There is so much help on the Internet to help you improve your productivity. Google it and you’ll find 20 articles written in the past two days on this subject. And if you’ve been reading this blog, you know I have a passion for marketing efficiency. Marketing teams are notoriously underfunded and over-taxed, so every minute counts.

While managing your own productivity is one thing, managing your team’s is quite another. How do you coach someone to be more organized or productive? It can sometimes feel like an “you either got it or you don’t” situation. And it can be frustrating if you’re uber organized and linear, while some of your staff might be much less so. So how do you turn simple busyness into productivity?

I wish I could say that there is a secret silver bullet, but there really isn’t. But that is not to say that there aren’t some tactics and tools that can make a BIG difference. You just first have to get to the heart of the friction to be able to resolve it properly.

The first step is to get to know your staff and where their real stumbling blocks are coming from. It can be easy to jump to the conclusion that it’s a personal flaw of the individual causing all the roadblocks, but there can be a number of factors contributing to the person’s situation. It’s up to you to get to the bottom of it. Some common issues are:

  • Poor workflow – Are requests coming in to your team from all over the place? How does your team member prioritize? Are they authorized to say no? Or push back? An inexperienced person, might think they have to take it all on. Creating a centralized process for taking requests will give you, the manager, insight into the requests and allow for easier prioritizing.
  • Poor education and organization – If requests from outside departments are burying your team in fire drills, it’s up to you to educate the requesters as to how much time your team requires to complete certain tasks. AND, importantly, it’s up to you to stick to your rules about lead time, don’t let your team or yourself get bullied into breaking your own guidelines. They’ll just keep doing it and you won’t get any productivity improvements.
  • Goals and prioritization – Your team will have a difficult time deciding what to do next if you haven’t clearly laid out the goals to them. Add in overly-full plates of tasks and you have a recipe for disaster. Continually reminding them of what you’re fighting for will keep them working on the most important items without you having to continually coach on what’s next.
  • It’s not you it’s me – Are you organized enough? Are you giving clear direction and helping your team understand what needs to get done? Changing your mind frequently or constantly throwing urgent requests to your team can be very frustrating for them and will push them off their top games. Take a hard look at your daily habits and make sure you’re as efficient as you can be before working on your team.
  • Youth and inexperience – Some of your team members might simply be un-used to juggling multiple projects and tasks. We’ve all been there. Be patient. Work with them on different techniques to manage their to-do lists and how to work more efficiently through their day. Good habits take a while to develop. With your guidance you’ll get them off to a great start.

And speaking of some techniques to manage tasks and projects more effectively, I’ve found some tools and methods I’ve use throughout the years that might help you.

  • Strengths Finder – This isn’t so much of a productivity tool as what I think of as a team-enhancing tool. This book is great for helping staff and managers discover their best strengths are and get themselves doing work suited to those strengths. It’s invaluable for a manager who wants to build a team with varying strengths for top performance. It also helps individuals learn to work well with others, capitalizing on respective strengths. And, it’s so POSITIVE, which I love.
  • Smartsheet – My favorite productivity tool. Smartsheet is a cloud-based spreadsheet and project management system. “Sheets” can be shared easily for collaboration. And, you can even create forms that connect to the sheets. I’ve used these forms to collect all those requests your team gets from others and then be able to quickly and easily disseminate and prioritize tasks. It’s awesome.
  • Kanban agile marketing – I stole this idea from my developer friends. Why should they get all the uber organization?? Kanban is a project management method. It’s best for larger projects that involve a lot of moving pieces and participants. It involves tasks assigned and a master board where projects can be moved through a defined process. I haurgent-vs-important_thumbve used Jira in the past, though there are many products out there that are quite capable and some are even free. It makes my organized heart go pitter pat.
  • Trello – For the smaller day-to-day task lists, Trello is organized in a kanban kind of way but simplified. It’s a great way to keep a cloud-based to-do list. And it’s pretty and easy to use, great for your newbies.
  • The Eisenhower Matrix – If you’re helping  your team member figure out where all their time is going, this graphic can be a helpful tool. Ask them to map out which of the boxes they are spending most of their time in. They should be spending as much time in box two as possible. If they’re stuck in three or four, you’ve definitely got some work to do.

No matter what method you choose to get your team organized, it’s important that you stay involved and support that method yourself. Don’t go outside the process because you’re the boss and can do what you like. Sometimes these processes take a little time and effort to get off the ground, but if you’re the rock solid supporter and the enthusiastic cheerleader for them, your team will follow and I promise you’ll see a rise in productivity (and happiness!).

Photo credit: Jordan Schwartz via Flickr Commons