When you own a business, it’s crucial to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. It can be stressful to wake up at 2 AM wondering if you remembered to answer that text message from one of your team members, or if you circled back to a client regarding Slack notifications. This is the situation Emily (name changed for protection!) found herself in.

And, not just her, but her team members also.

At first glance, it didn’t look like the company had any challenges. Emily and her team weren’t dropping the ball. Nothing was falling through the cracks. They all worked well together.

But, in their one-on-one meetings with Emily, each team member mentioned that they felt overwhelmed with the amount of communication coming at them daily and that they were worried they’d miss something and let the rest of the team down. And to feel like a team player, they felt the urgency to check messages outside of work hours . . . a lot!

Managing all the “stuff,” and notifications, and making sure every piece of communication was handled in a timely manner added a ton of stress to each employee…every day.

 

According to research being conducted at Duke University, the average person receives between 65 and 80 notifications on their phone each day. No wonder Emily’s staff felt overwhelmed by everything coming at them all day!

I met with Emily and her team with the intent of figuring out exactly what was going on and then co-designing a solution they could all embrace using the A.W.E. process of time management.

A – Awareness. Identify the actual productivity bottleneck.

W – Work. Create an easy-to-implement solution that solves the bottleneck.

E – Evaluation. Make sure the solution is working, and another productivity bottleneck didn’t emerge.

Awareness

On the surface, we recognized that the team was stressed, worried that something would fall through the cracks. They also felt inefficient because they were bouncing from one task to another as different notifications popped up. (This makes sense – based on a study from the University of California, Irvine, it can take over 23 minutes to regain your focus after being interrupted!)

But we knew we needed to dig deeper. Were all distractions equal in importance? Where exactly were the notifications coming from? Using Idea Flip with this virtual team, we examined all the ways they received communication – from each other and from clients. They were receiving messages from the following channels:

  • Email¬†
    notifications
  • Slack
  • Trello
  • Voxer
  • Text
  • Phone Calls

And, we needed to dig even deeper. Do they need all these channels? Do they even like all these channels? How often is each channel being used? It turns out, that the second question was key!

As you can tell from the picture above, Slack is their preferred method of communication with each other.

Work

When we are designing a solution to fix a bottleneck, it is important to focus on strengths. Since all the team members liked Slack and were already using Slack, this was the solution – easy to implement and focused on their strengths.

The team met to determine if they could limit or even eliminate internal communication on the other channels. They also created boundaries and expectations so they didn’t feel they needed to check messages during off-work hours. If something was an emergency, they determined that they would use Slack as the primary means of communication and text messages for emergencies.

Evaluation

The last phase in the A.W.E. Time Management process is Evaluation. It is also the step that is most often skipped. Here is where you dig in to make sure the solution devised in the Work phase is actually working, and where you determine if any other productivity bottlenecks have been uncovered.

During a discussion about using Slack as the primary communication channel for the team’s internal communications for two weeks, here’s what was discovered:

  • Overall, the team felt less stress since they were only primarily managing one form of communication – SUCCESS!
  • Emily was more stressed, as she was actually dropping more balls. Emily travels a lot and previously used Voxer to capture thoughts and action items via audio for her team while she was driving. She was waiting until she got back to her office to create the message in Slack – and was forgetting things. – PROBLEM!!
  • The team realized they had concerns about things slipping through the cracks regarding client communication – as some clients were using Slack, but many communicated via phone, email, and text. – PROBLEM!!

Using Slack as their main communication method (with text as a backup) was a very successful strategy to solve their main problem. Stress levels were reduced, and confidence in their communication channels increased.

At this point, the Productivity Bottleneck shifted. Instead of focusing on receiving (and being distracted and stressed by) so many notifications, now they needed to create personal implementation systems so all the to-dos from clients were handled. Next month we’ll uncover how Emily’s team drilled down to resolve their individual bottlenecks.

Curious to find out how to bust your own productivity bottlenecks? Easy – click to find out more!