How to Optimize Executive Productivity During a Crisis

By Emily Roner | Updated: 01 Apr, 2020

During a crisis, most people are in survival mode and abandon most aspirational goals around productivity and success. While leaders experience many of those same feelings, they have a responsibility to drive their team forward, and, when juggling an overwhelming number of demands, they have to maximize their productivity to get everything done.

Unlike trying to boost your productivity under normal circumstances, becoming more productive during a crisis is as much about mitigating the scope of issues as it as about making your habits more efficient.

Here are five ways to maximize executive productivity during a crisis.

1) Dedicate Time for Strategic Thinking

During crises, effective leaders think slow and act fast. This allows you to make clear-headed decisions without falling behind. However, to do so, you have to overcome your gut instincts. According to organizational psychology expert, Art Markman, crises trigger most people's flight-or-flight response causing them to either make a lot of short-term, irrational decisions or deny the negative impacts for as long as possible. Both reactions will set up your business for failure.

To succeed, you need to set aside your natural urges and dedicate time every day to review the impacts the crisis is having on your business, evaluate all of your options to mitigate the effects and determine the best path forward.

Your decisions may shift as new developments occur; however, blocking off time ensures you can think through those changes instead of making impulsive decisions.

2) Make Fast, Confident Decisions

Research shows that in chaotic times the most effective leaders make fast, confident decisions that enable their teams to move forward before they've fallen too far behind. This seems counter-intuitive, considering leaders are also supposed to carefully consider their options.

However, thinking strategically while acting quickly is not only possible, but it's essential. Failure to act quickly allows problems to balloon out of control and become far more time-consuming and damaging to deal with.

If you're already setting aside time every day to evaluate crisis shifts, then you know your team's position so well that you're able to make rapid decisions. It's tough, and occasionally you may be wrong, but continuing to push forward gives you lots of opportunities to pivot compared to being anchored to a long thought out plan.

3) Be Precise in Your Messaging

Saying the wrong thing publicly or internally can take an already hectic crisis and turn it into complete chaos as you not only have to deal with the problem itself but also the backlash of your response to it.

According to crisis management expert, Tim Johnson, leaders should wait to make statements until they've gathered enough information to address the situation from a position of authority, instead of panic. This doesn't mean you need to know everything - key stakeholders will expect a response sooner than that - you just need to know enough to convey a reasonable plan forward.

Pausing to gather information instead of immediately reacting lets you deal with the crisis more productively since it allows you to confidently take charge of the situation.

4) Follow a Routine

If you use a productivity system like agile results, GTD, or time blocking, you should lean on it now more than ever. It will help you stay centered even when everything around you is changing rapidly.

If you don't follow a productivity system, you could try adopting one now. However, a more productive use of your time is to create a simple routine and stick with it. Routines reduce stress and boost your productivity by:

  • Giving you structure and stability when everything else is chaotic.
  • Reducing the number of decisions you have to make each day, thereby lowering mental fatigue.
  • Helping you stay focused on priorities instead of reacting to everything that comes your way.

To effectively start a routine, you need to keep it as simple as possible, so it's easy to follow. Start by putting all of your morning activities in order then block off times for all of the tasks you need to do every single day. Then fill in with activities you only one or two times a week. The remaining time on your calendar can be used for miscellaneous tasks that pop up.

Doing projects in the same order every day will boost your productivity since you never have to think about what you should focus on next.

5) Delegate as Much as Possible

An abundance of research shows that leaders who are effective delegators are more successful than those who try to do everything themselves. This especially true in crises. Your team is relying on you to set a clear path forward. To do that, you need to focus on assessing new developments and evaluating all your options. You don't have time to implement all of your plans and carry out the everyday tasks needed to keep your team functioning.

To ensure you have enough time to drive your team's strategy and overcome the challenges that pop-up along the way, you need to delegate the majority of task implementation to others.

Since you often can't afford for more things to go wrong during crises, you must delegate tasks to the right people. As you think about which projects to offload, consider each of your team members' skills and decide which ones they're the best fit for. If you have a situation where a couple of top performers are the only people with the skills to tackle these kinds of challenging tasks, see if there is any easier work that they can offload to entirely focus on crisis management.

Your goal should be to delegate enough tasks that you can focus on strategy and other highly sensitive activities while your team is harnessing their strengths to push your company forward. As the situation evolves, you'll have to reshuffle which tasks are delegated to whom.

Ultimately, the ability to act quickly and adapt will maximize your productivity during challenging times.