6 steps to better productivity

I have had the pleasure of meeting many brilliant executives in my 30 years as head of PCS, and of course I tend to study their habits and routines.

They didn’t get to be executives by accident. They are great leaders. They lead by example, by maintaining a ferocious work ethic and by a natural or cultivated talent for administration.

The word administration comes from the Latin, administrare, “to serve, or carry out.”

That is what management is expected to do. It is there to serve those who work in the organisation so that they can better function in their jobs, to the overall benefit of the company.

There is a vast library of books exploring the subject of leadership, which is a different quality altogether. Great leaders are often terrible administrators. That is fine, provided the leaders are supported by able administrators.

Let’s be honest, management involves a lot of grunt work: accumulating piles of paper, recording statistics, handling problems, and all the time making sure that targets are met. Emails flood the in-tray and need reply. Staff come to you with problems they are unable to solve. You can spend your days chasing your own tail.

To me, a sign of a good executive is a clean desk. It means he or she is on top of things. This is the mark of a good administrator, which is an unsexy word for a heroic function.

There is a certain aesthetic in observing a good administrator at work. They make it seem so effortless.

Here’s a few pointers I have learned in my long experience as an executive:

  1. Keep a clean desk. Implement the three-basket system for “In”, “Pending” and “Out”.
  2. At the start of the week spend the first two to three hours working through the mountain of paper, and moving as much as you can from the “In” basket to the “Out”. Prioritise this traffic according to importance. The faster it can generate income, the more important it is.
  3. Some of this paperwork will fall under the general heading “Projects” that require further study and investigation. Put them in the “Pending” tray and get to them later.
  4. The same goes for your email. If they can be answered immediately, do so. Those emails that require further work or investigation should be placed in a folder called “Pending”. You will get to them later.
  5. Once the “In” tray is empty, you are pretty much on top of things.
  6. Schedule a time each week to tackle the “Pending” tray. The same applies to the emails that are still pending. List out the projects that require further investigation in terms of priority, delegate out as much as you can and set deadlines for the return of the completed project.

There’s no rocket science in this, but I find if I omit these steps and my life gets unnecessarily noisy and unpleasant. When I do this, I seem to create time for the important things in life.

Another thing I have learned the hard way: if a staff member comes to me with a problem, I shoot it right back at them and expect them to solve it.

I hope some of this helps you in your busy lives.

Philip Park

MD, Professional Career Services