My Approach to Maintaining Productivity: One Step at a Time
At the end of my long work days, nothing gives makes me happier than knowing that my day was successful and productive. Every day I strive to be impactful and productive, but in my personal and professional life. I hope that every day I make as big of an improvement as possible in my work advocating for victims of domestic violence and human trafficking. In my personal life, I feel productive and content when I can connect daily with my daughter, my husband, and other loved ones in a meaningful manner. With many moving pieces in my work and life, staying productive is not without its challenges, but the rewards that my focused approach reaps are always well worth the effort.
In the day-to-day operations of my organization, Second Chance Employment Services (SCES), there are always interruptions. They might come from clients, who are women with pressing needs, or one of my employees who needs my approval of a form or a management matter. If a client has an emergency, then everything else stops for me. The well-being of a woman who has been victimized comes first, and I shift my workflow to accommodate her needs. I’ve found that the key to managing this has been the usage of a tracking system, which allows me to both track my clients’ needs and the other tasks that must constantly be reprioritized. With a tracking system keeping tabs of deadlines, assigned tasks, etc, I can easily return to the administrative tasks after I’ve helped a client. This prevents important but not strictly time-sensitive issues like managing my New York Office, fundraising, and raising awareness amongst youngsters, from falling through the cracks. Deadlines and reminders also help keep my employees and myself accountable to each other, which help the organization move forward as a whole.
I also rely on tracking tools to help manage professional responsibilities outside of my organization. The past few years I devoted a considerable amount of time lobbying for domestic violence victims’ rights during the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) on Capitol Hill here in Washington, DC. I can’t even count the number of meetings I attended, or the hours put into creating congressional briefings and keeping in contact with White House and Congressional allies. Fitting all this into my schedule would have been impossible without careful tracking of other responsibilities and scheduling my time according to priorities. Taking the time to carefully consider the time needed for all of my various responsibilities allowed me to fit them all into my schedule and be the most productive that I could be. In the end, my team had the great satisfaction of seeing VAWA funding extended to organizations that work to empower victims of violence through economic means, such as SCES.
Additionally, I have been busy promoting my first book about SCES, name “Ending Domestic Violence Captivity”: A guide to economic freedom. Now writing a second memoir, and conducting outreach to young people in colleges and universities. It’s enough to be a full-time job, on top of my actual full-time job! My productivity in these different realms is greatly enhanced by a focused and disciplined approach. I divide the work into sub-sections, taking everything one step at a time. It would be unreasonable to sit down one Saturday morning and expect to write an entire chapter of my book. Instead, I pick a topic that I know I want to cover and write just a few pages at a time; before I know it, my sub-sections are coming together into a chapter, and that chapter leads to another. It prevents any task from seeming overwhelming and makes the entire process much more fulfilling.
I advise others who are hoping to make their time more productive to use organization tools similar to mine. Figure out how to break the whole work down into smaller, accomplishable goals. Don’t view it as a 200-page proposal, but first see it as an outline of the proposal and a short summary of the first part. When you’re breaking down the work into smaller pieces, see where the help of others can come in. Is this a task easily accomplished with a small team to which I can delegate small pieces? Would the feedback of just one peer make me feel more confident about moving from one section to the next? Has someone done something similar before that I could use a guideline?
It is unnecessary to recreate something that has already been done, and learning how to capitalize on the work done before us (and giving the proper credit where due, of course) helps increase productivity enormously. When I first began volunteering in women’s issues, I used templates from friends to help write proposals. It helped me to work faster and effectively. Even now, I still take the time to create a template for a task that I know I will repeat at some point. I never regret taking that hour or two late one night to create the template. I am always thankful when I can use these reliable shortcuts for myself in time pressured situations. I ask my network of friends to read pieces of my work. I find my colleagues feedback invaluable, and helpful in reducing the amount of time I spend reviewing my own work.
Overall, I’m the most productive when I keep my goals in mind: both those that are related to smaller, incremental tasks that I set for myself and those that are loftier and ambitious end points. Figuring out which issues are short-term and long-term helps me set up realistic timeframes for projects at SCES and my work as an Speaker and Executive Leadership Coach. When I am stuck, I separate myself from the environment, by either grabbing a cup of chamomile tea or going for a walk. When I return to the task, my mind is clearer and I am more focused. All this helps keep me motivated and productive towards the ultimate goal of ending violence against women. www.ludygreen.com; www.scesnet.org