Productivity Hacks From a Dedicated Mompreneur
Hi there! My name is Robin Kovitz and I am the Owner and President of Baskits Inc. At Baskits we create, produce and deliver the most beautifully elegant gifts, and are especially well known for our spectacular gift baskets and gift boxes. We have been fortunate to be named one of Canada’s fastest-growing companies by The Globe and Mail and today have over 50,000 customers from across Canada and the United States.
I came to acquire Baskits just over 6 years ago after a busy academic life at Queen’s and Harvard and stints in investment banking, consulting and private equity. My husband and I had decided it was time to start our family and I struggled to see how I could continue my all-consuming career on Bay Street while also dedicating myself to raising children. I decided that owning my own business could give me the flexibility I needed and, two wonderful children later, I am thrilled with the results.
As you can imagine, building a company like Baskits and raising a family hasn’t been easy. It involves being as productive as possible while at work and being as present as possible when with my kids. Work productivity is something that I have refined over the years with a series of ‘hacks’ that I have developed or borrowed from others to maintain my efficiency while at the office and pack as much as I can into each workday. Here are a few of these hacks in case they can be useful to you:
1 - Protected Hour: I set aside one hour in my calendar per week that is scheduled for a working session when I cannot be interrupted. I use that time to reflect on whether I am using my time effectively or what is eating my time and what changes I can make.
2 - One Touch: I schedule dedicated times to read and respond to emails. This allows me to get out of the review-and-respond-later cycle which essentially requires additional reading and further thought. This approach also stops me from becoming distracted by my screen during meetings and calls throughout the day. And if the matter is urgent, I make it clear that I can be reached on my cellphone (and given most people’s hesitation to use a phone these days (especially millennials), this trick seems to work pretty well).
3- Who Should Do What When?: We tend to just do what comes to us in the order it arrives, but one of the keys to my day-to-day efficiency is constantly sorting and re-sorting priorities using the Eisenhower Decision Matrix which helps me to decide what should or shouldn't be done, and by whom and when.
Urgent & Important → done by me right away
Less Urgent & Important → schedule for me to do later
Urgent & Less Important → delegate to someone else to do
Less Urgent & Less Important → fully outsource to someone or consider not doing at all
4 - Multitask During Down or Unproductive Time: A good example of this hack is my continual effort to schedule phone calls during my commuting times, thus using my "non-productive" time to knock off items on my To-Do List.
5 - Let it Go: Being calm and present is an important part of squeezing the most out of one’s workday. A big part of that mind frame is becoming comfortable that (i) you will never get it all done, and (ii) you have to assign a time that you will switch off work. I am still working on mastering this one!
6 - Monday Me Time: If at all possible I try to avoid scheduling meetings on Mondays, my day to catch up on email and set myself up for the week. This is especially true of internal and re-occurring meetings. In addition to better preparing me for the week, my Monday meeting embargo has a couple of extra benefits: (i) it reduces the stress that sometimes arrives on Sunday evenings, and (ii) it means I don't have to worry about the time-wasting hassle of rescheduling meetings every time there is a long weekend.
7 - Cancel Email: Over the past few years I have actively moved information relating to projects off of email and onto project management software like Monday, Trello or Asana. That way, the details and interactions are kept in one place for all team members to access which leads to greater collaboration, efficiency and faster decision making. It also does wonders to free up my email inbox.
8 - Top 3: Every day starts with my "Top 3" things that MUST get done, no matter what. I only get three each day so I have to choose carefully.
9 - Parkinson/Pomodoro: Parkinson's Law posits that the amount of work required adjusts to the time available for its completion. In other words, we will always use as much time as we are allocated for a task. For any perfectionist like me, this can be a particularly dangerous recipe for overworking or procrastinating. To counteract this phenomenon, I use the Pomodoro Technique and give myself very short windows to complete discrete tasks, often breaking up a complex task into smaller, less intimidating pieces.
10 - Meeting Agendas: If someone has a meeting booked with me, I require an agenda to be sent to me at least 24 hours in advance setting out what they hope to accomplish in that meeting. This disciplined approach to meetings causes us all to think ahead, prepare and use our time productively. It also better prevents us from meeting just for the sake of meeting. If there is nothing meaningful on the agenda, the meeting is cancelled.
11 – Rest: The biggest productivity hack I have found ironically has nothing to do with work - it's resting. Coming from investment banking, I used to think hard work was everything and I would routinely work 80 hour weeks. It never occurred to me that those 80 hours were highly inefficient and less than effective given that I was running on fumes for the majority of that time. The older I get the more I realize that well-planned rest and ensuring you eat well and get a full night's rest is the best productivity hack you can imagine!
Remember, Kids & Company families receive 10% off baskits.com with promo code "KIDS&CO10".