Productivity levels may be wavering in a lockdown, and that’s normal. Some days a boost of energy could get you through your to-do list in record time. Other days, focusing on the project at hand may be a daunting task. The remote work setup is not an ideal situation to be in when deliverables are due, distractions aplenty, and the internet keeps taking a break. BDD virtually sat down with a productivity guru, Ali Khalil (AK) to discuss productivity challenges, hacks and what managers can do to get the best out of their teams.
BDD: As a productivity enthusiast, what tips do you have for professionals to be more productive during lockdowns?
AK: Lockdowns may be opportunities to slow down the pace, reflect and meditate on how to better move forward. Being productive does not mean being ‘busy’.
Brendon Burchard, a world renowned High-Performance coach puts it. He advises professionals to:
- Increase the outputs that matter. Determine the outputs that matter the most to your field or industry, then focus there while saying no to almost everything else.
- Chart your five moves. What are the next five major moves to make your goal happen? Written them up, break them down into projects and deliverables, add them to your calendar.
- Get insanely good at key skills. Figure out what are the five important skills you need to develop over the next three years to grow into the person you hope to become. Then start developing those skills.
It may not be as simple as that, but why not try it out.
BDD: We often hear professionals are having difficulty focusing and delivering up to certain standard. What are the core productivity challenges that people face when working remotely?
AK: Although studies have shown that while people are more productive when they work remotely, they are actually prone to working longer hours, with an intense stressful workload while trying to balance work and home interruptions. Here are some of the challenges that people face when working remotely:
- Bad Health Habits. Are you eating too much? Or maybe forgetting to eat at all! Be more mindful about these important habits.
- Procrastination. “I have too much work to do. Let me have my breakfast and maybe watch one, two, or maybe three episodes of my favorite series. Yep, it is lunchtime now. I need to rest. Oops, the day is gone!” How many times have we thought or heard these words?
- Overwork. When you’re working from ‘home’, you tend to forget to take any breaks, and it gets harder to switch between work and home, doesn’t it?
- Miscommunication. If we’re not intentional about the way we communicate with our team members, we would fall into the trap of misunderstanding each other which in turn would evolve into tension.
- Interruptions. Parents, spouses, kids, phone calls might be continuous interruptions that get you out of focus.
- Isolation. If you’re living alone, then you might actually be wishing for that bit of human interaction instead of just virtually connecting with people.
- Technology. Between electricity outages, internet hiccups, slow laptops, and maybe a broken chair we end up getting frustrated and less productive.
BDD: With these challenges, what tools do you recommend for professionals to manage their productivity and efficiency levels?
AK: Productivity is not about the tools you use, but the workflows you embrace. So, let’s categorize some of the systems that may allow you to be more productive.
Agile/Scrum methodologies were only applied in the technology sector, but are becoming increasingly known across other businesses too. The creator of Scrum bargains on the fact that you could do twice the work in half the time. Can you believe it? I personally use Teamwork.com to help lead the team’s tasks through a KanBan board.
Zoom has become like everyone’s daily bread. It’s a popular cloud-based service that offers online webinars and meetings. The best thing about Zoom’s free version is its 40-mins limitation. I challenge you to keep your meetings down to 40 mins, you will be so happy!
Slack allows you and your team to have one-on-one chats, chat groups, audio, and video calls.
IFTT: An acronym for “if this, then that” is an app that allows you to connect online services, tools, and devices to get them to do specific things they otherwise wouldn’t be able to do.
Zapier is similar to IFTT but it is more focused on connecting 1000+ business apps to help you improve your productivity. For example, after you finish a zoom call, you can save the recording to Dropbox, and then Zapier would take the public link, and email it to your team all while you are sipping your coffee, tea or water! Zapier saves me around 10 to 15 hours a week.
Journaling is a hard habit to maintain. I’ve personally tried many apps and systems until I landed on Brendon Burchard’s High-Performance Habits. So, I digitized the concept. Feel free to try it out.
Please remember that there are plenty of tools on the market. What works for me does not necessarily mean that it would work for you. I recommend that you figure out your workflow, then test few tools to help you achieve your goals.
BDD: Business owners and managers have a big role to play when managing their teams remotely. What advice can you give them?
AK: There is a wealth of information on the web advising managers on how best to lead their teams remotely. Here are few simple tips from Kathy Gurchiek that might help you.
- Set expectations early and often.
- Adapt the length of your meetings.
- Track the progress consistently.
- Be available to your team.
- Resist the temptation to micromanage.
BDD: Due to the business disruptions that Lebanon and the world are facing, what can companies do to keep their operational productivity up to a certain standard?
AK: During and after these disruptions, companies need to focus on restoring employees’ emotions and trust in order to keep their operational productivity up to a certain level.
Nowadays, there is an overwhelming fear about health, safety and job sustainability which keeps adding anxiety for business owners and their remote workers.
Here are few tips to help companies and up their productivity:
- Socialize. Figure out a way to keep your workplace “social” regardless of social distancing
- Strategize. Build a business continuity plan and share it with your team.
- Support. Focus on employees’ health, safety, and wellbeing.
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About Ali Khalil
Ali Khalil is an experienced global strategist, remote worker, and productivity geek. Driven by his love to see people succeed, he takes pride in providing great support to organizations and individuals alike. As a global project manager, he takes his time to build efficient remote teams with productive workflows.