With every week that goes by I get several requests to help one or two executives with their personal struggles with productivity and their ability to manage their time. Given that this topic never seems to go away, and that the struggles never seem to end in our 7X24 always on, always available world, I thought this would be a good time for a series of articles on how to make the right choices about how to manage your energy and time. Follow these simple basic fundamentals, and you could increase your personal productivity by 10 – 40%.
Beware The Whirlwind – In their excellent book on productivity, The 4 Disciplines of Execution, Sean Covey and Chris McChesney, introduced the concept of the “whirlwind”, that unrelenting pressure to get involved in everything that goes on to keep your company running day to day. It takes discipline to avoid getting consumed by work that appears urgent, but really isn’t important. If you can proactively approach your day and focus on the truly important work, you will naturally avoid working on the least important but noisy work that tries to come your way. Be disciplined about what you choose to work on.
Don’t Go It Alone – Many times, intelligent business professionals get in their own way by sticking with the things that got them this far. Their incredible capacity for work leads them to hoard decisions, tasks, and they fail to engage and leverage the talent around them. The beautiful thing is that we can delegate work to the rest of our team. In delegating, we send a clear message to the rest of the team that we value them and trust them to perform meaningful work. Engaging the rest of the team via intelligent delegation is not easy, and requires some thinking and planning to get it right, but when you begin to work at it, you gain momentum quickly. Prepare your team to help you with important and challenging work and watch their productivity, and yours, increase steadily.
Go Ahead, Write It Down – Many of us love to write things down onto lists. Go ahead, it works! Using a list is a good way to clear your mind of the many subconscious tasks you don’t want to forget. Having captured them on a list, go one step further and prioritize them. Because the list helps you to visualize all of the work that you want to accomplish, you can assign priorities to the items on the list, and this will help you make strong choices about what to work on first, second and so on.
Get It Onto Your Calendar – This is where many of us begin to get off track. We are really good at capturing our items on a “To Do” list, but then they just languish there for weeks or months without getting done. How is that possible, you ask? Simple, writing things down on a list is a great start, but it doesn’t get the task done. For that, we need action, and I know of no better technique to help you stimulate action than to plan ahead and put dedicated time onto your calendar for a particular priority task. If you work on your schedule first thing in the morning, and again the last thing at night, you will be much more likely to make the most of your time management opportunity.
Do it, And Do It Today – Without action, nothing good can happen. The work won’t get out of bed and do itself. If your work is going to get done, you need to get on with it. Pick your priorities carefully, and then get in the habit of getting busy working on them in the time you have allotted to doing that important work. Don’t waste time worrying about what else you should be doing, or could be doing, because you decided that THIS task was a priority. Get it started, and work at it until it’s complete. Then move on to the next task.
Well, there you have it! These are five of my top ten time-tested tips for raising your personal productivity. In my work with hundreds of business leaders and executives, I have found that these simple techniques work for anybody who chooses to employ them in their efforts to increase their ability to make the most of their time. Simple techniques, but that is what makes them work, and what makes them valuable. I hope these five simple ideas help you to get out of your rut, and get back to leading the team to greater accomplishments. Stay tuned for another set of five brilliant Time Management Techniques in a few days.
Michael Beach is a Business and Executive Development Advisor in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Michael specializes in working with Business Owners, C-Level Executives, their leadership teams, and their newly emerging leaders. Time Management, or Choice Management, as Michael likes to call it, is a problem that plagues many executives in our society. If you’d like to receive a free set of 25 Choice Management Best Practices, visit Michael’s website at www.michaelbeachcoach.com and subscribe to Michael’s “Coffee With Michael” e-newsletter. Michael will then send you his 25 Best Time Management Practices FREE of charge, along with a boatload of other valuable content.