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How to be More
Productive at Work
To be productive at work is to prioritize,
prioritize, prioritize. Here’s how.
FROM WAVE...
“Goals are dreams with deadlines.”
— HAMZA KHAN (How to Write the Perfect Task)
Contents
1. How to block off time to work with “No Meeting Wednesdays” [ jump to section ]
2. Ways to avoid decision fatig...
(1)
No Meeting Wednesdays
Goals, benefits, and how to make them happen
“We all have days when it’s nearly impossible to
get uninterrupted time to do work. In response
to this, Asana created No ...
Goals of No Meeting Wednesdays
● Give all team members a large block of time to focus
on heads-down work, without having t...
Benefits of No Meeting Wednesdays
● Fewer disruptions mean more team members
can be productive.
● We get to check more wor...
How No Meeting Wednesdays work
If you want to implement a NMW policy at your company, we recommend:
● Make sure everyone—e...
(2)
Avoid decision fatigue
Spend less time on decision-making
“Leaders have to make a ton of decisions every
day, and wise leaders know that they have to
be thoughtful about how much e...
Distinguishing between 4 decision types
Easy decisions rarely take much effort, regardless of whether or not they are impo...
How do you know which type of decision
you have in front of you?
If you’re unsure, do a quick visioning/anti-visioning exe...
Example: figuring out seating charts
In some cases, one of those optimizations is truly important, but for most projects a...
Done is better than perfect: bias for action
In case you needed additional motivation, remember that letting decisions lin...
(3)
Purpose-driven prioritization
Are you prioritizing your work based on what’s
easiest? Or what’s truly important?
“When you go into work, there are an infinite
number of tasks you could do. With no system,
it’s easy to start with work t...
Mission → Objectives →
Prioritization
Before you can start to prioritize you need to:
1. Know what your mission is.
2. Use...
Clarifying
Objectives
Goals and objectives are a guiding principle for teams as they
decide what to do day to day. They se...
Clarifying
Objectives
Step 1: get specific
Imagine what your team looks like in one year. What does
that look like? Reflec...
Clarifying
Objectives
Step 2: consider the true cost
Estimate in practical terms how much time and how many
resources it w...
Clarifying
Objectives
Step 3: scope your vision
Determine what’s realistic for just one year. Consider where
“costs exceed...
Clarifying
Objectives
Step 4: codify your vision
Generate a set of clearly actionable top-level objectives every
year. Her...
“Most people waste most of their
time, especially in business.”
— SAM ALTMAN
A formula for comparing ROIs
Our process for comparing large project ROIs involves a spreadsheet with three columns: proje...
( 4 )
Time Management Skills
A three-step plan to improve them
“When you manage your time well,
work gets done ahead of schedule,
teammates feel like they can rely
on you, and you feel ...
Write down all of your responsibilities and types of work you do. For example:
Make a pie chart of where you’d ideally spe...
Write down all of your responsibilities and types of work you do. For example:
Then, add what percentage of your time you ...
Write down all of your responsibilities and types of work you do. For example:
Then, add what percentage of your time you ...
Write down all of your responsibilities and types of work you do. For example:
When you do the math, you’ll probably find ...
Write down all of your responsibilities and types of work you do. For example:
Total: 125%
When you do the math, you’ll pr...
Write down all of your responsibilities and types of work you do. For example:
Total: 125%
You’ll need to make some tradeo...
Write down all of your responsibilities and types of work you do. For example:
Total: 100%
Make a pie chart of where you’d...
The result:
Total: 100%
Make a pie chart of where you’d ideally spend your time
STEP 1
If you’re in a leadership position,
you probably want to set aside at
least 15% for strategic thinking and
15% for being a...
Understand where your time actually goes
STEP 2
To track where your time actually goes, look at two types of work:
RECURRING MEETINGS
Make calculations like “a 3 hour meeting once every
three weeks = 1 hour per week.”
Understand where yo...
RECURRING MEETINGS
Make calculations like “a 3 hour meeting once every
three weeks = 1 hour per week.”
AD-HOC WORK
For oth...
RECURRING MEETINGS
Make calculations like “a 3 hour meeting once every
three weeks = 1 hour per week.”
AD-HOC WORK
For oth...
Understand where your time actually goes
STEP 2
Once you’ve visualized your ideal and actual pie charts, compare them to s...
DELETE: Much of our outstanding work is less important than the work we could be doing. Delete these
tasks. If a teammate ...
DELETE: Much of our outstanding work is less important than the work we could be doing. Delete these
tasks. If a teammate ...
DELETE: Much of our outstanding work is less important than the work we could be doing. Delete these
tasks. If a teammate ...
DELETE: Much of our outstanding work is less important than the work we could be doing. Delete these
tasks. If a teammate ...
This was originally published as a set of articles in the
Mastering Productivity issue of Wavelength by Asana.
Read the or...
Mastering productivity: how to get more done at work
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Mastering productivity: how to get more done at work

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Learn how to implement no meeting Wednesdays, prioritize tasks smartly, avoid decision fatigue, and be better with time management.

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Mastering productivity: how to get more done at work

  1. 1. How to be More Productive at Work To be productive at work is to prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. Here’s how. FROM WAVELENGTH BY ASANA
  2. 2. “Goals are dreams with deadlines.” — HAMZA KHAN (How to Write the Perfect Task)
  3. 3. Contents 1. How to block off time to work with “No Meeting Wednesdays” [ jump to section ] 2. Ways to avoid decision fatigue and spend less time on decision-making [ jump to section ] 3. Strategies for implementing purpose-driven prioritization [ jump to section ] 4. A three-step plan for improving your time management skills [ jump to section ]
  4. 4. (1) No Meeting Wednesdays Goals, benefits, and how to make them happen
  5. 5. “We all have days when it’s nearly impossible to get uninterrupted time to do work. In response to this, Asana created No Meeting Wednesdays (NMW): every team member knows not to schedule meetings on that day, unless absolutely necessary.” — KASEY FLEISHER HICKEY (No Meeting Wednesdays)
  6. 6. Goals of No Meeting Wednesdays ● Give all team members a large block of time to focus on heads-down work, without having to fit it in between meetings. ● Allow everyone, including managers, to be “doers” and “makers.” ● Energize teammates, let them get heads down in the work they need and want to do, and have one day every week that isn’t schedule-driven.
  7. 7. Benefits of No Meeting Wednesdays ● Fewer disruptions mean more team members can be productive. ● We get to check more work off our task lists than any other day of the week. ● Wednesdays are many Asanas’ favorite day of the week (productivity is rewarding)!
  8. 8. How No Meeting Wednesdays work If you want to implement a NMW policy at your company, we recommend: ● Make sure everyone—especially new hires—understands that NMW = no internal meetings. ● Add NMW as a recurring event for the entire staff as a gentle reminder to keep those days free. ● if a meeting has to happen, encourage team members to use judgement when scheduling a meeting on a Wednesday. ● Make exceptions to NMW when absolutely necessary (e.g. a job candidate is only able to come in on a Wednesday), but try really hard to avoid them.
  9. 9. (2) Avoid decision fatigue Spend less time on decision-making
  10. 10. “Leaders have to make a ton of decisions every day, and wise leaders know that they have to be thoughtful about how much energy to put into each one. Ideally, they put all their focus on the most important decisions that require serious thinking. That’s why President Obama wears the same suit every day.” — DUSTIN MOSKOVITZ (Avoiding decision fatigue at work)
  11. 11. Distinguishing between 4 decision types Easy decisions rarely take much effort, regardless of whether or not they are important. However, we’re often prone to killing ourselves over hard decisions that aren’t actually that important. Easy Hard Important These decisions are worth your time and attention, but won’t take much of it. EXAMPLE Choosing to promote someone great. These decisions are where you should focus most of your time and attention. EXAMPLE Choosing strategic priorities. Unimportant These decisions aren’t worth much energy, but they also won’t take much of it. EXAMPLE What to wear today, what to eat for lunch. These decisions are where you are wasting your finite decision-making energy.
  12. 12. How do you know which type of decision you have in front of you? If you’re unsure, do a quick visioning/anti-visioning exercise: ● What’s the best that could happen if this decision is made well? ● What’s the worst that could happen if the decision goes poorly? If the gap between outcomes is small, just make a call. If, however, there’s a big gap between the potential outcomes, it’s a good sign that the decision is worthy of more thought.
  13. 13. Example: figuring out seating charts In some cases, one of those optimizations is truly important, but for most projects and teams, either is fine as long as you don’t totally neglect the other. This decision was hard but unimportant. Therefore: Just pick one! Choice 1 Choice 2 Group people by program teams, so that everyone who is working on the same project can quickly communicate. Group people by function, so that everyone who does the same kind of work can easily critique each other’s work or provide help with tricky problems. Optimizes for agility and coordination Optimizes consistency and mentorship
  14. 14. Done is better than perfect: bias for action In case you needed additional motivation, remember that letting decisions linger has a number of negative consequences: ● It creates cognitive overhead for the decision maker, who spends both conscious attention on it and unconscious energy (“background processing”) while they go about other activities. ● It results in the paradox of choice phenomenon, meaning you’re less likely to be satisfied with the ultimate decision regardless of which way it goes. ● It creates anxiety and confusion within the team, who are either blocked on dependent decisions or forced to plan out contingencies.
  15. 15. (3) Purpose-driven prioritization Are you prioritizing your work based on what’s easiest? Or what’s truly important?
  16. 16. “When you go into work, there are an infinite number of tasks you could do. With no system, it’s easy to start with work that’s easiest, most urgent, or most recently assigned to you. To maximize the value of your output, your default should be tasks which serve the highest purpose. Less important work may never deserve to be prioritized, no matter how ‘urgent.’” — VIVEK SRI (The process and math behind prioritization)
  17. 17. Mission → Objectives → Prioritization Before you can start to prioritize you need to: 1. Know what your mission is. 2. Use that to determine top-level objectives. 3. Then work your way down to what that means for your to-do list today. Adopting a macro view helps clarify what to work on and when.
  18. 18. Clarifying Objectives Goals and objectives are a guiding principle for teams as they decide what to do day to day. They serve to answer the question: “Why am I doing this?” If a task or project isn’t a step toward completing a top-level objective, it isn’t a priority and it isn’t worth doing. Why?
  19. 19. Clarifying Objectives Step 1: get specific Imagine what your team looks like in one year. What does that look like? Reflect from a vantage point a year out and consider every aspect of your company. Headcount, product features, milestones; think about the details.
  20. 20. Clarifying Objectives Step 2: consider the true cost Estimate in practical terms how much time and how many resources it will take to realize that vision.
  21. 21. Clarifying Objectives Step 3: scope your vision Determine what’s realistic for just one year. Consider where “costs exceed available resources.” How are your ambitions greater than what your team can handle today?
  22. 22. Clarifying Objectives Step 4: codify your vision Generate a set of clearly actionable top-level objectives every year. Here are some examples: ● X% increase in user growth ● Grow the team with X engineers and Y operations hires ● Increase revenue by X% Scoping helps you define the measurable goals that, once accomplished, get you closer to achieving your mission.
  23. 23. “Most people waste most of their time, especially in business.” — SAM ALTMAN
  24. 24. A formula for comparing ROIs Our process for comparing large project ROIs involves a spreadsheet with three columns: project name, expected value (bang), and expected cost (buck). We then compute a fourth column with the ratio of “bang” to “buck,” to get an imperfect but useful sense of what’s worth pursuing. EV (bang) / EV (buck) = Bang To Buck Ratio For value, consider questions like: by what percentage would this improve our core success metrics? Could this open up whole new markets? Is this a high-leverage opportunity given our market position? For cost, calculate a rough number of person-months expected to complete, taking into account all departments involved.
  25. 25. ( 4 ) Time Management Skills A three-step plan to improve them
  26. 26. “When you manage your time well, work gets done ahead of schedule, teammates feel like they can rely on you, and you feel good about how you spent your time.” — JACKIE BAVARO (How to become a master of your time)
  27. 27. Write down all of your responsibilities and types of work you do. For example: Make a pie chart of where you’d ideally spend your time STEP 1 ● Being available to help ● Customer research ● Making sales calls ● Working on a specific project ● Strategic thinking ● Recruiting ● Personal development ● Managing reports
  28. 28. Write down all of your responsibilities and types of work you do. For example: Then, add what percentage of your time you would ideally spend on each of those. Make a pie chart of where you’d ideally spend your time STEP 1 ● Being available to help ● Customer research ● Making sales calls ● Working on a specific project ● Strategic thinking ● Recruiting ● Personal development ● Managing reports
  29. 29. Write down all of your responsibilities and types of work you do. For example: Then, add what percentage of your time you would ideally spend on each of those. Make a pie chart of where you’d ideally spend your time STEP 1 ● Being available to help - 15% ● Customer research - 10% ● Making sales calls - 20% ● Working on a specific project - 20% ● Strategic thinking - 15% ● Recruiting - 15% ● Personal development - 15% ● Managing reports - 15%
  30. 30. Write down all of your responsibilities and types of work you do. For example: When you do the math, you’ll probably find that your percentages add up to more than 100%. Make a pie chart of where you’d ideally spend your time STEP 1 ● Being available to help - 15% ● Customer research - 10% ● Making sales calls - 20% ● Working on a specific project - 20% ● Strategic thinking - 15% ● Recruiting - 15% ● Personal development - 15% ● Managing reports - 15%
  31. 31. Write down all of your responsibilities and types of work you do. For example: Total: 125% When you do the math, you’ll probably find that your percentages add up to more than 100%. Make a pie chart of where you’d ideally spend your time STEP 1 ● Being available to help - 15% ● Customer research - 10% ● Making sales calls - 20% ● Working on a specific project - 20% ● Strategic thinking - 15% ● Recruiting - 15% ● Personal development - 15% ● Managing reports - 15%
  32. 32. Write down all of your responsibilities and types of work you do. For example: Total: 125% You’ll need to make some tradeoffs to get to a realistic plan and accept that you won’t be able to do it all. Adjust allocations or remove categories until you feel good about your pie chart. Make a pie chart of where you’d ideally spend your time STEP 1 ● Being available to help - 15% ● Customer research - 10% ● Making sales calls - 20% ● Working on a specific project - 20% ● Strategic thinking - 15% ● Recruiting - 15% ● Personal development - 15% ● Managing reports - 15%
  33. 33. Write down all of your responsibilities and types of work you do. For example: Total: 100% Make a pie chart of where you’d ideally spend your time STEP 1 ● Being available to help - 15% ● Customer research - 10% ● Making sales calls - 20% ● Working on a specific project - 20% 15% ● Strategic thinking - 15% ● Recruiting - 15% ● Personal development - 15% 10% ● Managing reports - 15% 10%
  34. 34. The result: Total: 100% Make a pie chart of where you’d ideally spend your time STEP 1
  35. 35. If you’re in a leadership position, you probably want to set aside at least 15% for strategic thinking and 15% for being available to help.
  36. 36. Understand where your time actually goes STEP 2 To track where your time actually goes, look at two types of work:
  37. 37. RECURRING MEETINGS Make calculations like “a 3 hour meeting once every three weeks = 1 hour per week.” Understand where your time actually goes STEP 2 To track where your time actually goes, look at two types of work:
  38. 38. RECURRING MEETINGS Make calculations like “a 3 hour meeting once every three weeks = 1 hour per week.” AD-HOC WORK For other work, track how you spend your time closely for a week or two. One way to do this is to retroactively add calendar events with a summary of how you spent that time. A rough guess will do. Understand where your time actually goes STEP 2 To track where your time actually goes, look at two types of work:
  39. 39. RECURRING MEETINGS Make calculations like “a 3 hour meeting once every three weeks = 1 hour per week.” AD-HOC WORK For other work, track how you spend your time closely for a week or two. One way to do this is to retroactively add calendar events with a summary of how you spent that time. A rough guess will do. Understand where your time actually goes STEP 2 Recurring meetings Strategic thinking Recruiting Personal development Managing reports Helping others Customer research Sales calls Working on a specific project 4 hours 2 hours 4 hours 1 hour 2 hours 4 hours 5 hours 8 hours 10 hours TOTAL 40 To track where your time actually goes, look at two types of work:
  40. 40. Understand where your time actually goes STEP 2 Once you’ve visualized your ideal and actual pie charts, compare them to see where you are out of sync. Seeing major inconsistencies? You’ll need to readjust how you’re spending your time to get your actual closer to your ideal. IDEAL ACTUAL
  41. 41. DELETE: Much of our outstanding work is less important than the work we could be doing. Delete these tasks. If a teammate gave you a responsibility you don’t believe is the best use of your time, let them know. Delete, defer, delegate, or diminish. STEP 3
  42. 42. DELETE: Much of our outstanding work is less important than the work we could be doing. Delete these tasks. If a teammate gave you a responsibility you don’t believe is the best use of your time, let them know. DEFER: If you don’t have time now, but will in the future, deferring a responsibility is an excellent option. Set a reminder to complete the task on a specific date in the future. Delete, defer, delegate, or diminish. STEP 3
  43. 43. DELETE: Much of our outstanding work is less important than the work we could be doing. Delete these tasks. If a teammate gave you a responsibility you don’t believe is the best use of your time, let them know. DEFER: If you don’t have time now, but will in the future, deferring a responsibility is an excellent option. Set a reminder to complete the task on a specific date in the future. DELEGATE: For responsibilities that still need to get done, evaluate if it can be reassigned to another teammate. Delegation works best when you can hand a responsibility over completely. Delete, defer, delegate, or diminish. STEP 3
  44. 44. DELETE: Much of our outstanding work is less important than the work we could be doing. Delete these tasks. If a teammate gave you a responsibility you don’t believe is the best use of your time, let them know. DEFER: If you don’t have time now, but will in the future, deferring a responsibility is an excellent option. Set a reminder to complete the task on a specific date in the future. DELEGATE: For responsibilities that still need to get done, evaluate if it can be reassigned to another teammate. Delegation works best when you can hand a responsibility over completely. DIMINISH: Find ways to reduce the time you spend on tasks. One way to start is to eliminate, shorten, consolidate, or reduce the frequency of recurring meetings. Alternatively, reduce the scope of the work (e.g. only tackling the highest priority pieces) or stop working when your output is good, rather than perfect. Delete, defer, delegate, or diminish. STEP 3
  45. 45. This was originally published as a set of articles in the Mastering Productivity issue of Wavelength by Asana. Read the original articles or go to the Asana app to start implementing your new productivity strategies. Thanks for reading

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