Admin, filing, to-dos and planning all feel like thankless tasks. But fail to do them and everything comes crumbling down around your ears. There has to be a better way.
In fact there are lots of little better ways. Organising your team might feel like a mammoth task, but how do you eat a mammoth? One bite at a time.
21 ways to sharpen up team productivity
- Only click on any email once. A little piece of PA advice that should apply to everyone. Only open your emails when you’re ready to deal with them and once you’ve opened a message, respond, delete or file as necessary. Never come back to it later.
- Get up. If there’s a little question or some information to pass on, consider just getting up and walking over to your team or colleague and telling them. Don’t create more email admin for others when it’s not necessary.
- Shared calendars. Whether it’s a shared calendar in a project management tool or cloud office basics like Google Apps or Office 365, find a way for your team to share calendars so there’s no more ‘where’s x’ and endless ‘when can we all meet for y’. (You can sync Turbine to Outlook or Google Apps so your calendar also knows when people are on holiday or off sick.)
- Cloud file storage. Security and reliability are paramount in a business, of course, but there are plenty of professional cloud storage apps that allow you and your team to keep just one version of the truth and eliminate duplicated documents.
- Find your Basecamp. Here at Turbine and at our sister company Articulate, we use Basecamp to manage our projects. It’s a single place for collateral, assignments, deadlines and more. Everyone can access it, it’s easy to use and it keeps everything organised. Basecamp might not be your bag, but there are a plethora of project management apps to choose from. One will be for you.
- Self-service HR. Letting your team manage their own time off and expenses saves time, paperwork and effort. Of course you still want ultimate sign off, but with tools like Turbine, that’s no problem.
- Create a knowledge bank. Know who knows what and whenever you or a team member finds a useful resource, save it so that anyone else in the team can access it. You don’t want to have to start from scratch every time someone runs into the same problem. We built our intranet in WordPress but you can also create a simple employee handbook in Turbine.
- Shred. Archive. Delete. Repeat. Don’t keep unnecessary documents. Shut down dead projects and keep things lean both on and offline. Have a regular clean up, maybe once a month, so things aren’t left to fester.
- Label for others, not yourself. When you label a file or put a lever arch back on the shelf, don’t think about making it easy for you to find next time. Think about the easiest way for anyone to find it. Same goes for project names and email subject lines. Don’t be cryptic.
- Text messages. How your team communicates all depends on how they work. If you’re out of the office a lot or can’t rely on a regular internet connection don’t forget about good old fashioned phones and text messages. They’re quick and to the point.
- Stand up meetings. Over at Articulate we have a stand up meeting every Monday afternoon. A quick round up of schedules and availability, impeding client work and, most importantly, individual assignments. It keeps everyone up to date, but without any time wasting. Look into it.
- Quiet time. While organised and effective teams have to be good communicators, there also needs to be some space where you can all actually get your work done. Maybe suggest a certain time each day, or one afternoon a week where everyone knows there are to be no interruptions. No calls, no emails, no quick questions. Just focused work.
- Trust. For your team to be organised you have to have a little faith that your employees will do their job. Micromanaging leads to frustrations, repeated work and time wasting. It’s not worth it.
- Think big, plan small. It’s great to have long-term goals, and big plans for your team and their role in the company. But that’s not something that can easily be put on a to-do list and often grand plans get left on the sketch paper they were created on. Work out what you need to do to achieve those goals and divide them into sprints. Then set up a quarterly focus so everyone’s working to get one thing done well before moving on to the next.
- A little process goes a long way. We are not fans of bureaucracy. (You’ve probably noticed). But a little process is necessary so that people know how to do their jobs. Basic guidelines for how you use certain tools, or procedures for taking on a new project, for example, if they can be standardised make for much better organisation.
- Invest in writing training. You might not think this sounds like a bitesize piece of advice, but in comparison to the benefits you’ll see from it, it really is. No matter what your team is responsible for, the ability to communicate clearly and concisely is vital if you want efficiency. Everyone can benefit from learning to communicate a little better.
- Give good feedback. Have regular one-on-one meetings with each team member to give feedback on performance and help with development. Don’t pile it all up in one end of year review – keep it iterative and agile and help people improve all year round. After all, it will benefit the whole team.
- Ask for input. As a manager or team leader, you might feel like you have to have all the answers, but it’s fine – good even – to ask for input from your team, especially when it comes to processes and team culture. It’s amazing the inefficiencies you can miss when you’re too close to something.
- Keep everything bitesize. Whether it’s team goals, a specific project or even how to organise your day, keep breaking tasks down into little chunks that you can tick off one by one. It’s much easier completing little things than being faced by big, complex tasks.
- Go to the pub. Yes, I’m absolutely advocating this. As does Ian Jackson. In a more informal setting it’s easier to shake out any issues or stumbling blocks your team is having and provides an opportunity to air any issues that could be damaging the organisation of the team that are hard to pick up on in the office.
- Don’t forget you’re part of a bigger whole. Finally, as organised as your team is, it’s impact will be limited by the other teams and departments you have to work with. Don’t organise in isolation, but be sure to communicate, collaborate and invest the development of your fellow teams too.