By Walter Rogers, US Daily Review Contributor
Many of us are over-tasked, over-informed, over-scheduled and over-communicated. Regardless of how many people you manage, how many projects you are involved in, how many customers you call on, or how many bosses you have, you have more control over your productivity than you think. Managing your personal productivity is perhaps the single most important skill you must have and teach others. Why teach others? Because it’s those others that can derail your own progress. It seems that every day it is getting more and more difficult to get any important work done. Social media, emails, calls, meetings, tasks, texting and any number of other activities have completely changed the dynamics of how we run our day. New technologies are supposed to help us be more efficient and effective. However, one of the unintentional outcomes is that it is much easier for people to get distracted. There is no secret to productivity. A lot has already been written on this topic from many authors and I will not attempt to cover even a fraction of all the tips and tricks available from hundreds of books, articles and blogs.
The secret to productivity is to pick just a few highly repeatable tactics and apply them every day. Without a methodical cadence, no tip or trick will last. Ultimately you will revert to unproductive patterns. But the question is – which tactics do you choose, and how do you implement them? Fundamentally, highly productive individuals are hyper-focused on systematically managing these four time cycles:
In addition to these four time cycles, there are four core principles:
- Start saying no
- Stop multi-tasking
- Become a “0” in-boxer
- Divide and conquer
Over the course of the next several articles we will detail each of these concepts. I will start with the quarterly time cycle. The good news is that there are only two steps to effectively managing the quarterly cycle:
Step 1 – Determine your Quarterly Goals
Many people wander their way through a quarter and ultimately react to fire drills by the end of the session, realizing how behind they are. This is a dangerous tactic. Break your annual goals down into quarterly increments. Look for four major milestones and assign each one to a quarter. Make sure the goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Bound. There are 13 weeks in each quarter. Every wasted week represents a 7.5% loss inside a quarter. Imagine if the company you worked for lost 7.5% of its available productivity every week. After only four weeks it would experience a 30% productivity loss. Managing the 13 weeks effectively and making incremental progress each week against the quarterly goal will prevent productivity leakage. Break down the main quarterly goals into weekly components and write them down.
- During the first three days of the quarter, identify up to 5 main goals that must be accomplish inside the quarter.
- Break the goals down into a rough 13 week plan. Your plan will change every week so don’t worry about making it exact. Use it as a framework to work through the most important activities each week and adjust as needed.
- Write all this down in your tool of choice (CMR, Outlook, etc.)
Step 2 – Schedule your weekly High Focus Meetings
It’s very common to receive requests throughout the day. Typically these requests – which can often just be interruptive – come from the same set of people. The best way to manage these interruptions is to set 45 minute High Focus meetings every week to attend to issues that have the greatest amount of impact on your goals. Ensure that during the weekly meetings you have all of the right participants in attendance so you can make informed decisions quickly and move on. This strategy provides you with several benefits:
- It will help you to hold all of the “noise” and miscellaneous issues that come up during the week and deal with them at once,
- It will guide everyone to map all of this activity back to the key goals
- It will facilitate whatever decisions are needed to implement small, but important, changes every week.
These meetings need not be face-to-face; team members can participate by telephone, online, or other technologies. This will free up large amounts of time for your schedule that you can now re-allocate