It’s natural to feel overwhelmed at work sometimes. Our calendars tend to be packed with meetings and we hardly ever have down time to do focus work. If something doesn’t change, our day-to-day tasks may never get done and our projects will suffer. We need to create a better framework for getting work done and prioritizing our personal flows of work.
4 Ways to Achieve Greater Workflow
- Prioritize the tasks that matter most to your work.
- Prioritize deep work — the kind that needs 100 percent of your attention and focus.
- Eliminate noise, distractions and repetitive tasks.
- Make time for productive play.
Swapping meetings for asynchronous communication, setting main objectives at the beginning of every week and deliberately blocking time on your calendar for deep work can give you back valuable time and the creative energy to focus. That’s what I’ve done for myself at Slack, and through this journey, I’ve realized how important it is that every employee finds their own flow at work so they can be more engaged, happier and even more productive.
Creating flow in your work might not be easy, but it is definitely doable. Here are four tactics to create a better flow for yourself.
Identify Your Work’s Core Activities
Think about the activities that matter most to the success of your job. That’s where you should spend most of your time. Think about the goals of your primary job function. For example, my primary job function is an engineering manager, and my first and most important job is to ensure the organization I support is operating efficiently and effectively to deliver our roadmap.
As a result, I focus most of the time during my work week on this goal, for which I define areas of activities: people, process, portfolio and technical. I prioritize activities in each area depending on the health of each dimension.
Start by judging the cost of spending time on certain tasks or in meetings against the outcomes you’re trying to achieve and prioritize accordingly.
Start by judging the cost of spending time on certain tasks or in meetings against the outcomes you’re trying to achieve, and prioritize accordingly. I absolutely must have time to work on building products. To do this, I set objectives at the beginning of every week. Each week, I anchor my actions on tangible goals. Those include the things I need to figure out, the efforts I need to dive into, the items I need to get resolved and what success looks like at the end of the week. The Reflect app is a tool I use to track and reflect on my work every day. While setting these objectives, I consider critical conversations I need to have and how much thinking time I’ll need to schedule. I constantly review these objectives each day to make sure I’m still on track and then adjust as needed.
Eliminate Noise and Repetitive Tasks
Workflow automation is an excellent way to reduce routine tasks and the more mundane side of our day-to-day. In fact, Slack’s latest State of Work Report shows that those who use automation at work estimate saving an average of 3.6 hours a week. This equates to at least one working month per year given back to each employee to focus on meaningful work.
Eliminate noise by muting notifications and setting do-not-disturb hours when you really have to focus.
My team relies on workflow automation to reduce friction when we test and launch our products. For example, an automation tool like Workflow Builder integrates critical services like Jira directly into the place we’re already working, enabling us to seamlessly share progress updates, collect incident reports, and gather feedback without the heavy lifting. Those without access to Workflow Builder can use workflow automation for tasks like managing time off requests, standardizing the collection of internal user feedback or even creating a seamless onboarding experience for new team members.
Eliminate noise by muting notifications and setting do-not-disturb hours when you really have to focus. For those working in an office, consider booking time in a conference room or solo workspace away from your desk to provide the physical space you need to get work done without distraction. And when interruptions still occur, ask yourself what the cost is of not engaging with it immediately.
Make Deep Work a Priority
It can be challenging to find the time and energy you need to focus on deep work. I struggle with this as a manager of a team of people, especially as priorities within my role change. That said, it’s important to make deep work a priority, no matter your role. As a manager, it can also be incredibly important to lead by example. If you make time to get meaningful work done, your teams will be more likely to do so, too.
It doesn’t matter if you work in the office or remotely or a combination of each. Deep work has to be a priority. I’ve found it helpful to look at my calendar and assess how much time each week I can block off for deep work and my approach doesn’t change if I’m in an office or at home. I try to stick to this schedule the same as I would for actual calls or meetings. Help your teams do the same with their time. Priorities may change, so reassess what requires deep work on a regular basis, and try your best to assign a specific amount of time to that work. If you don’t, you might not prioritize it.
Find Time for Play
Play is not only an essential part of being human, it’s also critical to employee engagement. We can transform different team rituals or meetings into moments to promote collaboration and teamwork.
At Slack, we have product testing parties called bug bashes. During these parties, the engineering team gathers over a video call from wherever they work and we put on music, order food and test our products. This is a great way to make a task we have to do way more fun and engaging for our team.
You can also create fun DM channels for non-work-related topics, such as pets, sports or a beloved TV show. This gives team members an opportunity to connect with their coworkers and form stronger relationships, while also taking much-needed playful breaks from work.
The ability to prioritize the right activities while incorporating play into my work is a skill I’ve built over many years. Finding your own flow is a continuous process, rather than a one-time effort, but even incremental progress can add up and make a big impact over time.