Three Ways to Save an Unproductive Day

Daily agency life often feels like an elaborate juggling act—account managers constantly juggle accounts and each account’s unique priorities and deadlines. This requires switching gears throughout the day, usually several times an hour. The necessity of this workflow is obvious—we need to be available to our clients throughout the day as projects and issues pop up, and we strive to efficiently handle projects as if each account were our only account. The KG team prides ourselves on being flexible and in our ability to nimbly manage dozens of loose ends at a time. However, it would not be a stretch to call this style of work ‘multi-tasking,’ and from our recent series on productivity, we know that multi-tasking at its worst actually reduces productivity. The Wall Street Journal recently published an article on how to be more productive at work, and identified “fragmentation – trying to juggle many competing, and usually unexpected, demands on your time,” as the leading cause of an unproductive day and the root of the uncomfortable feeling that you worked really hard all day and yet have the sense that nothing got done. Yep, that’s a day KGers can relate to! How then do agencies limit the inefficiencies of multi-tasking in the face of competing demands on their time?

The WSJ article, “How to Save an Unproductive Day in 25 Minutes,” gives three suggestions for busy professionals to maximize efficiency when pulled in a million directions. The article resonated with me, and I wanted to share the tips and how they apply to agency life at KG.

1. Schedule uninterrupted work time—Whether you have to go hide in the empty conference room to escape the usually welcome antics of your awesome coworkers (pie! Funny YouTube clip!), pipe in some white noise to get you in the no-distraction zone like Eric does, or follow the Pomodoro Technique like Valerie does, actually scheduling dedicated time to completely focus on the most pressing task at hand can help check it off your to-do list faster.

2. Keep track of the progress you made that day—The WSJ recommends writing out everything you did at the end of a crazy day to give yourself a better sense of accomplishment. Personally I keep a running to-do list and find great satisfaction (possibly too much satisfaction) in checking things off that list. Sometimes I even tack on a few too-easy tasks that really shouldn’t count (making breakfast, putting new ink in the printer) just to make myself feel more productive! As the WSJ points out, perception is reality and just feeling more productive can make all the difference between a good day and a bad one. Continue reading

KG Productivity Tips Series #3: Other Things We Like

If you’re a regular reader of the KBlog, you’ll recall KG’s favorite productivity tips for staying focused and organized. In the third and final segment in our productivity series, we share our favorite miscellaneous productivity tools and tricks that help make the KG team shine!

Google Voice: So chances are that you’ve heard of Google Voice before, but on the off-chance you haven’t, let me be the first to tell you how cool it is to not have to listen to voicemails anymore. If I have to miss a call because I’m on another call, I almost instantly receive an email and a text transcription of the voicemail–quite the perk for someone like me who dislikes listening to five consecutive messages of “Hi Brittany, it’s your mom. Call me back!” to get to the message left by a client. (Aside: I can’t be the only person whose mom doesn’t trust that my phone will tell me I missed her call without needing to leave a message.) Especially effective for people with multiple phone numbers (home, work, cell), Google Voice gives users the option to use a single Google forwarding number to all of the user’s phones, so when your office phone rings when you’re out of the office, you can take the call on your cell. Brilliant! Google Voice also supports conference calling with call recording and online archiving. On top of all of that, there are lots more features, so get your Google Voice on now if you haven’t signed up yet.

Good Old-fashioned Mindfulness: This one might be a “duh,” but if we were all doing it right, I have a hunch our society would be a lot different than it is. The powers of mindfulness are praised high and wide for increasing health, happiness, and productivity. Some even believe that if you focus your positive energy well enough, you can attract good things to you. Now, I don’t know if I’d go that far personally, but I do know that reminding myself to be mindful and “in the moment” can have powerful effects on my sanity and my efficiency.

Next time you find yourself scatterbrained, extremely stressed, or asking yourself “what the heck was I just doing/going to do?”, try this: Close your eyes. Take ten deep breaths and visualize all the thoughts cluttering your mind flowing out one-by-one, vanishing (poof!), leaving your head empty. (I’m saying visualize, folks – most of us are not really that good.) Then, ask yourself: What is it I really need to be focusing on right now? Try to pick one thing that’s high-priority. Open your eyes, and jot down a few steps that you can work on right now.

Session Manager: I love tabs. There are two dozen tabs open in my browser right now. Session manager helps keep those tabs safe until I’m ready to return to them.

Session Manager is an add-on for Firefox and Chrome that allows you to save the state of all windows and tabs open in your browser. This snapshot of your broswer can be saved and an unlimited number of sessions saves are allowed. Besides backing up your browsing in the event of a crash, this helps keep personal and professional browsing separate. It allows you to unplug — save your 9-5 browser windows as you’re leaving for the day, close your browser and leave your work projects until you’re ready for them. (It’s no fun to open up Chrome on Sunday morning when you’re looking for a good brunch spot on Yelp and get a big reminder of all the loose ends waiting for you Monday morning.) Or, focus on plugging back in. (If you’ve been shopping at home for a sweet new pair of slacks and reasonably priced ties, you can save those window-shopping tabs until later to avoid distraction when you get to the office.)

Look at the Competition: This may seem unrelated to productivity, but competition is a huge motivator, and motivation increases productivity. When I look at clients’ competitors’ news coverage or social media activity, for example, I get motivated to work really hard and to come up with new ideas to stay at the top of our game. If you’re even the slightest bit competitive like me, you’ll find your competitor’s success a perfect productivity push.

Achieving and maintaining peak performance is a constantly moving target. Just when you think you’ve cracked the code, another distraction or challenge pops up and creates room for improvement. At KG, we’re always on the lookout for the next big thing, so let us know if there’s something that works for you that we should know about!

KG Productivity Tips Series #2: Staying Organized

A few weeks ago, we started a new series on productivity and we shared some our favorite ways to minimize distractions. Today we tackle another beast–organization.

Google Docs: Because Ketner Group is not on an intranet, we usually have to verbally or electronically call dibs on editing a document, then pass it along to the next person and the process begins again. Google Docs allows us to collaborate on the same document, while getting real-time updates from the person editing. This way, we can eliminate the added time it takes to combine two or more edited versions that were sent around the same time.

Outlook Tasks: I know, I know. It may seem old school (or nothing new), but I keep my week’s ‘to-do’s’ in my Outlook Tasks folder. What better place to store my action items than the same program that stores my emails and calendar appointments? Also, when I receive an email that requires some action, I flag it and it is automatically sent to my Tasks folder. I also set the tasks to ping me on certain days or times so I don’t forget to complete them. It’s like my electronic nagging mother.

Stickies: What should you use Stickies for? That’s up to you. This minimal tool offers a relatively low-tech way to jot down notes or keep track of projects and more. 

Stickies is a free, basic note-taking application available on every Mac since 1994. These electronic Post-It Notes can be placed around your desktop. Stickies is an easy-to-use, lightweight application that works well for everything from to-do lists, taking notes on a call or preparing the first draft of an email — or this blog post. You can create multiple Stickies, but they all save to one file and save instantly, making them great as a word processor in a pinch — the barebones application runs lightning fast even on sluggish computers — where you don’t (knock on wood) have to worry about losing your content in a crash. And, Stickies is not just restricted to text. You can drag and drop everything from images to Quicktime movies to embed.

: It may sound like a shameless promotion, but Ketner Group client Omnego developed a really cool app that helps keep my life less cluttered, and at least for me, less clutter=more productivity. 

 Continue reading

KG Productivity Tips Series, #1: Minimizing Distractions

The topic of productivity needs no fancy introduction — everyone who runs or has stake in a business worries about it, and everyone wants to be better at it. At Ketner Group, we take pride in our balance between productivity and play, because, well, you know what they say about all work and no play. Below, a few of the Ketner Groupies have shared our favorite productivity tips. In the next couple of weeks, we’ll cover what works to keep us organized and on-task.

Brittany: Multitasking Doesn’t Work, Sorry
The first step of recovery is to admit you have a problem, and the problem in this case is multitasking. I have learned—the hard way—that I am not much of a multitasker. Sure, the human brain is capable of some multitasking, like listening to the radio while driving or stirring a cooking dinner while talking on the phone. But it turns out that multitasking in the office doesn’t work very well (and it’s not just me!), and there’s a lot of science to prove it. In a Time magazine article, writer Claudia Wallis explains the research: when people try to tackle multiple tasks at once, “or [alternate] rapidly between them, errors go way up and it takes far longer—often double the time or more—to get the jobs done than if they were done sequentially.” Worse still, research from the University of North Texas found that multitaskers actually lose time because “the brain is compelled to restart and refocus” as it switches gears.

Instead of trying to knock out five projects every five or 10 minutes, admit to yourself that multitasking doesn’t improve your game and discipline yourself to dedicate larger blocks of time for each project. Remove environmental distractions such as the Internet, a cluttered workspace or verbal interruptions. Continue reading