As 2015 draws to a close I have been reflecting on some of the more meaningful conversations that I have taken part in during the year. The one that has risen to the top of my thoughts it that of setting your team up to win. The context of these conversations was around continuous improvement, and how you take people who already have a lot on their plate and help them to be able to handle their continuous improvement projects too. Without doubt using a ‘to do’ list is still one of the most effective ways to juggle priorities and get things done.

Capturing and ‘processing’ all of the items that you have to do is one of the tried and tested productivity approaches… once you effectively manage your list that is. Here are a few pointers to help you make your massive list a productive ally:

  • Capture everything… don’t leave anything to your memory.
  • Include your improvement actions also.
  • Review the list and remove anything that is no longer valid.
  • Delegate any items that you can, but only remove it from the list if you don’t need evidence of it being completed (use a symbol, or similar, to indicate that it has been delegated).
  • Make a note of any items that can be deferred.
  • Make a note of items that have been deferred for a while that you want to flush from the list (by that I mean doing them now because they have been hanging around for too long!).
  • Estimate the time it would take to complete the task (it helps with improving focus when undertaking the task).
  • Prioritise the tasks into order of importance. You don’t need to prioritise the whole list, but I recommend that you identify the top six.
  • Schedule some time to complete the tasks you have prioritised. Be realistic with this, don’t overload your diary (I would use a rule of thumb of no more than 50% of your day getting scheduled generally as a good starting place for effective scheduling).

A significant reason for tasks not starting is that they seem too big to even get started. No problem! Smash the task down into its constituent parts and list them separately, or just break it up into smaller pieces and sprinkle them through your to do list.

The other key to making this approach work is that of forming a habit. Every day the list needs to be reviewed and the steps listed above performed. Lists get old fast and need to be constantly updated, refreshed, re-prioritised, flushed and managed.

Finally, feel free to use any manner of electronic gizmo, or app, to help you do the above. Just remember that the capturing and processing activity is a different task to the scheduling of the activities. Keep them separate and you’ll be fine.

So, helping your staff to manage their priorities and being clear on what is important within the working day is one way that you can set your team up to win when it comes to continuous improvement. Work can seem like an overwhelming mountain at times, quantifying it through a method like the one above can help to take the fear out of the pile of work, bring focus back to the job and reduce procrastination (or, put another way, allow you to get more meaningful work done in the same amount of time).

Good luck with making 2016 a productive (and continuously improving) year.


Giles Johnston

Giles Johnston is a Chartered Engineer who consults with businesses to improve their on time delivery performance, ERP system performance and deploy Kaizen / Lean production methods. Giles is also the author of 'What Does Good Look Like?'.