"Try not, do."
—Yoda, Jedi Master
We see people "trying" to be productive. If you've ever thought about making a change, but have not implemented it as a habit, here are three things to focus on:
Step One: Create an image of how productive you want to be.
Step Two: Decide on one new habit to practice for a work week.
Step Three: "Report out" to a colleague or mentor at the end of your experiment.
We observe people working "overtime" to keep up with all they have to do, at an even more frantic pace than "normal." Overtime doesn't just mean staying late at the office anymore; people are catching up on e-mail while walking, eating, traveling on a train, and even while driving, and they're logging into their computer systems from home until all hours of the night.
One client shared that she even comes in to the office on Saturdays to catch up on everything she didn't have time for during the week. Working harder and longer isn't part of our definition of sustainable productivity. It can work for a while, but eventually it takes its toll on relationships, health, and overall quality of life.
Have you ever walked into the office and thought: "I'm already tired. I feel like I never left. Urgent messages, hundreds of e-mails, and back-to-back meetings. It never ends?"
People ask, "How can I find the time or the energy I need to be more productive? I'd like to be more organized, but I don't know where to begin."
Begin With the End in Mind
Start by creating a clarified vision of how productive you want to be. Write down what time you want to start working, end working, and take breaks each day. Make a note of how much time you want to be thinking (planning, creating, developing ideas) managing (delegating, meeting, coordinating) and doing (calling people, handling the e-mail inbox, reading/reviewing materials).
We believe sustainable change starts from the inside; literally by shaping our thoughts, expectations, and behaviors. As Gandhi said, "We must be the change we wish to see."
What is the change you want to see? What is your vision of yourself as an effective, efficient, and balanced leader? Does your vision include time to relax or exercise? An empty inbox? A clean desk?
Adjust Your Attitude
Another word for attitude is "perspective." Consider focusing on one area of your productivity for the next five work days.
Airplane pilots are responsible for leading people "from here to there." They start at one airport and land safely at another by having a clear objective (a flight plan) and the tools to keep them on course. Pilots monitor the airplane's position: which way it is leaning (left or right) and which way it is headed (nose up or down).
This is called the attitude of the plane. When pilots learn that they are flying off course, they do not get upset, overwhelmed, or stressed out.
Your employees have great ideas, but no hope of implementing them? Maybe they just need a few pointers on managing their time better to roll out those ingenious plans.
Instead, they correct their course by adjusting their attitude. Similarly, your attitude toward change is decisive.
Create your own flight plan. Write the direction to take you toward where you want to be by the end of next week. Adjusting your attitude is done by scripting the thoughts you want to have.
Create a positive approach to the week: "I'm getting closer to an empty inbox everyday" and "Today, I took one specific action to lead to a balanced life."
Acknowledge Your Success
Organizing your time, energy, and focus is necessary to bring balance to your life and work. You may get to the end of the day and focus on what you did not accomplish. Instead, focus on creating a way to support your success. Set a weekly meeting with a mentor or a colleague (or e-mail us with your "workflow win!") for a month. Book at least 30 minutes, and plan to share the plan you created, the experiment you tried, and your subjective and objective experiences. As soon as you leave the meeting, go back to step one and start another week toward getting from where you are, to where you want to be.
Building up your sustainable "productivity" will always come down to what you're willing to do (that works for you) over and over again.
Jason W. Womack, MEd, MA, and Jodi Womack, MA, help professionals enhance their organizational performance through maximizing time, energy, focus, and technology. For more information, click here. To receive a free copy of their Workplace Performance white paper, e-mail today: info@WomackCompany.com.