Case Study #1: Michelle, Pharmacy Director
Michelle is a Pharmacy Director in a hospital that’s part of one of the nation’s leading health systems. Michelle has always been a high achiever and is able to excel in many areas. She graduated from business school with a 4.0 and at work she has always been committed to excellence.
About a year prior to engaging with Productive Day, Michelle was promoted and she received a lot more responsibility for her growing team, now numbering twenty. Shortly after her promotion, Michelle also gave birth to her first child.
At the time, Michelle noticed she had struggled with efficiency and productivity prior to these events, but after these events she felt even MORE compelled to develop productive work habits, because things were spinning out of control.
Despite her high goal orientation and great performance, Michelle felt increased stress and frustration when trying to manage her workload. There were challenges behind the scenes that others couldn’t see…and Michelle knew it. She felt the growing pressure to keep up and not let anything slip through the cracks.
Reflecting back on this period in time, Michelle shared several things she was tired of…
- Always feeling behind and stressed.
- Being overwhelmed by email.
- Not accomplishing important tasks, especially ones that required more time and thought to complete
Overall, Michelle was tired of feeling “frustrated and overwhelmed.” Although, these don’t fully express the full range of emotions Michelle was feeling at the time. When asked to complete the initial survey for Productive Day before the consulting began, Michelle checked off a list of more than a dozen feelings including…
out of control • anxious • inadequate • overwhelmed • angry • stressed / pressured • unhappy • like I’m a failure • like I’m not good at what I do • vulnerable • not confident • embarrassed • tired / exhausted • frustrated • drained / worn out • stuck / trapped • scattered / unfocused • demotivated • guilty.
For a moment, Michelle had even considered looking for another job, thinking she wasn’t cut out for her current position.
Michelle also reported having tried in the past to start or use new systems, but they didn’t stick and then she found herself back at square one again. She, like many of my clients, had read Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (while others have read David Allen’s Getting Things Done) but it hadn’t helped.
Every 3-6 months Michelle would clean up her office, purge, make a to-do list and within days, events would take over, and her new attempt at starting fresh was out the window. And yet, she identified with being well organized and highly productive.
She had been organized and productive in the past and wanted to be again.
The challenges Michelle experienced at that time were holding her back. She communicated this to her leaders and they were willing to help her succeed and get past these challenges. They continuously supported her by being engaged in her personal growth and development, and to help her conquer these challenges, they were willing to invest in her.
At the start of the consulting, Michelle had targeted several goals. At the top of the list was “Spend more time with my husband and son.” Other goals included increasing exercise, finalizing strategic plans, and writing more publications.
When she achieved her goals she said she would feel empowered, energized, accomplished, confident, proud, successful, fulfilled, happy, and peaceful.
Only four days after the first appointment, Michelle said she loved the Taskology Task list and reported feeling more empowered by it. She said she felt more proactively in charge of her day and that using it had made her more of a realist.
Michelle’s first big “aha moments” were realizing how little time she really had and how overly optimistic she had been about what she could accomplish in a day – previously trying to do too much, but understanding now that she needed to be a more careful, realistic planner.
She noticed that prior to learning Taskology she would “cannibalize” her available work time, not realizing how desperately she had needed it. As she became more aware of how over-committed and over-stretched she was, she looked back at how often she had said “yes” to doing tasks and taking on more responsibilities than she could have reasonably accomplished in a day or in a week.
Michelle had also started to realize how over-commitment had been hurting her health and diminished the time she had outside of work. She guessed that had she continued on her path, her health would have continued to suffer and she’d burn out early in her career.
Using Taskology, Michelle learned new ways to manage her tasks and time. She was taking control, working more proactively, and feeling more confident about smartly choosing between competing priorities. Michelle also started looking for ways to maximize her time and started to negotiate her time more often. She now has more honest conversations with people who make multiple and continuous requests on her time.
As the consulting continued, Michelle reported having more focus, confidence and control in her day, and in total she accomplished the following throughout the consulting:
- Created the Taskology Task list for documenting, planning, prioritizing and accomplishing all tasks, responsibilities, and projects
- Eliminated multiple legal pads of to-dos and notes, plus all other paper-based reminders of things to do
- Protected more time each day for accomplishing tasks, processing email, and working on special projects
- More efficiently and effectively made decisions about paper, information, emails, attachments and reading materials; eliminated approximately 24″ of paper.
- Organized electronic documents in an e-document library in the hard drive
- Reached zero in the Inbox and learned how to keep it that way
- Reduced the number of email folders in use
- Handled meeting notes efficiently and effectively
And as a result…
- Thoughts of looking for another job disappeared.
- Feelings of frustration and overwhelm disappeared.
- Confidence returned.
- Listening skills improved and conversations are more meaningful. When Michelle engages in conversations with others, she’s no longer distracted by what she’s trying not to forget.
- Time is protected. Michelle is much more acutely mindful of time and how best to use it.
- Awareness and clarity have increased with regard to tasks and responsibilities, as well as how many or how few she can realistically accomplish each day.
- Michelle has more honest conversations with others about her time available, the commitments she can make, and the deadlines she can reach and when.
- Anxiety and stress have decreased as a result of taking control of email. She’s no longer worried that something has been missed, lost or forgotten.
- Michelle is more energized, proactive, confident, focused, and in control of her day.
During the time of the consulting, Michelle was also given her annual performance review. Not only did she receive a 3.96 out of 4 overall, but BOTH of her leaders congratulated her on the noticeable improvements in her focus, progress, and accomplishments. Her leaders could see she was less stressed, more proactive, and more productive with both her tasks and her time.
Michelle now feels much more “on top” of her day and everything she’s responsible for, even if she can’t accomplish everything RIGHT now. Her abilities to see the complete picture of her responsibilities and her ability to comprehensively compare tasks – as well as compare requests on her time – have made her prioritizing skills much stronger. It’s easier for Michelle to make decisions about where her valuable time should go, and she can more quickly communicate with others when a task or commitment needs to be reprioritized or rescheduled.
In the end, Michelle reported feeling like a happy, healthy, productive person of society again. Her husband noticed a difference as well. He said he felt like he had his wife back.
|Confidence in the ability to be efficient, effective and productive||+80%|
|Level of organization||+67%|
|Levels of inspiration and motivation each day||+100%|
|Confidence in the systems and processes that support your day||+150%|
|Confidence in finding the exact paper/file necessary and when needed||+67%|
|Clarity with regard to managing projects, tasks and reminders||+200%|
|Confidence in the ability to consistently accomplish key tasks and priorities||+233%|
|Control over time||+125%|
|Confidence that time is being used efficiently||+400%|
|Confidence in finding the exact electronic document necessary and when needed||+60%|
|Confidence in the ability to capture and manage tasks and reminders from emails||+900%|
|Overall level of productivity||+100%|
Case Study #2: Barbara, Controller for a General Subcontractor
Barbara had been at her company for five years, starting out as the Accounting Manager and within five months was promoted to Controller. Barbara managed two direct reports who led the Accounting and Human Resource departments, and together those direct reports managed a total of five people out of two hundred within the company.
Barbara had always been a driven and highly motivated professional, and while she consistently displayed these qualities, she didn’t feel as productive as she knew she could be, and managing her day had become frustrating and stressful.
Barbara expressed a lack of confidence that her current systems and processes were supporting her and didn’t feel effective or efficient. In addition, she felt she couldn’t make the progress she wanted to make, stating that she was spending only about 30% of her day on the goals she wanted to pursue.
More specifically, managing and prioritizing tasks were steps Barbara found challenging and she lacked confidence that she was actually accomplishing her day-to-day priorities. This was partly caused by the wide variety of methods she was using to keep track of tasks, including legal pads, post-it notes, a calendar, and a Franklin Covey Planner. On top of these were the use of papers and files sitting on her desk as reminders of things to do. Her paper to-do lists were multiplying in number and growing longer each day, making it harder to keep track of what to do and when.
Sometimes, Barbara had trouble making decisions about paper as well – knowing what to keep and what to part with – and she realized she wasn’t keeping up with the reading she had set aside to read. With the excess paperwork building up on her desk, Barbara easily lost her focus, which made it hard to stay on course toward her targets and goals.
In addition, email was a challenge for Barbara, as it is for many professionals. Even with working longer hours, she couldn’t keep up with the new emails rolling in and found it tough to manage those that were scrolling off the screen. She felt only 50% certain that she was capturing to-dos, action steps, and follow-ups that arrived non-stop in her email Inbox.
Her biggest complaint was that she was tired of wasting time. And while Barbara expressed confidence her calendar was supporting her, she didn’t feel she had control over her time or that she was using her time most efficiently.
When asked how she felt about her workday and how she was managing her workload, she reported feeling…
out of control • crazy • inadequate • annoyed • unsatisfied • overwhelmed • stressed • pressured • unhappy • like I’m not good at what I do • like I’m not reaching my full potential • frustrated • and unsuccessful.
Ultimately, Barbara had gotten stuck in the “how” of managing her work: How will I manage all of this email? How will I get more time? How can I juggle all of these to-dos?
But Barbara was not only completely distracted by the “how” of managing her day, she was also frustrated by the technology that drove her day as she wondered how best to use it. There were email pop-ups and alarms; options for features, screen design, and window placement; columns and categories; and more. She continued to experiment with various ways to stay on top of her work, but nothing completely resolved her challenges.
All of this caused Barbara to spin her wheels each day and wonder how she was ever going to catch up and ultimately get ahead. Without a solution to help her get the most out of her time or effort, and a way to maximize her role as a leader, she felt overwhelmed, frustrated and out of control.
Despite Barbara’s many frustrations, she knew she was entirely capable of regaining control of her day, if only she knew the right path to take. She knew she had GREAT tendencies to be organized and productive, and she was determined to enhance her abilities, expand her capabilities, and make more progress on an ongoing basis.
At the start of the Productive Day consulting, Barbara targeted several goals. As she put it, she wanted to, “complete projects on time, have some time for me, grow the profitability of the business, and be in my role!”
Barbara also wanted to produce higher quality work, have more time to research and implement needed changes and improvements, find ways to save money, and provide better compensation packages for employees.
When goals were reached she said she would feel happy, successful and productive.
Prior to learning Taskology, Barbara would have taken work home with her that she couldn’t accomplish during the day, but she soon realized doing this was defeating the purpose of being more efficient and effective during working hours and she had been delaying the goal of enjoying more time for herself at home.
Within a short time, Barbara was going home empty-handed each night, and only on occasion would she take home a little work at night, which is something she’ll continue to do when she wishes to get ahead, but not out of necessity.
Throughout the consulting, Barbara learned how to…
- Build the Taskology Task list. Barbara felt immediate relief once the list was built. She relied on the Task list right away and enjoyed the support and focus it provided her. She removed all tasks from her calendar and got rid of her Franklin Covey Planner as soon as she could.
- Better connect tasks with time. Barbara practiced being more realistic about the quantity of tasks she could accomplish each day in the time she had available—or the time she could protect. With the Task-Time Connection from Taskology, Barbara was able to make more tangible progress on her projects and go home at a reasonable hour feeling satisfied with her level of productivity.
- Manage email more effectively. Barbara’s challenges with email, including when to address it and what to do with it all, completely disappeared. She keeps her email Inbox low or at zero every day and understands the new process for staying on top of it and managing the variety of tasks and information that arrive in email daily.
- Close her door more often to get uninterrupted time. Barbara learned she could design her day the way she wanted to in order to support her productivity and progress. She learned she could close her door more often to get time to focus while still making herself available to direct reports and others throughout the day. She succeeded in re-setting expectations about her availability and didn’t receive push-back from others.
- Reduce or eliminate distractions and interruptions. Barbara can now focus on one task at a time while still easily managing and maintaining awareness of everything else she needs to do. She works with a clear mind, a sharp focus, and a lot less stress.
- Address unforeseen issues right away. Barbara learned how to pivot with shifting priorities without losing track of what she was working on and without taking too much time to get BACK on track once issues were resolved.
After learning Taskology, the words Barbara used to describe how she felt included: “productive, in real time, efficient, empowered, and less stressed.” Her progress was steady and her accomplishments were evident. She goes home each day feeling more successful and with a great sense of achievement, knowing her day was efficient, effective and productive.
|Confidence in the ability to be efficient, effective and productive||+60%|
|Confidence in the systems and processes that support your day||+50%|
|Clarity with regard to managing projects, tasks and reminders||+200%|
|Confidence in the ability to consistently accomplish key tasks and priorities||+33%|
|Control over time||+60%|
|Confidence that time is being used efficiently||+60%|
|Confidence in the ability to capture and manage tasks and reminders from emails||+60%|
|Decrease in stress||-50%|