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Three tips to eliminate busywork and stay productive in lockdown

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by Startacus Admin

stay productive in lockdown
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a great many of the working population is now working from home. Jonathan Courtney, founder and CEO of AJ&Smart and author of the newly-released The Workshopper Playbook, shares three tips to eliminate busywork and stay productive in lockdown...

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a great many of the working population is now working from home.

This step-change to remote working, and the seemingly constant emails and diary invites have created a productivity issue for many businesses. While we are no doubt all still “busy” working from home, is this the same as being productive?

Or, alternately, has our productivity dropped from filling our days with “busywork” – referring to work that always makes employees feel busy, without achieving any real stay productive in lockdownprogress – in an attempt to show willing, at the expense of genuine productivity?

Let’s take a closer look at how businesses can avoid falling into the trap of needless busywork and remain effective throughout COVID-19.

1: Scrap needless meetings

Whether through a need to appear visible and productive externally (to clients or customers) or internally (to line managers), many businesses will be spending a lot of their working day in virtual meetings. Left unchecked, this can lead to employees sitting in meetings and planning all day, at the expense of any actual work being completed. 

While contact should of course be maintained during this time, it’s important not to overdo this and leave no time for work to be actioned. To this end, we would advise blocking out time in your Google Calendar (or whatever equivalent you might use) so no further meetings can be scheduled into your day. Be ruthless in eliminating unnecessary calls, which often only serve to distract, and attend only to what’s essential, and productivity is likely to skyrocket.

Alternatively, virtual meetings can – and often should – be replaced by workshops, which encourage far greater engagement, results and are the most innovative and fun way to solve problems, creatively. Using workshops instead of meetings creates a stronger bond amongst teams and provides actionable next steps, improving productivity. For businesses unsure on how to go about this, The Workshopper Playbook provides a framework that can be applied across businesses of all shapes and sizes, providing a step-by-step guide showing how to run a workshop for any situation.

2: Create a smart to-do list

Particularly when working from home, with the less “defined” working days that come with office-based work, it can be all-too-easy to create a wide-ranging to-do list which only expands throughout the day, leading to constant switching between tasks and crippling productivity.

stay productive in lockdownAll these are all-too-common symptoms of a deeper problem: poor prioritisation.

While there is of course often a great deal to get done each day, if you’re trying to do everything at the same time, you won’t manage to fully complete any task at all. In fact, the only thing you’ll accomplish is scattering your focus and attention. 

Subsequently, to maximise productivity employees should get a clear overview of their most important tasks and gain a crystal clear idea of what has to be done now – distraction-free time slots can also be “blocked out” throughout the day to maximise productivity - and what can be postponed till later by running a quick prioritisation workshop. Our favourite example of this is the Lightning Decision Jam (LDJ). 

3: Operate in focused “sprints”

It is extremely difficult to maintain complete focus for the entire working day, and attempts to do so can easily lead to distractions creeping in, or the dreaded afternoon “slump”. This is particularly likely at home, without the “mini-breaks” you may have become accustomed to in the office, such as a friendly chat with a colleague in the kitchen, a short stroll to the meeting room, or bouncing around the room with post-its during a workshop, crippling your focus and leaving you drained at the end of each day.

Dedicate pre-determined time blocks (e.g. 30 minutes) specifically to focused work, and then make it a rule to take a short break after each block. Get up and stretch; look out the window, or take a short stroll around the block at lunch (circumstances permitting). Do anything that would imply a change of activity. Use these breaks wisely and rather than look at a different screen, use the time to disconnect, go get some fresh air and move around a little. This segmented approach to focus will help you balance out your energy levels and keep your mind in the zone.

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Published on: 20th April 2020

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