Will you be working from home on Thursday? Can you switch your office day next week from Tuesday to Wednesday so the entire team can brainstorm how to solve our current customer service wait times?
As numerous offices reopen and “return to work” initiatives launch in the coming weeks and months, the time management challenges of a hybrid workplace could undermine your productivity.
To be effective and efficient in a hybrid workplace requires that you reimagine time management.
Why? Because traditional time management systems with their unilateral focus on how to plan and allocate time are insufficient. They do not fully support the optimization of your execution in the complex, interdependent, technology-driven hybrid workplace.
Your performance and productivity are impacted by your work strategies, or your approach to planning and allocating effort across goals, activities, and time periods. This approach is usually unconscious and unsystematic rather than deliberate and rational. However, patterns can be detected, which are informed by your individual cognitive style—your habitual pattern or preferred way of perceiving, processing, and managing information to guide behavior.
Since everyone has a distinctive cognitive style, you also need a unique set of work strategies. It is the personalization of these strategies to suit your individual strengths, preferences, needs, and talents that enable you to enhance your performance in a hybrid workplace.
It’s time to get personal about your productivity.
Identify your unique productivity style
There are four distinct cognitive styles, or what I call productivity styles: Prioritizer, Planner, Arranger, and Visualizer. To identify your productivity style read the descriptions below and select the one that describes you.
Prioritizers prefer logical, analytical, fact-based, critical, and realistic thinking. They tend to use time effectively and efficiently by focusing on the highest-value task. A Prioritizer will accurately complete significant amounts of work quickly and are at their best when processing data and solving complex problems where they can apply a laser-like focus to achieve their goals.
Planners prefer organized, sequential, planned, and detailed thinking. A Planner budgets the time required to complete projects, sequentially organizes tasks, prepares accurate, detailed project plans, and frequently completes work in advance of deadlines. A Planner maintains detailed lists and will often put a task they have completed on their to-do list just so they can mark it off.
Arrangers prefer supportive, expressive, and emotional thinking. They encourage teamwork to maximize work output and make decisions intuitively, in real-time, as events unfold, blocking out time to complete work. An Arranger excels at partnering with people to get work done and expertly builds relationships, facilitates team interaction, and sells ideas. They will keep all stakeholders up to date on work and effectively communicate ideas throughout the organization.
Visualizers prefer holistic, intuitive, integrating, and synthesizing thinking. They see the big picture and do not want to spend time on the details. A Visualizer can serve as a catalyst for change, brainstorm solutions to problems, drive innovation, ensure variety in both thought and execution, and keep you moving forward. They synthesize disparate ideas into a cohesive whole, generating creative, innovative project ideas. A Visualizer thinks strategically about projects, effectively managing multiple ideas simultaneously while being efficient in their task execution.
Use personalized productivity strategies to optimize your execution
Now that you have identified your productivity style, use the strategies and tools listed below to boost your productivity.
Prioritizer: Leverage your analytical, data-oriented, and goal-focused strengths to improve your execution. Time how long it takes you to complete your routine tasks and then try to beat your time on each task. This will enable you to more accurately allocate your time each day and improve your execution speed.
Harness your affinity for efficiency and set up specific filters or rules to save you hours each week on email management. Use filters in Gmail or rules in Outlook and automatically file, delete, and forward messages.
Planner: Employ your organized, sequential thinking and your love of to-do lists and use a 15-minute list. A 15-minute list is a list of tasks that you can do in 15-minutes or less. These are easy, quick tasks that you can complete with minimum effort and brain power. This will enable you to capitalize on those micro-segments of your day where you are waiting for a meeting to start or sitting in the carpool line to get work done.
Unleash your project management strengths and convert emails to tasks, assign due dates, delegate them to team members, and view them on your calendar with the Outlook task manager. If you are a Gmail user, you can use an app, Drag, Yanado, or BasicOps, to create, track, and delegate tasks.
Arranger: You do your best work with other people and too much solo time can undermine your performance. Intentionally schedule time throughout your workday to interact and connect with other people. A quick text exchange with a friend, a chat with a colleague, or a FaceTime call with your Mom can reignite your motivation and focus.
Link your ability to adroitly get work done with others and technology by using the “waiting for” rule to automatically track all your open or pending requests so you never forget to follow up again.
Visualizer: Speed and variety are essential to maintain optimal performance. Act like a sprinter, not a marathoner throughout your workday, and work on one project or task for twenty minutes and then switch to a different project or task.
Out of sight, out of mind is a productivity pitfall for you. Use labels in Gmail or Conditional Formatting in Outlook to color-code incoming messages by sender priority or where your name appears in the TO: or CC: field of the email message so you can quickly prioritize and execute on incoming email messages.
Time management and one-size-fits-all productivity solutions do not work, especially in a hybrid workplace. The latest app, prioritization tip, or email management strategy will not work if it is not aligned with the way you think and process information. Now is the time to personalize your productivity.
Carson Tate is the founder and managing partner of Working Simply, Inc., a business consulting firm that partners with organizations, business leaders, and employees to enhance workplace productivity, foster employee engagement, and build personal and professional legacies. She is the author of Own It. Love It. Make It Work: How To Make Any Job Your Dream Job.