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Productivity Hijacked? Here’s What to Do.

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Clients often ask me how to get back on track when someone or something hijacks their productivity. It’s a common question because it’s a common occurrence. Schedules inevitably get taken off-course despite our strategic time management efforts. Meetings and calls run over. Doctor’s appointments stretch beyond their already-generous time allotment. People have needs and come to us. Some rightly deserve our immediate attention. Others, not so much. Our people get sick. We get sick. Things happen.

And it’s true, we cannot control things beyond our control. We can, however, control how we react in these situations to get back on track. Let’s walk through the strategies.

Start With Your Task List

You didn’t plan to get sick, but you found yourself in bed for three days recovering. First of all, kudos to you for not putting your health or your reputation at risk. You didn’t compromise your output slogging through responsibilities when you didn’t feel well. You took the time needed to heal so you could return at full-throttle. Now here you are, but where do you start? Start with your task list. If you’ve maintained a concise to-do list, you already know your scope of work. If you don’t have a task list, begin by creating one. And commit to the practice going forward. Task lists, foundational to personal productivity, are proven to boost personal output. I am a big fan of digital tools, and we’ve covered some of our favorites in the past, but even a written task list will meet the objectives.

To Proceed Productively, Set Realistic Expectations and Re-Prioritize Accordingly

Next, review your list and spend some time prioritizing your efforts. Ask yourself some questions:

  • What has an immediate deadline or repercussion?
  • What needs to be accomplished to move a project forward?
  • Do I hold a part of something others are working on that will enable them to proceed productively?
  • What can wait until I’ve caught up on the more pressing matters?

When your schedule has been hijacked, you cannot simply return to work and do it all as originally planned. Well, not without cutting into your personal time or taking from another obligation and/or compromising the quality of your output. Robbing Peter to pay Paul puts you in debt to Peter. In the vast majority of cases, everything does not have to be made up in one day/afternoon/hour. So prioritize your responsibilities and slot-in your to-dos accordingly.

Your Productivity Doesn’t Reside in a Vacuum: Communicate with Your Stakeholders

Oftentimes your productivity hijack will inevitably impact others, but this is reality. Clients, coworkers and supervisors understand that things happen because things happen to them. What’s important is that you communicate your status to stakeholders in a timely fashion.

So after setting realistic expectations for the completion of your work due to a client or team member, let them know what to expect. If applicable, confer with your manager or supervisor. They could provide input that changes your priority. They may choose to adjust an over-arching deadline or allocate incremental resources.

Delegate

As you review your task list, look for what you can delegate. Perhaps you had planned to write a proposal, but you have a subordinate that could make a run at the first draft. Not only will your role as editor be less time consuming, the assigned responsibility to the subordinate will develop their skillset. The employee gains knowledge from the novel task and you can capitalize on the employee development down the road.

For optimal delegation, remember to:

  • provide the delegate with access to the tools and information needed to get the job done.
  • keep the lines of communication open for questions and clarifications.
  • set clear expecatations and convey a deadline for completion.
  • schedule enough time to review the work you’ve delegated.

It’s Personal, And It’s Business

Professional and personal obligations should hold equal weight when overcoming a productivity hijack. This is a primary reason we’re strategizing to overcome the productivity hijack in the first place. The goal isn’t to try to get everything done, no matter the cost to our family or our health or the quality of our work. In fact, it’s for this same reason I never advocate maintaining separate personal and business to-lists. We aren’t bifurcated beings. A functional task list incorporates all the responsibilities we have before us.

You Can Effectively Manage a Productivity Hijack

Remember, when things beyond your control threaten your productivity, you can, in fact, take back control. Rely on your task list and evaluate your priorities. Look for opportunities to delegate. Keep the lines of communication open with your key stakeholders. Utilizing these strategies, you won’t risk the quality of your output or jeopardize your personal life.

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Sara Genrich & Nancy Kruschke, founders of Productivity Training Academy, came together with the vision of creating practical, results-driven online on-demand courses for time management, productivity and technology training.  With over 50 years of combined productivity experience, Sara and Nancy’s knowledge, skills and talents illuminate valuable paths to business gain, serving as an effective catalyst for positive change.