When you think about productivity what do you think about? The measure of the efficiency of a machine, factory or system, in converting inputs into useful outputs? Maybe not as formal as that but I guess most of us think about some kind of mechanical thing. But what about personal productivity? Do you measure it? Or even think about it?
There is little doubt that people are an organisations most valuable asset. We are the “things” that make decisions, drive initiatives, produce outputs and as such, being as productive as we can is highly desirable. There is nothing better than feeling like you are being highly productive and (importantly) being recognised as such.
Leaders have a responsibility to set the example of what it means to be productive and can set the tone for how others work around them. Here are a few ideas that I have picked up along the way that have helped me and the organisations I have worked with.
- Discern what is important
Focus your attention on those activities that are important. In the words of Franklyn Covey, put first things first. You have to understand that not doing everything that comes your way is crucial if you’re going to be focused and hence highly productive. People think focus means saying “yes” to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other things that are not important. Saying “no” can be a person’s greatest productivity driver – although a word of caution…… you can’t say no to everything!
Examples of the important might be strategic work, planning, high-impact goals, relationship or network building, creative thinking, collaborative work and you’re personal development and learning.
- Be Ambitious
Don’t settle for the low hanging fruit all the time, don’t settle for the easy to achieve, be audacious in defining your goals. The term ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goal’ was suggested by James Collins and Jerry Porras in their 1994 book entitled Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. Having a BHAG is a way for individuals (or organisations) to be ambitious, a goal that might seem unreachable but can be the fuel to drive you towards achieving it. I meet a lot of people who can articulate their organisations goals but when I ask the question “what are your personal goals”? many don’t have them, which is a real shame. Having personal goals is important, and if you don’t have any think about getting some………..soon!
How often have you got to the end of the day (or week) and reflected on what you haven’t achieved? Stuff just happens that gets in the way of the things you want to do. The answer is to plan ahead. I always plan my week ahead before the week commences, like on a Sunday. Don’t wait for Monday morning to plan you’re week ahead, as you’re already in it, managing the stuff that got in the way of what you wanted to achieve last week! Spending 20-30 minutes planning your week, before the week starts, will transform the time you spend everywhere else during the week.
- Make sure you manage your technology
I met somebody this week that employed somebody to filter his email inbox. He received (on average) 5,000 mails a week!! That seems extreme but I meet very few people that actively manage their email inbox. Whatever platform you use there are plenty of best practice tutorials that will help you to improve how you manage the most significant detractor to personal productivity. Here is one for Outlook, use it and I guarantee your will become more productive because of it https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Outlook-Best-Practices-How-Harry-got-organized-eaca7cd4-707c-475a-b308-0cfb1c24686d. My best tip to help…… turn off the “play a sound” when a new message arrives! Each time you get an email it disturbs your concentration and detracts from being productive. How about just checking email twice a day? Once in the morning and once in the afternoon? Now that would be revolutionary! If I had to pick one course to send every member of my organisation on it would be one on best practice email management.
- Eat, sleep, rave, repeat
What I really mean is make sure you have a healthy balance of what is important – nutrition, sleep, relaxation, exercise and physical connection with other members of the human race, not friends on Facebook! I know this is teaching my grandmother to suck eggs but these are the foundations of everything else… enough said!
Leaders that demonstrate the above and talk about the importance of each one are likely to shape how people act and do stuff at work.