7 suggestions for staying productive when chaos is unavoidable.
1. Create a Timeline
Create a list of all the projects, deliverables, and events that will need attention. Assign deadlines for each and define what a successful outcome looks like to the person who will own the project. Set realistic expectations for how long something should take and beware clumping too many deadlines in a short time-frame.
Revise the timeline continually and refer to it on a daily or weekly basis to make sure that it is up to date and that you are on target to meet the upcoming deadlines.
Make the timeline visible and easily accessible to all the participants. Send out a notice if there has been a major change to any of the deadlines.
2. Define Intermediary Goals
Setting intermediary goals with deadlines is especially important when there are interdependent or time-sensitive tasks.
Start with the successful result for each major project. Then work backwards to determine the intermediary goals and their deadlines.
Set calendar reminders to alert you ahead of time when there is an imminent intermediary deadline. Adjust deadlines if necessary, but always get a status check and find out what happened if deadlines were missed.
3. Delegate Tasks
For everyone who loves to control each step of a project, this can be more onerous than pulling teeth… literally. Yet large and complex projects require multiple participants to meet deadlines.
While you might not find someone able to complete the task as you would, pulling more folks into the process means you will have their skills, experience, and unique perspectives to draw on. They might even think of something you didn’t.
The key to delegating: only give a task to someone you trust, then trust that person to do it.
Have an open-door policy regarding questions and issues as they come up. Give guidance when needed and know when to step back and let them own the task.
4. Promote Ownership
Those who are responsible for a project must take it upon themselves to troubleshoot, research, and brainstorm ways to remove obstacles to meeting deadlines.
If there is a delay, they should not be afraid to proactively alert you with the cause as well as the proposed course of action they will undertake to rectify the situation.
It may be that there is a need for particular resources, information, or work environment.
If the need is warranted, help them obtain it or de-prioritize the project.
5. Prioritize Tasks
Prioritize all tasks on the timeline. If new projects appear, get them on the timeline and prioritize those in relation to the existing projects. Recognize and accept that a new project prioritized as being more important than older projects, will affect the deadlines of those projects.
Establish a triage method for determining a new task’s relative and overall importance. Without this, new projects may take precedence over older ones. If all projects have equal importance, productivity will be replaced by reactive scrambling at the last minute.
If a project is continually de-prioritized, consider whether it is something that should be removed from the timeline.
Hold regular meetings to obtain quick status reports on long-term projects. Are there any obstacles? This can help bring to light any looming or persistent difficulties so that small course corrections can be made.
Assume that everyone is doing their best. Giving folks the benefit of the doubt means they are more likely to confide in you and less likely to go on the defensive. Assuming the worst is counter-productive.
Open, non-confrontational and informal discussions among team members about workflow, task distribution, and resources may provide the necessary insight for a solution. All participants of the discussion should be willing to listen as well as share.
7. Recognize Major Accomplishments
Recognize when milestones and difficult deadlines are met, or even exceeded, as well as when they are not.
Positive reinforcement requires minimal effort but provides great rewards in the form of increased motivation, loyalty, energy, and productivity.