By Mridu Parikh
Overwhelmed by the onslaught of apps that promise to make your life more productive? You’ll learn to organize your emails, take control of your finances, streamline your grocery shopping and never miss a to-do again. But getting yourself to use the apps as intended is where you fall short. They’ll make good on their promises, if you put them to use consistently.
So before downloading another app to monitor your work minutes or number of sales calls, try these three simple hacks with everyday technology you’re already using.
#1: Be an email connoisseur
Surprisingly, the number one email area that drives productivity is not the bulleted text, calls to action or attachments. It’s the subject line. This is your opportunity to give and receive key information like urgency, messages and deadlines.
We tend to use our subject lines like teasers instead of the direct communication tool they could be. Here are some subject lines you might be familiar with: Information For You, Please Read, Meeting Notes, Next Steps etc. Instead, think of your subject line as a summary of the information you need, so you can cut down on the number of interactions. Try, “Need Your Feedback On Meeting Notes By 3pm Friday.” Or “Coffee at 10am Monday to Discuss Partnership Opportunities.” These action oriented subject lines with deadlines let the recipient know exactly what they need to do, by when. And it allows them to take clear action without even opening the email, which is a huge time saver.
#2: Use voicemail like a messenger superhero
Similarly, your ingoing and outgoing voicemail messages should be so effective that it shouldn’t take more than one returned call to get the job done. Don’t leave a message like: “Hey, got a quick question for you. Call me back.” It invites the dreaded “phone tag”, which is a complete time waster.
Instead leave a detailed message like: “Hey, this is Donna. It’s about noon and I have a quick question for you. Do you know the name of the folder of the marketing campaign we wrapped up yesterday, and exactly where I could find that file? I’d really appreciate this info. by end of day. You can either email or text it to me at 212-333-2345. Thanks!” The recipient knows exactly what you need, where to send it and the deadline.
The same goes for your outgoing voice message. Leave clear directions about all the information you want and need. Try this on for an outgoing message. “This is Betty. To help me get you exactly what you need please leave your name, the time you called, a detailed message about what information you’re looking and the best way and time to reach you. You can expect a response from me within 24 hours, unless you let me know you need it sooner. Thanks so much!”
The response to this message will arm you with all the information you need to take the appropriate and effective action, while also setting clear expectations for the person who called.
#3: Turn your calendar into a task manager
Chances are you’re using your calendar to book appointments, meetings and due dates for important deadlines. But have you booked the time you need to prepare for these commitments? That’s usually where time management takes a turn for the worst. Blocking out time to work on each of your deliverables or get ready for meetings prevents tasks from falling through the cracks, and maps out the time you need to do an effective job. In addition to adding “RFP due” on Friday, block out time on Wednesday and Thursday to get it done. Managing your tasks and time effectively are critical to your productivity and will help prevent you from feeling overwhelmed.
Which one of these three productivity hacks can you get in place today? Let me know in the comments.
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