Category Archives: Productivity

Navigating Automated Phone Systems

After moving house recently, we’ve had to go through the paces of updating all of our contact information with various companies.

I called three different companies one after another to update my information and some were definitely better than others:

Without any shadow of a doubt, my encounter with Telstra was the clear winner. When I called, the automated phone prompting was clear, easy to follow and fast to navigate; which resulted in me getting to a consultant faster. During the process, I entered my phone number to speed things up and when I was handed to a consultant I didn’t have to repeat myself. Within about 90 seconds, he updated my details and reissued the final bills to our new address for our mobile and home phone.
Vodafone came in second in my opinion, the automated phone prompting was good but could have used a little work. I felt there were too many options along the way but I got to where I needed to go without too much fuss. My criticism of Vodafone would be the time I waited in queue to get to talk to someone; it was close to 10 minutes compared to less than 2 minutes compared to Telstra. To the credit of Vodafone, the staff were friendly, helpful and efficient and were happy to answer a few other questions while I was on the phone.
GE Finance
GE Finance took the wooden spoon, pretty much horrible service all around. The automated phone prompting was shocking, I actually called back twice, once because I got sick of waiting and another because I chose the wrong option on one of the menus and for some reason couldn’t go ‘back’. After selecting an option, more than once the next step included options from a previous step which was just confusing – they are meant to be narrowing my options, not expanding them. I waited in queue for about 15 minutes and when I finally got through to a consultant, even though I entered my account information into the phone earlier, I was made to repeat it anyway. Although the consultant got the job done, I wouldn’t say they were friendly, happy or chirpy so it just made the encounter that little less pleasant.

Who do you think have the worst automated phone prompting?

Time Management: Key Result Areas

Time management is about achieving the greatest volume of useful work in a fixed amount of time. There is a particularly important word in the previous sentence which you might have glanced over, can you pick it out? If you chose greatest, you would be incorrect in my opinion – it was useful.

Time management could be considered subjective; what I think is time spent wisely, you could consider a waste of time and visa versa. The obvious question should then be:

How do I accurately select items to spend my time on?

The answer to this simple question rests with a phrase you may or may not have heard: Key Result Areas. A key result area (also known as Key Performance Indicators) describe the main areas of responsibility or accountability of a job. A key result area is not a particular task and they are not really goals; they do however group together tasks which help to achieve a result. An example for a retail manager might be customer relations or leadership while for a software developer it might include software quality or business efficiency.

If you were to relate a key result area to your daily job, they would form your primary roles or responsibilities. From a productivity stand point, if everyone could manage to have a high ratio of key result area tasks to non-key result area tasks; everyone would be incredibly productive. Unfortunately in the real world, this is often not the case which is where the management of your work priorities comes into play. You must find the appropriate balance between key result areas and non-key result areas.

Getting back to the two important points, greatest and useful. Without realising it, your time can be consumed very easily by doing a lot of little tasks. Doing a lot of little tasks isn’t in itself a problem, however if those smaller tasks aren’t contibuting to your key result areas or performance indicators then you’re time isn’t being utilised as efficiently as possible. Fortunately, there are a few simple questions to ask yourself to try and swing it back into the favour of the key result area. Does your current or next task:

  • increase revenue or decrease costs?
  • increase the quality of the product or service?
  • increase the quantity of product produced?
  • increase business efficiency or decrease the time?
  • increase security or reduce risk?
  • increase safety?

If you are answering yes to one or more of the above points, then there is a good chance the task will contribute to your key result areas in some way. If you are not answering yes to any of them, you should probably be asking yourself why you’re completing this task and not a more important one. Of course, there will always be situations where you need to complete non-key performance indicator tasks. This is the exact scenario where your time management skills must come into play and find the appropriate balance of these tasks to achieve the highest performance from your company, staff or yourself.

As a self development exercise, take notice of the type of tasks you are performing and how many of them are being attended to. Make sure you are counting all the tasks, even the ones that you don’t complete – as an incomplete task still competed for your attention and work time. Once you have your list, run each set of tasks through the itemised list above. Out of your list of tasks, how many of them satisfied one or more of the above points? If you completed tasks which didn’t satisfy at least one of the above points – ask yourself why it got your attention.

Time management is about working effectively; achieving the most good in a fixed amount of time. If you’re not primarily working on your key result area tasks, then you aren’t effectively managing your time. What you might find is that you are being efficient, in that you are completing a lot of tasks but they aren’t the tasks that you should be completing. Be mindful of what items are actually getting your attention and work time, you might find that the wheels are turning and you’re not getting anywhere.

Time Management

I’m currently reading Management, Theory & Practice by Kris Cole. I flicked through the chapters and decided to jump ahead to a chapter about managing personal work priorities. The chapter goes through the common scenarios or problems which waste time, along with different techniques to combat each one.

It seemed like a good idea that I put some of the time management strategies through their paces and see what works for me and what doesn’t. While I’m learning what works for me, I thought I’d drop notes here for you all to read and comment on.

What are your favourite time management strategies for getting things done?