It’s Monday again and it’s time to get s*** done!
Monday Productive is a weekly interview format, featuring peak-performers from my network, who share 5 quick ideas on how to boost your productivity and stay at the top of your game.
Today’s guest is Raya Drenski – a mentor, a business development director, a founder at a sales consultancy, and a brand strategist. Heading the sales and communication teams for EMEA branding & design agencies over a decade now provides Raya with the unique hybrid understanding of both branding & sales. She is obsessed with the impact of the brand on the bottom line, observing how a brand should behave to perform better and appeal to the target audience and ultimately – sell more.
1. What does branding mean to you? What are some of the biggest challenges that prevent companies from branding themselves effectively?
▶ Branding empowers companies to tell their story in a compelling way, to get noticed and remembered. To me, branding is a passion, a source of inspiration, and my career path. When time & attention are scarce, a well-elaborated brand helps customers, consumers or users navigate better and make a choice. Same applies to us as professionals with personal branding – what makes us special, and why the others should choose to work with us? The biggest challenge comes when branding is diminished to logo creation. Start-ups, in particular, tend to undermine it as money is an issue. Branding aligns their values, depicts their positioning and articulates their culture. This is one of the most essential steps in any company building.
2. How do you prioritise your time and the time of your team? Do you follow a planning method or a system to make sure the most important things get done?
▶I follow my heart! I cross-check what is due for the day and the week, and then I prioritise those tasks that resonate well with my personal interest, motivation and mood. It might not be the most urgent task. It might not be the most important one. When I kick off the day with something that excites me, the rest follows much faster.
Above all, I make sure the rest of the team is also briefed and having all necessary input to keep working on their bits. We use Google Calendar and Asana as apps. I need a recommendation for a functional CRM, as I am not satisfied with ours at the moment.
3. Personal versus professional life. Is balance achievable? How do you stay on track yourself?
▶ I’ve discovered in a coaching session that being honest and family-oriented are my most important personal values. Subsequently, these values are foundational to my productivity. I am honest to myself first – what projects and tasks genuinely excite me. I look into them as opportunities to grow, to learn something new. Then, I am honest to all stakeholders involved – I keep them aligned and engaged, and I communicate when my input is to be expected. Then, my productivity is naturally enhanced by my strong desire to spend time with my family. No matter what I do and where I stand with my daily program, the kindergarten will close, and I must be there to pick up my daughter. This ‘deadline’ is the most effective tool against procrastination.
4. In the last few years – what habit or belief have you acquired, that helps you to be an effective professional today?
▶ I am an Eastern-European living in Western Europe. Back in Bulgaria, I was working long hours, evening, weekends, and during holidays. It was the most natural thing to stay on top of my game by being available 24/7. Now, for the last five years in Munich, I hardly ever respond to emails in the evening, I leave the office earlier, and I take weekends and breaks to myself and my family. I adopted these habits from my German colleagues. I don’t know if it’s age and experience, or the impact of my current residence, or motherhood, but my biggest lesson is that I am more productive when working fewer hours. To me, long hours of work signal inefficiency, tiredness, improper tasks allocation or wrong focus. We tend to believe that the world will fall apart without us or if we don’t get this done RIGHT NOW. It won’t.
5. What do you do when you are feeling overwhelmed or unproductive, but you have a lot on your to-do list?
▶ I make myself a cup of coffee, and I call a friend. I ask them what they are up to, what their current challenge is. I openly admit that I feel blocked or overwhelmed at the moment. We talk, discuss, share, laugh, and ultimately – they help me cheer up. My friends are very intuitive, and they always sense how to approach me at such moments and give me the needed boost. The next best thing is writing. I think of a topic that has been brewing in my head for a while, and I write an article about it.
[BONUS] Name one to three books that helped you to become a better leader?
- Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli, Francesca Cavallo
- Exponential Organisations by Salim Ismail
- The Design Activist’s Handbook: How to Change the World (Or at Least Your Part of It) with Socially Conscious Design, by Noah Scalin
If you have any questions to Raya, please leave your comment below!
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