Productivity defined

Productivity. That word is thrown around more than a tennis ball at Wimbledon. But what does it mean? It means different things to different people, but my definition is to make my work process easy, so that I can get things done without thinking too much about the tools I use.

I’ll give you an example from my life.  But first of all, who am I? I’m a product manager for Microsoft working on the Office team. And I’m an end user who uses our products to get my work done and be more productive.

Here’s my example. One of the projects I inherited when I began my job required scheduling events at a different location daily, using five different presenters for 13 different districts.  The vendor who was doing this scheduling for me left, and I had to temporarily take over the job until I hired a new vendor to help me.

Now, this vendor had done a great job, but I think that she must have an eidetic memory, because she had information about the events in 13 different Excel workbooks and each of those Excel workbooks had 7 different worksheets. She also used an Access database and extensive nested Outlook folders plus a SharePoint calendar.

If I needed to answer the question, “who is supposed to be where today?” I had to look at the SharePoint calendar, get a general idea of locations matched to presenters, then find the correct workbook, the right worksheet, and then repeat that process 5 times. By the third workbook my head was ready to fall off, I had resorted to scribbling notes on paper (which then got lost or left in my other office or my car) and I started going insane and babbling. I wasn’t very productive.

So I consolidated all the workbooks into one workbook, with one worksheet. Then I  used the Data filter (Click on the Data tab, click Filter) to find out who needed to be where on any date. I also added columns for reporting functions to eliminate the need for the database, though I may go back to use this to eliminate another aspect of the job – more on this later.

As soon as I finished putting all the data into one system and did my first data filter, I felt a sense of relief instead of panic. And now I have a system that makes the new vendor and me more productive.

This blog will focus on productivity solutions that I learn about from experts, from you, from customers, and from my own forays into setting up the most productive way to work.


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