In order to be productive, it’s important to understand what productivity means at its roots.  Over the next 10 weeks, we are going to define productivity by breaking it down into the 10 most effective actions practiced by highly productive professionals.

Before we start with this week’s topic, here are some basic productivity concepts to get you started on your path to a more productive workday.

  • Productivity is about quality and value, not quantity and volume.
  • Productivity relates to the accomplishments in your day that have meaning and purpose.
  • Productivity is about achieving an end result that possesses integrity and value.
  • Productivity is about maximizing your most important resources: Time, Technology and Talent.
  • Productivity is about giving you more time and energy for the people and activities in your life that bring you joy.

Over the next 10 weeks, we’ll take a deeper look into the following topics leading you to optimal productivity:

Week 1: Define Your Issues and Goals

Week 2: Be Willing To Change

Week 3: Know Your Resources

Week 4: Discover Your Focused Time

Week 5: Get Organized

Week 6: Streamline Processes

Week 7: Get Help

Week 8: Share Best Practices

Week 9: Make It Official

Week 10: Be Accountable

Let’s get started!

Week 1: Define Your Issues and Goals

You’ve Got Issues

Let’s face it. You’ve got issues. We all do. Whether you’re the CEO of a multi-million dollar corporation or a part-time employee of a non-profit organization, you have things that could be running more smoothly. Now that we have that out in the open, let’s figure out just what those issues are, and how they’re impacting your productivity.

Photo by Štefan Štefančík on Unsplash

Define “Define”

Defining your issues isn’t as simple as it may seem. It’s easy to point fingers at the people and processes that slow us down, but are they the real problem? I recently had a client (we’ll call him Bob) come to me with an issue. His employee (we’ll call him Joe) had an email problem. Joe just couldn’t seem to respond to email in a timely manner. His inbox was always overflowing, and requests were piling up.  Bob hired me to coach Joe on how to manage his email more efficiently.

After spending several hours of Joe’s day walking through email management efficiencies, I was enlightened to find that Joe knew perfectly well how to manage his inbox. Email wasn’t Joe’s issue. Bob had failed to define the issue.

After taking a step back and observing Joe carry on with the to-dos of his day, the issue became strikingly clear. Joe, like so many others, had a time management issue. It wasn’t that he didn’t understand how to keep his inbox tamed; he simply didn’t have the time and hadn’t made it a priority.

Quiz Time

What did we learn about defining the issue?

A) Bob is a bad boss and should be demoted.

B) Joe is lazy and stupid.

C) Don’t assume the nature of an issue without investigating.

I hope you responded with C. Defining the issue can be just as much of a process as solving it, which is why this step is crucial. A wrongly stated issue can lead to even bigger problems, like hours spent on the wrong priorities, less revenue-impacting hours worked and even jobs lost.

We must become (or find others willing to become) explorers, observing the daily routine of ourselves and our employees, like cheetahs in the wild. Stand back, be quiet and let nature take its course. Amazing discoveries and insights are made at this stage, including defining the real issues.

Goals Aren’t Just For Hockey Players

Like defining the issues, discovering and mapping out clearly defined goals is an integral aspect of optimal productivity. Because there are numerous accessible resources on mapping out goals (think S.M.A.R.T goals), we won’t get into that now. Rather, I want to emphasize the importance of having a goal as the focus of each and every day.

Not only does having a goal force you to think about what your most important and impactful work is, but it also gives you a grand sense of accomplishment when you actually achieve your goal. Taking pride in your work and feeling a sense of accomplishment are significant characteristics of highly productive individuals.

What’s Tomorrow’s Goal?

Because I’m in the business of productivity, it would be intrinsically wrong for me to advise you to spend the first (and often the most productive) part of your day defining your goals for that same day. Instead, take a few moments at the end of your workday to identify your goals and priorities for the next day. These would be your short-term goals, like completing a particular project, responding to a defined number of emails or even just making it home on time to have dinner with your family or get in a good workout. Starting your day with a goal in mind, and not having to spend your most focused time deciding how to attack your workload is an immense time saver!

Long-Term Goals

Ultimately your short-term goals will get you to your long-term goals. If your goal is to get promoted in the next 12 months, but you’re always behind on projects because your time is spent on meetings and email, you’re probably missing short-term goals. Taking the time to clearly define your goal for each day will lead you to accomplishing those long-term goals.

Of course, things happen and goals can shift and change as each day progresses. Don’t let that throw you off course. Take a deep breath and 5 minutes to re-evaluate what your plan of attack is.

As you work through defining your issues and goals, remember it takes time, but it saves more time in the big picture. Most importantly, don’t let your most valuable work fall to the way side because of poorly defined or undefined goals and issues. Once the discovery is made, you’ll be amazed at how much more value and meaning will come out of your accomplishments and how impactful you can be!

The tragedy of life doesn’t lie in NOT reaching your goal.  The tragedy lies in having NO GOALS to reach. – Benjamin Mays

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