Tuesday, January 11, 2011

How Productive are You?

While there's a massive literature on time-management and how to be more effective at work, I am often struck by how little discussion there is of this among third sector and SE professionals. We see at as something possibly to teach our staff and we laugh at the public sector but we tend, in an unspoken way, to assume that we are optimally productive.

But are we? I'm certainly not. Well, not all of the time. I spend a lot of time on low-priority stuff. I waste time on stuff I enjoy rather than needs doing (like this). I procrastinate for England. I often fail to prioritise for weeks on end.

Yet I do also get it dead-right sometimes. These are the times I make a monthly list of priorities, decide what has to be done, and plough through it all. This rids me of distraction and gives me energy. I find a kind-of sweet-spot of focus, energy and momentum.

My biggest inspiration was years ago reading Stephen Covey's book 'The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People'. Despite the god-awful title, this is one hell of a book for someone trying to raise their game. I read it on a beach in Goa ten years ago where I had gone after one of my many burnouts while developing the early Speaking Up.

It grabbed me for three reasons. First, it told me what I needed to do: choose a small number of high-impact priorities, write them down and pursue them exclusively. Second, it taught me that I needed to work consciously on improving my character. Being not just myself, but my best self. Thirdly, I got from that book a clear sense that it was down to me what I made of my life - it was about choice not predestination or script.

One of the biggest take-aways from that holiday was my annual, monthly and weekly list of must-do's. I used this until relatively recently. I like to think that I internalised the habit but the truth is I may have gotten a bit too pleased with myself and put this trusted tool aside too early. My productivity is certainly no longer what it was.

Kids and age have a bit to do with this. But there is no real substitute for knowing, every day, what you are going to achieve, writing it down and committing to it. All a bit American for some people I know but I bet it would add 15% to most people.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Completely agree!! Great book, I also read a while back and still refer to. My issue tends to be juggling life priorities (kids,wife, dog....) With day job and trying to startup a SE in my 'free' time. But Mr Covey has helped here!!