Productivity Tips to Help You During the Pandemic

The demands on our time during the pandemic seem to be increasing for many of us. How can you squeeze more out of your time and get things done? We've got Steven Crawford from McGhee Productivity Solutions with us today and that's what we are going to dig into.

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Productivity Tips To Help You During the Pandemic



Tim Fitzpatrick
The demands on our time during this pandemic seem to be increasing, and that is why I have a special guest with me today and we are going to dig into some productivity tips to help you during the pandemic. I am Tim Fitzpatrick with Rialto Marketing. I am thanking you for tuning in. And I am really excited to have with me Stephen Crawford from the McGhee Productivity Solutions. Stephen, thank you so much for taking the time to be here.

Steven Crawford
You bet. Thanks for having me. I'm very excited to be with you today.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah, absolutely. It's gosh, it's we're in Colorado. We're finally getting a little bit of a reprieve from these temperatures that we've been having. So I'm hoping that some of these wildfires we've been dealing with start to subside.

Steven Crawford
Absolutely. That are qualities but rough, especially with 90 degree temperatures.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah, it's been tough well and for us, 90 degrees. You know, some people may be tuning in. It's like 90 degrees. That's not a big deal. But for us, it's definitely been over 90 degrees for, I think, three or four weeks. So before we jump into this and start talking about productivity and some of these tips, I know you got a lot of awesome info to share with us. Tell us a little bit more about you and what you're doing with McGhee Productivity Solutions.

Steven Crawford
Absolutely Tim. Thanks. So I'm the director of sales and a senior consultant at McGhee Productivity Solutions and McGhee Productivity Solutions is a consulting firm that specializes in increasing productivity at the organizational team and individual levels of the company. We have a very strong philosophy about what it takes to make a culture of productivity in your firm, and it's centered around five disciplines or five areas, and they are alignment, accountability, workflow management, digital fluency and wellbeing. And we believe that for organizations to truly be productive, they must have alignment across these five areas and have a focus on behavioral change, along with internal paradigm shifts.

Steven Crawford
And the work that we do supports that. We have consulting and change management programs. We have training programs that we have coaching programs that fall within all five of those disciplines.

Tim Fitzpatrick
OK, I love it. So let's jump. So how is your work right now helping clients during these COVID times?

Steven Crawford
Well, it's been really interesting. We didn't have to shift a whole lot of productivity because all of our coaching and our training programs, we always offered optionally live on site or virtually. So everything obviously now is virtual that we don't have the travel and going out to the sites, but the work is still being done. And what's been really impactful, especially in these times with so many people now working from home or working for a firm that has a blend of people work from home and from the office, is that personal productivity?

Steven Crawford
Our Take Back Your Life program has been huge. That's a personal productivity program that helps people win back two hours a day of their time based on how they're managing their tasks and zero inbox. But most importantly these days is how to manage those interruptions and those distractions.

Steven Crawford
We got new things now that you're home. And then another program, another true program run that's huge right now is our productivity collaboration essentials with Microsoft Teams. There's a lot of firms out there who just suddenly boom routines that people said, hey, this is how we're going to operate. And it became the wild, wild West. People are creating channels and teams like crazy and. Well, maybe it's another place that you're got to do all this information.

Steven Crawford
So that program helps people learn how to have governance and their purpose and intended result around a team or channel, how to have workflow in there. And how does that integrate with your base inside of Outlook and your calendar? So that's the biggest impact we're having on our clients right now is that productivity training, as things are a little bit different as people are working from home. And of course, still a lot of executives and one on one coaching as well. People are really leveraging the time right now to improve themselves in that way.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah, I know for a lot of us and for some of us working from home, not much of a difference, but for a lot of people, it's a huge difference. And especially with kids getting back into school, but either being at home full time or part of the time, man, if you don't have a dedicated space to work, it can be really, really challenging. And there's a lot of interruptions.

Steven Crawford
And even if you did have a dedicated place to work, like, you know, I work from home when I'm not traveling all the time, we're a virtual company, so I'm used to working from home. But what was different for me was two of my kids got sent home from college last April. My wife was home because her business for a while, she's self-employed and it was a non-essential business. So suddenly I had my wife and two of my kids home all day while I was working.

Steven Crawford
And my office used to be on the main floor right off of the kitchen. Well, now, with everybody banging around in there, I didn't work. So I actually had to move my office up to the spare bedroom that you see here, so it's not a sexy office anymore, but that's just another adjustment. You're used to working from home. There's other distractions that come up around you and cultivating a well-being program focuses on that, you know, tips for working from home and how to manage those interruptions.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah, yeah. It's uncharted territory and that's for sure. What about tools? I know there's a lot of tools out there. What's an impactful tool people can use to improve their productivity?

Steven Crawford
Well, most people are working inside of Microsoft Outlook already or maybe some folks that are watching in the G Suite. The most important thing is your calendar. And sometimes people are like, what do you mean? That's the most important thing. It really is, because if you're using your calendar to manage what matters most, you're going to have the focus and the discipline to get things done and make sure those things get addressed. And then the smaller things and the less important things kind of fill in the gaps.

Steven Crawford
And it's a really important concept, especially now when you're trying to do more with less. Organizations, they furloughed people, they lay people off. And then the people that are remaining there saying work from home and do more with all these new distractions. Right? So if you're using your calendar to manage what matters most, that's going to be a huge tool for you. And then another tool that's really important is something that we train on that is, in my opinion, the best thing you can do for yourself when it comes to personal productivity, and that is to do a weekly review every single week.

Steven Crawford
So at the end of the week, I do that on Friday afternoons. Just take the time, have it on your calendar as an appointment for yourself and take the time to look back at the previous week, pat yourself on the back and celebrate the victories, the things that you did well, but then look at the things that didn't go so well and learn from that. And maybe you set out to complete a project that you didn't get done.

Steven Crawford
Well, why did I allow too many interruptions? Did I not plan enough time? Was there an urgent type thing for work that came up that impacted it? If you're focusing on why you can learn from that and use that information as you do the next part of the weekly review, which is planning your calendar for the next week, and you're looking forward to the next week and you're looking at your goals and your projects and all the tasks that you have in your say. What are the priorities for this week? And you're getting that time on your calendar.

Tim Fitzpatrick
So it's about time blocking on your calendar for the most important things you need to do.

Steven Crawford
Absolutely right.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Got it. OK, I love it. Somebody told me a while back, if it's not on your calendar, it doesn't exist.

Steven Crawford
That's right. That's how it is for me, my family. I'll tell you, like my kids will say, hey, Steve, I got this or this or this, and I'll be like, hey, so made a calendar invite and remember it.

Steven Crawford
I'm not trying to remember anything because I want to keep my mind clear for critical thinking. So I'm trusting my system for my kids to know they've been trained. Hey, if I want Dad's time for something that it's important and I need to get time on the calendar for that, send it to me because then I can prioritize it and I can renegotiate other things on my calendar, move things around. But the beauty is I know what the priorities are. So I get those things and maybe I'm saying no to something that's less important.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah, I love that. I love this for a few reasons. One, it's such a simple tool. It's but when we look at marketing, we like to focus on the fundamentals first, because if you don't have the fundamentals in place, everything else you do is not going to work like it should. This seems like one of those on your calendar. It's productivity. fundamental, you need to be using it. If you skip it. All these other cool tools that you use aren't going to work like they really should. So the other thing I love about it is it's simple. You're not overcomplicating it. This doesn't have to be difficult. Just use the tools you already have, right?

Steven Crawford
Yeah. And who thought that a calendar can do so much? So it's not just about blocking your time and keeping your time, but think about this. If at the end of the day your calendar has integrity and it shows what you really did. And then tomorrow you have your plan on what you're going to do and things change. So sometimes you're renegotiating stuff and so forth. And by the end of the week, your calendar is full with what you actually did. And it has integrity. That is awesome data for you. You can go back and look at your calendars, say, where am I spending my time. Am I getting enough time in sales? Am I getting enough time in account management?

Steven Crawford
And if you're falling behind on some of that, you're now you're not telling yourself stories. You actually have data and you can say, all right, well, I need to make sure I have more sales time on my calendar next week, because the last few weeks I've been a little bit void on sales time. And what are some of these meetings and some of these less important things.

Tim Fitzpatrick
So as you're getting as your calendar changes, right. If I time blocked something and I got interrupted, I need to adjust that to reflect what I actually the time I actually spent.

Steven Crawford
Absolutely. And what we would show you is how you can actually color code things based on the type of work you do, so go back and do a weekly review, it's a quick snapshot. I could see a bunch of yellow. That means I was on a bunch of meetings. I can see a bunch of green. I know I had a lot of sales time. Red was doing my critical tasks. Paul was delivering sessions for clients and people's travel.

Steven Crawford
There's weeks I can go back. I can go back for years and you'll see every single week is complete on my calendar because I had integrity. So I can go back and look at data and say, well, what was I doing? At the end of August, early September last year, the year before? Where was my time being spent this year because of that? So, you know, again, when I'm meeting with my leadership team and we're talking about strategy, I have real data to share.

Steven Crawford
But I can look at my team's calendars, too, and see what their stuff was, which is really impactful when it comes to when we're sitting here looking at how we're doing towards our goals. Well, clearly, we're spending the right amount of time. We're not spending the right amount of time. And we need to rethink some of these meetings that we have.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah. I got it. So it sounds like to that you're recommending we're not tracking the nitty-gritty details. It's higher-level categories of tasks that we're focusing on. And that's what we're tracking in our calendar.

Steven Crawford
Right. So on my calendar, for example, I will just have time block off for sales time, for example, kind of generic on there. And it's coded that way for color. But in my task list below, one of the things that we show you how to do on our training is all the sales tasks. So I'm just knocking out those sales tasks during that time. So my calendars prioritizing sales time and then what we call SNA times - Strategic Next Actions.

Steven Crawford
And those are those other tasks that I have to do. So I have time block out for that. I have a specific project that I'm working on. So, hey, work with Rialto on a marketing plan and you gave me homework maybe. And I have time to work on that project on my calendar, so it could be as specific as you want it to be or as generic as you want it to be. But it's a bunch of little tasks.

Steven Crawford
Make it generic so you don't have nine hundred things trying to squeeze into a half hour spot on your calendar, right. Let's call it project time or Strategic Next Action time or sales time, and then all your tasks will be listed and you can start marking off during that time.

Tim Fitzpatrick
OK, yeah I love it. So us,e your calendar, do a weekly review, look at what happened, make course corrections and then plan for the next week.

Steven Crawford
And you do that over and over and over again. And what you find out is you really learn a lot about your rhythm of business. You learn the stories you were telling yourself about. Because now you're able to help prioritize. And you're also learning things like why was some of that stuff not being done? If you learn week over week that you're being interrupted with 911 issues all the time. All right. Well, let's start planning for that.

Steven Crawford
You might look at me and say, well, Steve, the whole nature of a 911 is you don't know what's going to happen. True. But what I can do is I can go when I'm setting up my calendar for next week and just block off a half hour on Tuesday, a half hour Wednesday and a half hour on Friday and call it hold for 911. And then I fill in the rest of my calendar with what I expect to do.

Steven Crawford
So here's the beauty. I come in on Tuesday morning and I'll get ready to work on a project and one of those urgent issues comes up. Well, in the past, I would have just lost that project time, but now because I planned ahead, I can just renegotiate and switch those things on my calendar. I drag that hold up here the other time down here. Boom. I didn't lose that time. I just renegotiated one in the day.

Steven Crawford
And then if you actually get up to one of those holds and you didn't use it, awesome. You got an extra half hour to work on something else. Yeah, something for your well being a walk around the block or you have a little bit longer launch than you were planning to do or whatever. Right. So it's a bonus if you don't end up using it. But it's nice to plan for if your rhythm of business is such that you get those types of interruptions.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah. If you're not planning for it, it comes up and you get sidetracked and away you go.

Steven Crawford
And we become very reactive. And then we allow that to be our story about why we're not getting stuff done during the day. So we're going home after work and patting the kids on the head and open up the laptop and doing more work at the office late or we're working if we work at home or working all the way up until bedtime. Well, that's great that you have that kind of gumption and dedication. The problem is you're not getting your work-life synergy.

Steven Crawford
You're not spending that time with the family. You're not at rest. You're not taking care of your well-being. So if you're prioritizing those most important things during your workday, you're going to get stuff done that you need to get done. If you're letting all the small minutia stuff consume your day at the end of the day comes and now you still have these three major initiatives you didn't do. That's why you're staying late to work, right?

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah. It seems to me that when you use your calendar as a tool, it's helping you be much more intentional about what you're going to do each day.

Steven Crawford
If you put it on your calendar, you have a 79% better chance of getting it done than you do if you're just working off a to-do list.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Well, there you go. That's a great way to lead into the next question. That pretty much capped it off. So you and McGhee, you guys have a number of different programs. You obviously touched on some of these. What's your favorite one to deliver for clients and why?

Steven Crawford
For me personally, everybody has their own favorites. I love the change management work. I love facilitating the training. My ultimate favorite is when I'm doing the one on ones, especially with executives. My background was 20 years as an executive before I joined this firm. I have a soft spot in my heart for the unique challenges that business owners and leaders and executives deal with. And it's so much more of an intimate engagement. So they're going to get all the same productivity stuff they would get if they went through a training.

Steven Crawford
But it's going to be customized to them, is going to be customized for their business, their taxonomy, their flow. Do they like having several different types of folders and their reference system, or do they want to consider having a single folder or learning how to have a cool way to file those things and search for those things that will save them a lot of time? Right. So it's completely customized. But what's even more fulfilling for me about it is as we're doing that productivity stuff, I'm learning more about them and they're getting a lot of credibility, value, trust built in me.

Steven Crawford
And we start uncovering other opportunities and other areas where I can make an impact for. And I just got a little bit of chills right now because the feedback that I get with these men and women after I'm done with the coaching engagement is so awesome that one of the questions I always ask is do we fulfill all the things that we agreed upon during the pre-call that we wanted to do during this call? And it's always yes and more.

Steven Crawford
And I have people emailing me three months after saying I got promoted. People call me up six months later saying, hey, my family life is so much better. My wife wanted me to tell you thanks. You know, my staff enjoys working with me again. They really feel empowered. They really feel like they're heard. I'm able to delegate a lot more. And it's not just about dropping it off. It's really giving them an opportunity to grow with all this fantastic feedback that comes from.

Steven Crawford
So for me, I'd say that's my ultimate favorite thing to deliver just because of the one on one nature of it, the intimate nature of it, and being able to see the impact, you know, we could impact when we do a group trainings from clients for sure. But I don't necessarily get to see all that because they're all doing their thing after the training and we'll get all that positive feedback after. But I'm not as engaged for longer-term as I am, like I'm doing the one on one stuff.

Tim Fitzpatrick
When you do that, what does a typical engagement look like there? I mean, how long are they working with you?

Steven Crawford
So typically there is a pre-call. So once they contract with me, the pre-call is just to align on what the desired outcomes of the coaching are. What are some of the things that they recognize already are areas for improvement or challenges that they have? If they want, we'll include 360 interviews with their boss up here and one of the people in charge. Some people want that, some don't. So that's all part of that done before the first session.

Steven Crawford
And then the base coaching is 8 hours. And so in the old days, I would fly out and spend that day with the person in their environment because that's very useful as a coach to see how they're working, right? Right now we're doing that virtually. So it wouldn't be a full 8-hour day virtually. That's just too much. So we break it up, you know, in the 2-hour sessions or something until that base part was done.

Steven Crawford
Then after that base, 8 hours is done. There is anywhere from 3 to 6 follow up coaching calls depending on the package that they choose. Where we come back, we do some review on some stuff and they're working on kind of homework that I gave them the last call. And then at the end of this call, we'll set an agenda agreement on what's going to be the focus on the next call and so on.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Got it.

Steven Crawford
So it could be a 6-month engagement. It could be a 3-month engagement. It just depends on how much you want to spread out those calls.

Tim Fitzpatrick
OK, got it. Yeah. So it depends on their specific needs and you can kind of cater that program to them.

Steven Crawford
But it all starts with the concepts from the personal productivity. What we want everybody to have that baseline coming back that 2 hours a day and we're leaving that stress and having that focus and that streamlined process in place. So much easier to start making other positive changes.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah. So that first program is really hitting on what you guys see as the fundamentals for productivity.

Steven Crawford
Right.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yep, got it. OK, cool. OK, so I got limited time. Where's the 20% of productivity then I can focus on that's going to give me that 80% of results, right? Where should most people focus? Is the classic 80-20 rule. Right.

Steven Crawford
Right. So it's clear and I made a little bit of reference to this earlier, is that you've got to focus on the most important things. If you're spending your day with minutia and silly stuff and things aren't going to move forward towards your goals, you're wasting a lot of time. Yeah, so if you have clarity on what your objectives are personally and professionally and you have those goals in your system or written down somewhere where they're visible, that could be your North Star.

Steven Crawford
When something comes across your desk and you're saying, am I going to say yes or no to this? You can ask yourself the question, is this going to move me forward towards one of these objectives that I have? And if the answer is yes, then you'll likely say yes to it and prioritize it and get time on your calendar. If the answer is no, you can say no to that thing altogether. You can delegate to somebody else or you can put it in a category that's like a someday, maybe a priority.

Steven Crawford
If I have some extra time somewhere down the road, maybe I'll snag it and do it. But it's not a priority. And spending your time focusing on the right things and asking yourself that question, what's going to move you forward is going to make sure that you're getting 80% of the most important things done, right? Yeah, 20% of that time with real planning and focus and aligning on what are the most important things.

Tim Fitzpatrick
So you got to understand where you're headed. And then from there, you can start to boil down to the most essential things that are going to help you get there.

Steven Crawford
That's right. And if you don't have clarity on your goals, how do you know where you're going? Right?

Tim Fitzpatrick
Right.

Steven Crawford
Get into a cab. And the driver says, where do you want to go? And you're like, I don't know, he's just going to go. So you're not doing anything productive or driving around the circles where you want to go. How can you possibly get there? Right. And the other thing I like to really stress for people is think about your time, your time and how valuable that is. When we think about possessions or cellular devices or money.

Steven Crawford
Those things can all be replaced. That I like to ask people when I'm standing in front of a room in a class, I'll say, would you ever take your wallet out while you're walking down the street and just start throwing money out while you're walking down the road? All right. Laughs. No, of course not. Of course, you wouldn't do that if you would let me know. I'll follow you around.

Steven Crawford
But yet, with our time, we do that all the time. We just waste time. And the sad thing about it is money and things can be replaced, but every second that goes by is gone forever. So why are we being more protective of our time and making sure that we're using our time for the most important things for us personally and professionally? And you hear me stressing that because the well-being is so important that work-life synergy. Right.

Steven Crawford
We got to make sure the important stuff to us personally are getting as much attention as the important stuff to us professionally. Those priorities are identified and aligned. Then you can focus on getting the right things done and then you'll actually have capacity to be more do more of the small stuff because you're so focused and aligned to get in so much of the right stuff done.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Right. Yeah. God, I love that. That's a great analogy. So we need to protect our time, frankly, more than anything else.

Steven Crawford
Absolutely.

Tim Fitzpatrick
So I love it. Steven, you have dropped some serious value here, so I really appreciate it. Where can people learn more about you and McGhee Productivity?

Steven Crawford
So certainly on our website mcgheepro.com. I'm very engaged on LinkedIn. I put a lot of content on there. And I also love to engage in my connections content. I'm kind of a nerd. I just like to read a lot of stuff. So LinkedIn is a great place to reach me. Or you can get me direct steven.crawford@mcgheepro.com. Reach out at any time. And here's the thing. I love to network with people and just meet people and learn about their business and see where I can add value, not necessarily just in the work that we do.

Steven Crawford
But are you trying to connect with somebody? I can connect you with. Right. I never go into a network that I'm going to sell somebody a program. It's about learning them, about them, then learning about me building a relationship, and then seeing if there's a way I can be of value in any way.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Awesome. If you guys have gotten value from any of the stuff that we have been talking about, please reach out to Steven and McGhee Productivity Solutions. I know you will get a ton of help from them. They know what the hell they're doing, so please don't hesitate to reach out. Steven, I really appreciate you taking the time. I really appreciate you having me, this is fun and it's great to see you again, too. I feel like I kind of miss people that I used to see in person from time to time and the videos, the next best thing. So I appreciate it.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yes, it is. We're doing the best with what we got. Right. So yeah. I love it. Well listen, thank you so much for tuning in again. I am Tim Fitzpatrick with Rialto Marketing. If you want to gain clarity on where to focus your marketing efforts right now to get the best return, pop on over to our website at rialtomarketing.com. That's all R-I-A-L-T-O marketing dot com. Click on to get a free console button. I guarantee you will get a ton of value from that and leave knowing where you need to focus right now. Remember, marketing your business shouldn't be a challenge. All you need is a plan. Till next time, take care.


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About the Author Tim Fitzpatrick

Tim Fitzpatrick is the President of Rialto Marketing. At Rialto Marketing, we help service businesses simplify marketing so they can grow with less stress. We do this by creating and implementing a plan to communicate the right message to the right people. Marketing shouldn't be difficult. All you need is the RIGHT plan.

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