27. Context Shifting with Teams

Saturday, September 09, 2023

Smooth Operator/Podcast/27. Context Shifting with Teams

27. Context Shifting with Teams


You’ve likely experienced how much more effective you can be when avoiding context shifting in your own work. (and if you haven’t, I highly recommend that you do so immediately)

But what about your team members?

In this episode we discuss methods that I’ve used to actively avoid context shifting with my own team and how this has resulted in employees that are more productive and happier.

Learn more at https://www.adamliette.com

Discover the 5 secrets to run your business like a Special Operator: https://www.adamliette.com/sof

The Greatest Opportunity Of A Lifetime...

20 Business Owners Lives Will Change In 2024...
​...And I’m Personally Inviting You To Be One Of Them!


Today, we're going to be talking about context shifting. So we're all probably very well familiar with that term, in relation to what it means for our productivity and what we're doing during our work day, if you haven't heard of it, basically, context shifting is when you're constantly switching back and forth from one task to another to another, without seeing something through context shifting is a great way to find your entire day gone without getting anything done. Because the brain actually requires a certain amount of time to focus in on a task. And when you're doing context shifting, like you, your brain actively needs that time, it's going to take that no matter what you can't avoid it. So accept reality except biology for what it is. And, you know, all the things that our brain does for us like this is one of those things where the brain does this naturally, and we can fight it all we want, but you're going to lose that battle.

So and I think the latest numbers, I was just doing some research before, they say it's like 15 minutes in between task in order to actually shift context. So if you're doing a new task every half an hour, especially a lot of the tasks that do land on our desk, stuff that requires more critical thought, stuff that requires that focus time, and you're switching constantly, you're throwing away like a quarter to half of your work day, just trying to get your brain reengaged in the topic that you need to be diving into. And really, that's under the best of circumstances from from what I've seen. So as, as leaders, we do find ways to avoid this for ourselves, I use various different spirit, things like I'll have punch days, where I'll have consolidate a list of, you know, low level tactical tasks that I just need to get done and require very little critical thinking. But it's stuff that I just got to do. And so that's part of it. So I'll try to do all those things at one time. So I kind of like turn off brain mode and go into just robot mode, getting stuff done. But for the business. big believer in to do lists and having various things is organized more than anything, just so you're able to just go one step after another after another without having to turn on that critical thinking part of your brain. But on the flip side, I have focused days, where I'll turn off everything my phone goes off, turn off any way of messaging me, you know, and I go dark, when I need to be in a focus period. And I tried to do that at least once a week, I have a full day of focus. I'll come in, do some of my tactical tasks in the morning just to get the day started. And then I move into my focus period, we know how to do that for us. But we also have people working for us, you'll you'll likely have people under you subordinates.

This is also a factor for them. And we need to remember that as managers as leaders, that is actively on our desk to avoid our team members doing too much context shifting, we want to enable them wherever possible to be focused in on one task at a time. Not only are they going to be happier they are they're going to be more productive, they'll get more things done for you during the day, you're going to be able to actually give them a bigger workload if you're properly helping them or help managing their task for them. So a number of different ways we can do this. And so that's really what I want to discuss today is what we can do as leaders to avoid context shifting from our subordinates. Especially here in the digital environment. It's been a long time since I've been in like an actual office. So I don't know if that's the case. But correct me if I'm wrong. I feel like in the digital environment, it's really easy to to do what I call just as drive by tasking where you think of something, you jump into Slack or you jump on Voxer or whatever you're using, and quickly put their name in there and they get the notification. And we can tell them, hey, don't worry about this. So tomorrow, but we gave them the notification. Like we put that on their radar, we took them out of flow. So we're killing their own productive productivity. So a couple things I want to recommend work really, really well for me. And I just think if if you can employ at least one or two of these into How you're operating and managing teams, you're gonna see the difference why to right away not only in the quantity of work, but also the quality of work, and their job satisfaction.

I know when I batch stuff, when I get things all organized for my team members, they are so much happier. And I can just I can hear it in the way that they communicate with me, you can just tell when they're much happier with what they're doing. Alright, so one thing, very simple is just the idea of educate. You know, let your team know about context shifting, and how to keep an eye out for these things. We can't expect our team to know that you lose so much when you're jumping from task to task to task. Instead, pick a task, do it through, get it done. But unless we're taking that active step, to be constantly educating our team, we can't expect them to know that. So I sneak these often into my weekly into the weekly meetings that we have with our team, where I'll have a brief two or three minute block. Just talking about some of the things that can help them be happier and more productive at work. And my team actually really enjoys that when I know, when I start talking about the subjects I see their demeanor on Zoom, it just perks up. Versus if I'm going down and kind of our here's a start a week stuff, here's what's going on. If I say hey, I got some good stuff for you guys. Check it out. Today, we're gonna be talking about Parkinson's Law or Pareto principle or context shifting, like all these big things that we know about. But even just reinforcing them within the team meeting and giving them tips to combat it really huge. And another way of establishing yourself as the leader, or thing I've done is I've really helped my team and encouraged them to create recurring task lists within our project management tool. So basically, everyone on the team has kind of their start of week list and their daily list, the stuff that they're expected to do every day, might not live within a project per se, but it's just stuff that they have to do.

And having it on a list like that having it actually pop up first thing in your feed, here's what you need to do, it's actually really helpful. And I found that they really enjoy it. And better yet, you can help them optimize it. So if there's certain tasks that they like to do first, if they like to check emails first versus check the voicemail. Or if they prefer to wait until later in the afternoon to dive into, you know, member support, or whatever you have going on as shipping, I mean, pick your company, and the various tasks that need to get done, and that are assigned to those respective team members and let them help prioritize it. So they can get their maximum productivity and tell you when they like doing certain tasks during the day. 100% encourage that and use that within whatever project management software that you're currently using. That way you have this kind of seamless scope of what they're working from, you're not asking them to be on this checklist in Evernote and then move to the project management tool. Keep everything in one simple place that way. It's really designed to be working for them. So the other thing is, there's this tendency to think of an idea, jump into Slack or your project management tool, tag someone with the idea and then run away. Those are that's the digital drive by. So the bottom line is, could that wait, what you had to ask them to do? Was it time sensitive? Or was it? Hey, I got this idea for next week. Let's talk about it, then. Ask yourself that question. Ask yourself, is it really something that I had to distract them from whatever they're doing now? Instead, if you're having meetings, like say, if it's, you have this idea that's attached to a meeting that you're having tomorrow. It's an idea that has to be presented at the meeting, put it on the agenda, make sure they know it's coming up. Yes, when they read the agenda when they get to that and are able to context shift to tomorrow.

But if it's something else, something that doesn't need done quite today, maybe there's a better way to do it. Maybe there's a better way to collate the various drive bys that need done into one place and send them out once and that's actually what I do. I keep Evernote open. I have a recurring template for the week in Evernote and it's just the various things I think I'll need throughout the week and this is definitely battle tested. I've done I've added to and taken away from the template as things have gone on. But if I know I need two things from this team member, one team from that team member and three from another team member I'll put that in my Evernote throughout the day.

And as I reached the end of the day, then I'll provide one singular update to my team. So that way, they're only hearing from me at that one point of of origin, I'm not bothering them in between. So doing that has been a real game changer. It's, it's helped me to even let things sit. So often we think of tasks. And we walk away for a couple of minutes and come back. And it's like, oh, that really wasn't the best idea. Well, if you're already alerted, the team member, that ship could have sailed, they could have dropped anchor, and went and gone head and got to work on that project for you. And now it might not even be something you need. The final thing is the idea of batching. So I try to do this on a regular basis, if we have a large amount of content coming up, or one particular thing that needs done, and it's going to take a while I try to batch it whenever possible. Just an example. We do online courses. So with that, there's always the backend architecture that has to go in place to create the modules and the lessons and the discussion board threads, like all that stuff.

If you're doing it one module at a time, it sucks. I'll be honest, I haven't personally done it. But I know from the guy on our team that does it, it's really not enjoyable if it's done in that manner. But if I'm able to give him a large block of material to do at once, two or three weeks worth, versus one task every week, for a three week period, if I can lean forward, give them more theoretically more of that work to do, but find a way to really narrow it down. So we're able to get it done in a very concise a period of time and be able to do it all with that mindset. Like that's really helped and made, made. Even those tasks that aren't as fun, be almost a little like a game where the team member could knock it out in a very short period of time. Alright, so overall, context shifting is something that's 100% on our desk, not only for ourselves, but it's on her desk for our team. So we're equally responsible as our team members to helping to avoid contact shifting, the end result is not only is your team more productive, they're able to get more done for you. But they're actually really happier, much happier and much more satisfied with their job, even when it's those tasks that no one really wants to do. But they have to get done. If you find a way to do those tasks without pulling them out of what their current work is, instead, kind of let them have the agenda, let them put it where it's going to be best for them. Man, you're just winning, you're winning. And you're now just further establishing yourself as the leader of the organization and the one that will guide them to the end state to the promised land. And best of all, now, when you do ping them, when you do have to do a true drive by to come get them because something is needed done right now. You've conditioned them to understand and know that the little light on Slack that Adam didn't do is important. And I better look at it right now. Versus if it's dry by your conditioning them the other way where it's like I just can't get to that.

I'm going to ignore it until I'm ready to look at it. Instead condition this condition your team to utilize your information structures and information platforms to the best of their ability and to what actually gets the most done for you.

customer1 png


Within each and every one of us lies a warrior in waiting.

Awaken Your Warrior Spirit...

And Unleash Your True Potential

© Adam Liette Marketing

© Adam Liette Marketing

© Adam Liette Marketing