Archive for the ‘Productivity’ Category

Four D’s to free up 20% of your time

December 2nd, 2015 by John Gallagher No Comments



Have you ever really sat down and looked at your schedule and it felt so overwhelming that you just wanted to ‘give up’, delete it all and start over?


As leaders, we often find it difficult to say ‘no’ to people for many reasons.  Mostly because we really don’t want to upset anyone, but a lot of times, it is because everything seems important.  Well, is it really?  Here is an exercise you can do to help you understand if you have the right things on your calendar.  I have often referred to it as the “4 D’s”

  1. Delegate
  2. Defer
  3. Deselect
  4. Do-it!

Make a list of all of the things you think you must do on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.  With that list in hand, ask your self the following four questions for each item:

  1. Can I DELEGATE this item to someone else to do?  Often we don’t delegate because “it will take me more time to train someone so I will do it myself”, or “I want it done a certain way so I must do it” – Both of these reasons are signs of poor leadership.  One of the best ways to develop others is to give them valuable tasks to grow, so Delegate more.
  2. Can I DEFER this item?  Is it REALLY the most important thing you need to be doing at this time?  Can it wait 30 days, 60 days, 90 days?  Often it can.  Put a reminder on your calendar for 90 days out.  Maybe it won’t be as important then
  3. Can I DESELECT this item? Have you been doing something for so long (a meeting, a report, a task) that you just do it because you always have?  Maybe you don’t need to do it anymore at all.  DESELECTING is the most difficult task of leadership.  A good friend has told me many times, “You can do anything you want, you just can’t do everything you want”
  4. I guess I must DO it? – If your answer to the first 3 questions is NO, then you must do it!  Put it on the calendar and make it happen.  The challenge here is to do the task with the least non-value-added activity.  Can I automate it?  Can I be more efficient at it?  Improve the task.

Go through this process about every 90 days.  If you haven’t freed up 20% of your time, then you are not being critical enough of the tasks.  Go back through it again?

What about you?  How do you make sure your schedule doesn’t get overburdened?  Try this exercise and let me know how it goes.

The elegance of the sticky note for problem solving

September 4th, 2015 by John Gallagher 3 Comments

So many technological tools out there right now with the laptop, the tablet, and the smartphone, to name a few.  There are spreadsheets and slide decks and projectors and software as well.

But, there is just something about the simple elegance of the sticky note for visual problem solving as a tool.


Here are 5 reasons I often like the sticky note over technology:

  1. It moves freely – Often, when coaching I build process flow maps or matrices and when a step is missed, or a better idea comes up, you just lift it off the wall and move it over, down, across and re-stick it!!
  2. It forces conciseness – Much like a Twitter post, your characters are limited if you want to be able to read it from a distance.  Verb and a noun! That’s all you need.
  3. It improves brainstorming – By giving everyone in your group one of those little stacks, you are sure to get all of their thoughts.  And, it is easier to move them into themes once you ahve the ideas.  (Refer to reason 1)
  4. It makes for a good reminder – You can’t hit ‘dismiss’ on a sticky note.  Just recently, I needed to remember to get something out of the fridge before I left, so I wrapped that sticky around the car keys and, sure enough, I would have forgotten!
  5. It is symmetrical – the 3 x 3 is my favorite, but that is the engineer in me.

This might be overdoing it, though:

sticky notes overdone

Are you a fan of sticky notes?


April 1st, 2015 by John Gallagher No Comments



I had a friend ask me recently about a simple process they might be able to use with their team to review “How are things going?”  Often times, individuals or organizations don’t invest enough time in a formal review process that, done correctly, can make minor course corrections in tactics that get you back moving toward your objective.  Rather, they feel things aren’t working and make drastic changes and end up further off course then when they started.  Antique Compass

The 6-step process below will help get you back on track and can work with self-reflection or team reflection.

1) The simple “+/-” tool.  Draw a T-diagram with a plus on the left side and a minus on the right side of a piece of paper, a flip chart, or dry erase board and ask 2 questions:  1) what is going well (+) ? and 2) What isn’t going well (-)?  Try to list out all of the things that are going well first before moving to the what isn’t going well question.  (NOTE: If you are doing this with a team, it could be important to have each team member write each one of their thoughts down on a sticky note – 1 thought per sticky.  This ensures that you get input from ALL voices).

2) K,S,S (Keep, Start, Stop)– After reflecting on the list, list out one thing you should KEEP doing, one thing you should START doing, and one thing you should STOP doing based on the T-diagram.  The natural tendency is to START making drastic changes and do a lot more things.  Resist this urge.  You are probably already very busy.  Try hard to have no more than one Start for every Stop.  This ensures that you don’t overburden yourself or your team.   A wise friend once told me that “You can do ANYTHING you want… you just can’t do EVERYTHING you want”

3) What, Who, When – Assign accountability and due dates.  What needs to be done?  Who is responsible for doing it, and When will it be done?  Try not to extend the due dates out past 90 days.  If you have to go further than that, the task is probably too big.  Keep the list visual.  This also helps with accountability.  Post it on a flip chart in your office.

4) Ask for help –  Share your things you need to do with someone.  Share it with God in prayer…Ask for help.  Share it with your spouse…ask for help.  Share it with a mentor…ask for help.  Share it with a family member…ask for help.  Share it with a friend…ask for help.  Key thing.  Don’t try to do it alone.

5) Schedule regular reviews – Check in with yourself or others formally — weekly (maybe Friday mornings at 7:30) or monthly (3rd Monday of every month).  Keep the reviews brief.  Are you on track or not?  If you are, move on.  If you are not on track, develop a countermeasure and ask for help.

6) Continuously improve – When you get all of the items complete, did they work?  Make the new activity (or those activities) part of your new routine.  Then, repeat the process… go back to Step #1


Try it out.  Let me know how it goes. What steps would you add to this process?


July 23rd, 2013 by John Gallagher 3 Comments

I feel lucky that with my current job I am sometimes able to work from my home office.  However, it can be very challenging to be highly productive if you do not creat the right environment for success.


I find these 5 barriers that may lead to reduced productivity at home:

1) “Other” to-do lists – When I am home, I tend to  see all the other home projects that need to be done as well.

2) Media interrruptions – Television, social media, you name it…they are more accessible from a home office.

3) ‘Casual’ dress – Every day in the home office can be ‘Casual Friday’.  Being too comfortable (pajamas, fuzzy slippers, workout clothes, etc) cause me to feel less engaged.  I need to be somewhere between fuzzy slippers and suit & tie that I wear while visiting clients to feel in the ‘work zone’.

4) Lack of ‘office hours’ – From the home office, it is easy to just pop back in any time of day and check up on work, well into the evening.  Structure is important for me.

5) Access to good nutrition–  It’s so easy to walk to the fridge for ‘snacks’.  Without proper meals, I get tired, or even grouchy(ask my wife!).

These are just 5 of MANY barriers that must be overcome.  In another post, I will talk about solution approaches I have used to overcome these barriers.

Do you work from home?  If so, what are the distractions that can keep you from being productive?


April 1st, 2013 by Gallagher John 1 Comment

Let’s get one thing straight…there are too many meetings.  We likely waste more time in meetings than any other work activity.  We often have the best intentions.  We envision our meetings looking like this:

good meeting

When really they look like this!!!:

sleepy meeting



bad meetings


Why do meetings more often than not, end this way?

Here are 5 meeting behaviors that lead to bad meetings, wasted time, and lost productivity:

1) They don’t start on time – Seems pretty simple, right?  A 10:00 meeting should start at…10:00?

2) They don’t end on time – You know this meeting…

3) They don’t have an agenda – Who called this meeting anyway?

4) They don’t have a purpose – And, why are we having this meeting??

5) You schedule  back to backall day long.  You know this one… You have meetings from 8-10, 10-12, 12-2, 2-4…In separate conference rooms…in separate buildings… REALLY?!!!!!

Can you imagine the day when these 5 behaviors don’t exist at your organization?  Can you imagine how productive you could be?  Maybe you could even go home on time… Just sayin’…