The Working With… Podcast

Can You Get Your Colleagues To be More Productive?

October 14, 2019

Podcast 104

Do you ever wish you could convince your co-workers to be better organised and more productive? Well, this week that’s what I am digging in to.



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Episode 104

Hello and welcome to episode 104 of the Working With Podcast. A podcast to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, time management, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

Have you ever wished you could convince your teammates and the people you work with to be a little more organised and productive? Well, that’s the topic I am tackling this week.

Now, before we get into this week’s question, I’d like to point out to all you wonderful listeners that we have just entered the last three months of the year. Yes, 2019 has entered its final few months and that means it’s the best time to begin thinking about what you want to achieve next year. 

Now, this is just the thinking stage. You do not have to plan anything yet. When you begin the process in October you give yourself plenty of time to think of, ponder, wonder and reject ideas for next year. It also means that you have time to really go deep and consider all things in your life. 

To help you, I have an annual planning template that you can download for free from my website—— All you have to do is go to the downloads page and there, near the top, is the PDF file waiting for you to download it and start filling in. 

If you are an Evernote user, you can also add the Evernote template to your Evernote by clicking on the link in the show notes. I did a video last week on how to complete the planning sheet, so if you want to learn more head over to my YouTube channel and watch the Evernote video from last week. 

Okay, on with the show and that means it’s now time for me to hand you over to the mystery podcast voice, for this week’s question. 

This week’s question comes from Kelly. Kelly asks: Hi Carl, I have always been an organised person but I work in a team of people who never write anything down and are always forgetting deadlines or not replying to messages and emails in a timely manner. Is there anything I can do to get my team more organised?

Ooh, great question, Kelly, and one with a simple answer—no. 

You see the difficulty here is to become better organised and more productive is a choice. It’s not as if there is a switch you can pull and everyone in your office will start following GTD or COD. 

However, while I was thinking about how I would answer your question, Kelly, I remembered a time when I worked in a car dealership and the general manager, whose name was Andrew Donovan, was one of the most organised people I have ever met. 

Andrew wrote everything down and when he asked you to do something, you knew he would not forget to follow up with you. 

Now, this was before smartphones and computers on every desk—it was the early nineties—and Andrew’s system was simple, yet brilliant. 

Whenever Andrew had a meeting he would write everything down on to a sheet in a reporters notebook. Everyone in the meeting saw him do this. So you knew if he asked you to do something, it was written down. Once the meeting was over, Andrew would then add the action and follow up items to his leather A4 diary which went everywhere he went. 

What I noticed was that Andrew’s system was soon adopted by many of the departmental managers and that trickled down to other team members. 

Now, I don't know your position in your company, Kelly, but whatever your role, that is perhaps one way you could change things within your team. Set an example. If your colleagues and partners see how effective you are at getting your work done, how you always respond to emails quickly and effectively and hit your milestones and deadlines consistently, then they will want to know how you do it.

Your question got me thinking about how I would go about influencing colleagues and partners who have never been particularly organised or even interested in being organised before, I realised if I were teaching someone who has never been very organised or is not in the habit of writing things down I would not start with technology. 

Technology might be something we are interested in, most people are not. Learning how to use an app like Trello or Todoist can be difficult for someone not used to using anything more sophisticated than their email or messaging app. 

Most people still have pieces of paper and pens on their desks though. So the trick is to get them into the habit of writing things down. In the past, I have introduced people to apps and failed miserably. Not everyone is into technology, so pushing colleagues and partners to use apps like Todoist, Trello or Asana is often a waste of time. The learning curve is too steep. Let them discover apps for themselves. 

Instead, encourage them to keep a list on their desk. 

Andrew got his management team to change by being open. In meetings, everyone saw him write down actionable items. Every time anyone met Andrew in his office his diary was open on his desk in full view of anyone visiting so you could see very clearly how he organised his work. His system was simple and if you asked him about it, he would explain it in simple terms. That’s what you need to do. Whenever anyone asks you about how you stay organised, keep it simple. Don’t go off into the wonders of technology—that might excite us, but it does not excite everyone. 

Now that said, I have a few clients who use Todoist and have found they can share a team project with their staff and within a short period of time their staff are using Todoist to manage their own projects. How you do this is create the project in Todoist and then share it with your team. (in this case, or other apps that you can share projects such as Trello and Asana would work too) This works well with simple projects and you will have to manage the project closely until your staff and colleagues are using it regularly. It will require a lot of patience from you, but if you can get your team and colleagues onboard, you will have begun the process of building a highly organised team. 

If you want to do this, I have a free downloadable PDF file showing how to set up Todoist and I also have a FREE online course for beginners too. These are all designed to help you or anyone else for that matter get started with Todoist. It might help get your team involved if you are a Todoist user of course. 

Another way to help your colleagues become better organised is to encourage better use of calendars. The simple calendar is one of the most powerful productivity tools out there and almost everyone knows how to use their calendar. 

Show your colleagues how to block time and explain why they should be doing it. Show them how to add simple to-dos —Microsoft Outlook, Google Calendar and Apple’s calendar all allow you to add to-dos in one form or another. You can create to-dos as all-day events and they will then show up at the top of your calendar--this is really how Andrew was organising things in his diary. 

The reporters' notebook was his collection tool, and he would then organise when he would do the work or follow-up the work in his diary. You can easily teach this to your colleagues. It’s essentially about having a place to collect the things you have to do and are committed to doing and then spread the tasks out over the week in your calendar. It’s simple, does not involve a lot of technology or learning curves and you can see how you are doing as you go through the week. 

The reality is, though, if your colleagues cannot see a benefit for themselves being better organised and more productive no amount of persuasion by you will change anything. The best approach is to lead by example. Show your colleagues how much more relaxed you are, how you are able to go home on time and enjoy a great social life. 

Be willing to explain the way you do things in a broken down, non-tekkie way and be patient. People do come round if you can show them how much more in control and stress-free you are. But never boast or criticise the way other people do (or not do) things. If you criticise and find fault all you will do is turn them against you. Be positive, encourage and stay humble. Nobody wants to follow a big head. 

Thank you, Kelly, for your excellent question and thank you to all of you for listening. If you would like your question answering on this show, then please send me a quick email - or DM me on Facebook or Twitter. All the links and freebies are in the show notes. 

It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.