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Office of IDEAS

Productivity Tools - Fall 2022

The Office of IDEAS team facilitated 2 sessions of a Cross-Campus Collaboration virtual workshop entitled Productivity Tools in September and October 2022. The workshop provided demonstrations of a variety of tools and techniques to manage personal and collaborative productivity. Participants were invited to share their biggest productivity blockers and the applications and strategies they are using to manage their inboxes, tasks, and large projects.

The workshop also introduced the concept of organizational "sludge" and provided a sample matrix to measure sludge in one's own department, adapted from a research paper from the University of Toronto.

The two sessions drew over 100 participants combined, with representation from 18 of the 23 CSU campuses and the CSU Chancellor's Office.

A productive day is marking several items off my "to-do" list and feeling a sense of accomplishment when I leave.

Productive day is managing needs of the day, while also being able to work ahead in preparation for upcoming projects.

For me a productive day is engaging in meaningful work with priority. 

A productive day is one in which I am able to make forward progress on big picture tasks, and don't get caught up in a million interruptions and little tasks. 

Complete everything on my to-do list plus time to do one thing that helps me "sharpen the tool"

I'm in Distribution & Property Control Services.  A productive day for us is to have the dock cleared (mail included), literally & figuratively.


Productivity Problems

Inbox Clutter

79% of participants reported spending 2+ hours per day sifting through email and managing their inbox.

"My productivity blocker [is] getting distracted by emails and the items that come up doing the day and pull me from my to do list."

Hurry Up and Wait

76% of participants reported "waiting on responses" from colleagues as one of their biggest "time-wasters".

Waiting on responses requires you to remain engaged with a task, even when you're not actively engaging with the work of it yourself!

Productivity Solutions & Systems

Below are some tools and apps shared during these sessions to help you be more productive. We'd love to hear from you if you find something here and it increases your productivity and work flow. 


What is Sludge? 

Much sludge involves waiting time (in person, on the phone, even online). Much of it involves reporting burdens (as when people are required to fill out weekly reports, explaining what they have been doing with their lives). Much of it consists of dreary or duplicative application requirements, including time spent online, which might be required if people are seeking to obtain money, medical care, a job, a visa, a permit, or some kind of life-saving help (Sunstein, 2021, pp. 4–5).

Below are two brief articles that define and explain common areas of sludge in higher education and provide solutions to clear it out.

Sludge Stories

Participants in the sesions shared their own experiences with sludge.

"We use Adobe Sign for some processes, but some areas of campus do not let you add them into the flow/process, they want you to use Adobe Sign, and then e-mail them completed documents separately, instead of incorporating them into the Adobe Sign work flow."

"There's a lot of inertia, people want to keep doing what they've been doing even if it's not working for the team as it currently exists."

I think it is necessary to have a foundation before you can expect teams to be efficient.
Finding anything on our website without using Google externally is sludge
Files not named with any useful convention so it's difficult to search Drive for anything

Two take-away resources provided to participants were a research paper, "Seeing Sludge" from the University of Toronto Rotman School of Business that provides a detailed analysis of organizational sludge, as well as a template for performing a "sludge audit" for your own organizational unit. 

Download the Sludge Audit template Download the "Seeing Sludge" research paper