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3 Easy Steps To Be More Productive

How is it that we can be busy all day… but at the end of the day feel like we have achieved so little?  The problem lies in the fact that we are so often busy … but not overly productive! Just because you are stuck at your desk all day working through a long list of tasks does not necessarily equate to being productive.Being busy gives us the belief that we are working hard and makes us feel like we are contributing, while in fact we are spinning our wheels going no where fast.

When we are merely busy we tend to get caught up in and focus on things that we think are important and need to be done like responding to emails, attending endless meetings and mindlessly implementing time consuming, ineffective processes.

Being busy may make you appear impressive, and give you an elevated sense of importance, but of course it is nothing more than an illusion.  Being busy does not equate to producing results.  Most often, being busy gets in the way of achieving the results we are ultimately capable of.

Some people, maybe even you, wear their busyness like a badge of honor.  When asked, “how are you?” have you ever answered “busy!” When we respond in this way, I wonder, are we seeking praise, acknowledgement or sympathy?

To be more productive is something entirely different from being busy. 

Being productive is working smarter not harder.  It is about putting your energy where you will get the greatest return on your efforts.   It is having clear goals backed up with a workable strategy to meet your targets and investing in the activities that will get you to your outcome as quickly as possible.

Pareto’s Principle also known as the 80/20 rule, states that for many events, roughly 80% our effects come from 20% of the causes.

When we apply this to our role at work and as a leader, it looks a little like this;

  • 20% of our effort creates 80% of our results,
  • 20% of our customers generate 80% of our sales,
  • 20% of our team produce 80% of the innovation.

So believing this to be true, imagine the results we could achieve if we were to identify which 20% of our work created 80% of our results and spent more time and energy in this area!

Image the impact and influence you could have as a leader by focusing on what will really get you improved results.  And with the improved results comes more recognition, maximising the perceived value you bring to the team and ultimately… hopefully, a pay increase, promotion or opportunity to work on an exciting project.

3 Easy Steps To Becoming More Productive

1.  Review: Take a critical look at how you spend each day.  Record for at least a week how you spend each hour, then classify each task into one of the following categories

  1. Time waster or “busy work”
  2. Required important work with low to medium return
  3. Highly productive work with high return

2.  Identify: Identify the top 20% of activities that generate the highest return for you in terms of results.

Likewise, get brutally honest with yourself about what are your “time wasters,” and decide how you are going to best manage yourself around these.  This doesn’t necessarily mean eliminating them all together.  Some of our time wasters are what add spice and enjoyment to our workday.

3.  Act: Commit today to allocate more time and energy to these high return activities while eliminating or significantly limiting your engagement in “time wasting” activities.

I also find it helps to schedule the high impact activities into your day when you feel most alert and in a productive mood.  For me this is first thing in the morning.  So if this is you too…. resist the temptation to get lost in the mountains of emails you have waiting or engaging in chat on social media and get the important stuff done first!  And by morning coffee time you will be well on your way to a super productive day.

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