Planning For Efficiency
I know from past experience that it is possible to double your personal productivity and maintain or even increase your sense of balance. How? Here are 8 principles I rely on that have helped me maximize my personal productivity:.
'I have way too much to do. I certainly don't have time to stop working so I can plan!' Ever hear yourself saying something like this? If you're like most of us, your answer is 'Yes!' Life in general is becoming more and more complicated, a tight economy is forcing businesses to find ways to do more with less, in the end, and this buck doesn't stop until it gets to you and me! Businesses may know how to restructure and redistribute the work, but in the end, it is the individual who is challenged to get more work done with less time and fewer resources.
With limited meaningful help from your employer, how will you do this? Let me rephrase that a little: how will you do this without putting in extra hours, taking work home, or increasing your anxiety and stress levels? It is possible and within your capabilities. I know from past experience that it is possible to double your personal productivity and maintain or even increase your sense of balance. How? Here are 8 principles I rely on that have helped me maximize my personal productivity:
1. Planning and doing are different activities and are most effective when done separately.
This was one of the first lessons about personal productivity I learned that really stuck with me. It is a simple concept and easy to apply, but the impact it has had for me has been phenomenal. Take time specifically to plan what you're going to do and how, rather than having that get mingled in with your doing. You'll get more done if you take a few minutes of time up-front and then, when done planning, execute the plan. The alternative, and how most of us do this, is to start working, stop because we don't have everything we need, start again, stop because we need to decide what step to take next, etc. The flow (if you can call it that) here is a constant starting-stopping which wastes a tremendous amount of time. It is interruptive in and of itself and requires time to refocus each time to get started again. Your very first item on your to-do list should be to plan!
2. A good system for reality-based prioritizing is essential to getting important work done.
Got a huge to-do list? Then you need to (an probably already do) prioritize it in some way. I can't say enough about spending the time to find or develop a good, structured system for prioritizing your work. Too many of us just do it in a couple of quick minutes based on how we feel at the time. Any number of factors should be considered, however, so that what shows up as a priority really is one. The due date is always a factor, but it might not be the most important factor. Urgency oftentimes wins over what is truly important. Take the time to really analyze your list. If you use an A, B, C type of prioritizing system, add a D for delete. Learn to decide not to do things that aren't important or that don't contribute to your overall goals. Oh, and by the way, if you have a very short to-do list, it doesn't mean you're off the hook. If you list is short, you might not be including everything. Take an inventory of what you need to be doing over the next month or two and start a master list for yourself. Prioritizing isn't very effective if you've only identified a small percentage of what the reality is.
3. All urgent things are NOT always important. All important things should be treated as though they are urgent.
The phone rings and we have to answer it. Someone stops by our office, and we stop what we're doing to deal with what they need. Another employee needs help because he is up against a 4:00 pm deadline and 'you're the only one who can help.' These are all 'urgent' tasks because they are in our face at the present moment. If we interrupt our work to address these issues, it will seriously limit the time we have left to do the really important things. Isn't that the opposite of how it should be? Find a way to keep the important tasks in the forefront of your mind. Write them in large colored print on a white board in your office or on poster board. That way, when some 'urgent' thing comes up, you'll be able to see the important tasks just as easily and then face choosing between them. Learn to say 'No!' and add that you have too many other 'urgently important' tasks to tend to!
4. Just because you are rushing and 'busy' all day, doesn't mean you're accomplishing anything.
Don't mistake movement and 'busyness' as productive work. This generally is a sneaky method of procrastination. Reorganizing that pile on your desk might feel like you're accomplishing something, but you're only just avoiding what you really need to do.
5. Decision-making is critical to success 'do it up-front, in a structured way, and based on facts. Never make impulsive decisions.
Structuring your decision-making helps make the process more objective and minimizes the impact of personal biases. The end result will be better, more effective decisions and this will result in less time spent re-deciding when the initial impulse decision doesn't work out. I believe in 'trusting your gut' as long as you can back it up with facts.
6. Interruptions and roadblocks will occur 'expect them and plan for them.
You'll be sorely disappointed if you plan a coarse of action and expect everything to run completely smoothly. Don't set yourself up for the frustration and disappointment that comes with this. Learn to anticipate what might go wrong and plan what you will do if it does. You'll have less stress when something goes wrong and the time spent getting back on track will be less.
7. Time spent building effective, trusting relationships with others will pay off big time in the future and have the ability to make or break your ability to be successful.
Build cooperative, genuine, relationships with your coworkers based on mutual trust and respect. Share your time, expertise, and assistance when you can and you'll have a solid foundation of support lasting long into the future. Keep in mind that the key word here is genuine. Don't approach this as a strategy for getting people you can delegate to later. It won't work 'people know when you're not being sincere.
8. You will be most effective if you can have ownership of your work without taking it personally.
This can be a tough one to get and to live up to on an ongoing basis. It seems to be contradictory to expect you can have ownership in your work but not take it personally at the same time. Ownership implies personal commitment to fulfill the responsibilities of your job. That is an attitude which will move you toward success. Taking things personally is about thinking you are to blame when things go wrong. When you are, take responsibility and correct it if you can. Too often, though, people are taking it personally when, for example, management criticizes a process or procedure or asks a team to change how they are approaching something. This type of input happens all the time in the workplace and it is about a process, system, procedure, etc. It might be about what you are doing, but it is not about who you are. That is the important distinction to make here and it is difficult to put into practice. Start by reminding yourself about this whenever you start finding yourself having hurt feelings 'it's not about you or who you are, it's just about work, and you are more than your job. Not taking things too personally will allow you to remain focused more on the job and waste less time thinking, worrying, and 'venting' with your coworkers.
About the Author
Donna Birk is a writer, trainer, coach, and Licensed Social Worker. She founded and operates "People Builders," an organization devoted to helping people grow.