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Productivity Checkup: 5 Audits to Implement Now
I recently warned against “set it and forget it” productivity strategies. Your calendar, inbox, and workflows need regular review to keep them manageable.
Gardens need tending, closets need clean outs, and work systems need audits!
Use this checklist of topics and questions to periodically review your systems and time allocation so you can stay efficient, energized, and focused.
I’d recommend a productivity audit 1x/quarter or whenever you’re falling behind on key priorities and need a reset.
Productivity is not getting lots of things done. It’s getting the important things done!
1. Priorities Audit
Am I spending time on the right stuff?
It’s easy to get stuck reacting to fire drills, one-off requests, new ideas, and other startup busyness.
The first step of a productivity audit is reviewing the big picture.
What are the most important things personally and professionally?
What specific goals did you lay out for yourself or the company?
How are you tracking towards those priorities and goals?
How are you spending your time now? (Check your cal or track your time for a day.)
Do any of the goals or priorities need to be recalibrated based on a change in circumstances? (e.g. you added 10x more customers than expected and it’s all hands on deck – a good reason to recalibrate!)
What needs to be canceled or changed to make more time for the priorities?
Eisenhower Matrix is a great tool to organize work by importance and urgency.
2. Meeting Audit
Are your regular meetings still productive and necessary?
Meeting creep is a thing. One more meeting here and there isn’t a big deal until you’re only free from 8pm to midnight.
Projects wind down, strategic priorities change, roadblocks resolve, and new hires need less hand holding. Review your meetings to make sure they’re still important and helpful.
Could any meetings be…
Moved to every other week or monthly?
An email instead?
A Slack channel or thread?
Combined with another meeting?
Shortened by 15 min or cut in half?
Improved with a new format?
Handed off to someone else?
Declined because you don’t need to be there?
Block one day per week with no meetings. We had company-wide “Freestyle Friday” at Pardot and “Yoursday Thursday” at Rigor. Everyone loved the deep work and productivity.
3. Direct Report Audit
How are your direct reports doing? Does the reporting structure make sense?
When startups grow quickly, the org structure changes constantly. New hires join, senior leadership is brought in, departments and roles are added.
Here’s a few examples of things that happen when you grow fast:
too many direct reports with one person
an early “utility player” hire that could use an experienced manager
the junior person reporting to the CEO because “they always have”
Thinking about time and energy spent on your direct reports is helpful to identify problem areas and possible solutions.
Direct Report Questions
Are folks happy? Any attrition risks?
What new challenges or opportunities might be interesting for someone?
Is anyone ready to be promoted?
Could someone be a “team lead” to help coach and mentor new hires?
Any difficult conversations to have about performance or reporting structure?
Any new hires to make?
Is your number of direct reports manageable?
Are you spending an appropriate amount of time on people management?
Is external training, coaching, or mentoring needed?
What can a direct report own to free up your time and also help them grow?
5-7 people is a reasonable number of direct reports. It could scale up to 10 when you’re growing quickly and building out teams. It could be 2-4 if you have other responsibilities.
4. Task Audit
What daily or weekly tasks are most time consuming? Are they a good use of your time?
The wise Bob Lewis speaks about the “best and highest use of time.”
Yes, the CEO can answer a support ticket. But is that the best use of her time? While she’s answering the support ticket, who is cultivating strategic partnerships, recruiting executive talent, and communicating company vision?!?
Only the CEO can do those. So while she can answer support tickets, she should focus on work that is the best and highest use of her time.
This applies to all roles! Delegate, automate, or discontinue tasks that don’t align with the best use of your time.
What items would be easier with CRM, marketing automation, or support platforms?
Can you hire an intern or contractor to own certain projects?
What tasks or projects could be handled by someone else on your team?
What tasks are no longer important and can be dropped?
What tasks keep falling through the cracks? Why?
Can a task be combined with something else, like scheduling a regular call during your commute?
If you didn’t do it, what would happen? Would someone else do it? Would it not matter? Will it get handled later?
Can you make it easier or more fun by working as a group or gamifying?
Don’t feel guilty about delegating! What’s “boring” to you may be an interesting, challenging growth opportunity for someone else. Explain your expectations about the work, why it matters, and express gratitude. Here’s my favorite framework for delegation decisions.
5. Friction & Fatigue Audit
What feels harder than it should? What is wearing you down?
This is a catch-all category to identify any other frustrations or pain points in your workflow, schedule, or overall energy.
Friction & Fatigue Questions
Do you feel fulfilled, energized, and interested on a daily basis?
Is there something you’re spending way too much time on?
Do you dread XYZ each week?
Is there anyone that you don’t want to talk to anymore?
Are you taking care of your basic health needs like sleep, social connection, physical activity, and nutrition?
Productivity isn’t about being a work robot! Listen to your feelings or gut reactions to guide you towards improvements.
What other items do you look at when assessing your productivity? What should be included in a productivity audit?