We all believe in productivity, right?
More is better. More items ticked off the to-do list, more activities crammed into your 168-hour week. More emails sent, more Powerpoints prepared, more calls made, more appointments booked, more bids submitted, more meetings attended. More widgets produced, more widgets sold, more widgets, more widgets, more widgets.
Our economy is in the middle of a productivity crisis.
We hear it every day. We’re not producing enough. It’s dragging GDP down. It’s dragging wages down. It’s dragging living standards down.
You’re in the middle of a productivity crisis.
Your to-do list gets longer each day, even as you tick off items like some sort of crazed Productivity Ninja. You’ve tried every app, from Nozbe to Omnifocus. You’ve implemented every system from Getting Things Done to The Pomodoro Technique. You’re swamped. You can’t keep up. It’s dragging you down. It’s dragging your health down. It’s dragging your most important relationships down.
Doing the right thing?
I’ve been there. In fact, I might be there again by the time you are reading this. And, if not, I’ll be there again some time very soon – experiencing that overwhelming sense of accelerated desperation as a tidal wave of demands crashes over me.
I’m involved in a pretty demanding business turn-around right now. There are lots of things that need fixing. One thing that’s really clear is that there’s been no lack of hard work. All of our teams have been flat-out, with no bandwidth to spare. Leaders and managers haven’t stopped, moving from meeting to meeting, report to report, fighting fire after fire.
There’s been lots of focus on getting things done, but not enough focus on doing the right things.
As a leadership team we’ve spent a long time this year, working with the business to identify the right things. By sharing those priorities regularly and often with our teams, we can measure all of our activity in terms of effectiveness.
It’s not a magic bullet. It’s still difficult to resist the overwhelming power of the whirlwind we call ‘business as usual.’
In the last few weeks, I’ve been working through this challenge with one of my direct reports – a really experienced senior manager – who knows exactly what the key priorities for his team are, but is really struggling to shield both them and himself from incoming traffic and knee-jerk reactions. We’ve got some strategies to get things back on track. We’ll make some tough decisions, say no to some things, block out time to get things done and bring in additional resource to help.
Personally, I’ve given in to the whirlwind in November. A perfect storm of recruiting new staff, some new responsibilities, a round of internal conferences and necessary, but time-consuming administration – along with a very busy personal calendar – left me blown off my feet.
A few days break came at just the right time to enable me to refocus, clear my head (and my calendar) and get serious about the handful of things that will really make a difference before the end of the year.
Do less stuff, do the right stuff, and do it well
You might need to get clear on your priorities – personal and professional. You might need to get clear on your team’s priorities. You might need to get clear on your whole organisation’s priorities. You might need to get clear on all three!
You’ll use a different strategy and involve different people, depending on the level you are focusing on, but you need to work out, write down and share four important things:
- Our Purpose – why we do the things we do
- Our Vision – the destination that we are aiming for
- Our Impact – the outcomes we are trying to achieve
- Our Priorities – the three or four most important projects or goals that will move the needle most in the short to medium term
It’s bigger than you and me
I’ve spent a long time trying to become more productive. Over the last year or so, I’ve become much more focused than ever on trying to become more effective.
I’ve written recently about some tools and strategies I’ve been using to get clearer on my priorities and stay focused upon them – such as the Full Focus Planner. We’re working within our company to develop strategies, tools, systems and behaviours that will embed this way of thinking throughout our organisation.
I really believe that we need to do less things, do the right things and do them better than ever before. We need to bust the myth of productivity. That’s how we can personally live and work better.
I also think this idea of effectiveness instead of productivity is much, much bigger than just me or you.
What would it mean if our companies were more effective rather than more productive?
What would it mean if our economy was more effective rather than more productive?
How much more of an impact would we make in the world? And how much more value would be created?
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment on the page below, or wherever you’ve read this post. If you like it, please share it with others.
If you’d like to make sure you never miss a new post, just enter your name and email address at the top right of this page.