day to separate your strengths from your other activities, not only will you get more done, but you will feel more fulfilled while you are doing your job.


Step Three: Implement “Focus Strategies” and Tools

  • Try getting all your phone calls done in chunks, away from your computer so you can fully focus on the call.

  • Separate your subscriptions, newsletters, and other training or supplemental materials into a special folder until you need, or have time to read them.

  • Consider downloading productivity apps to help you manage the noise:

    • Self-Control is a free Mac app to help you avoid distracting websites.

    • Anti-social is a productivity Mac app to block distracting social media sites including FB and Twitter.

  • Something that really works for me literally managing time.  I use a timer during the day to work for 90 minutes and then rest or do something energizing for 30. This keeps my brain fresh. The getting up and moving also prevents weight gain for those sitting at a desk all day.


It may feel weird to begin with but chances are these tools will free you up to be more productive, finish work on time and begin to do those things that you love!


Remember, it’s not just about doing the things you like, everything else still needs to get done, but it is about focus, delegating and managing your time to achieve peak performance & results.

Good luck,


{#/pub/images/JayneJenkins3.jpg}Written by Jayne Jenkins, CEO Churchill Leadership Group-Jayne, a STAND OUT Master Strengths Coach and Workshop Facilitator, is a leadership business veteran working with some of the largest companies in the world including Exxon, AstraZeneca and Sanofi-Aventis.  She has over 23 years of experience leading successful sales teams and holding positions in Marketing, Strategic Operations and Organization Development.  As CEO of Churchill Leadership Group, Jane consults and coaches teams to maximize the impact of Managers and Teams through a focus on STRENGTHS for sustainable results.


Do you have a question for Jayne?  Post it in our Senior Manager Community and she will be happy to help: Ask an Expert


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Comments (3)

Liz Clayton-Jones posted on: March 4, 2013

Loss of focus is an ever-present challenge versus "do everything"; we have an "and, and,and" culture left over from the 90s which doesn't always serve us well, so I'm always grateful for a bit of new insight (or reinforcement of what we already know!).

John Murphy posted on: March 5, 2013

Good tips, but please remember that multi tasking is not an attribute to develop - it is an excuse for lack of focus!

jayne jenkins posted on: May 28, 2013

John and Liz,
I am sorry for hte delayed response I missed the email that told me of your comments. I appreciate them. You are right in that many of us are driven by our "action/to do" list and as such are compelled to multi task. The more we can become aware of this "non-productive" approach the more we can focus on what is important and enjoy life!

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