LEAD|August 3, 2020
By: D.C. Alves M.Ed., Chief Leadership Officer, ExuLAB
Time Management is OUT & Productivity is IN. Time management is an illusion. You can't "manage" time. But you can manage productivity! I invite you to start thinking about time in a new way- within a new dimension of... results! When you shift your thinking about time in this way you start to move faster and produce more. With a focus on results, time magically seems to work with you and not against you.
Results are everything. So many times I have seen people put a value on time management but have no results to show for it. They set a certain time a meeting will take. They value people arriving "on time". They close a meeting "out of regard for people's time". You hear people say "I'm so busy, I have no time." But I have seen nothing- I mean nothing achieved as a result of this erroneously perceived value of "time". Meetings may be scheduled to take 1 hour- but how do you know that this is the amount of time needed to accomplish a result? Someone can "arrive on time" but produce no results and add no value to the outcome. You may close a meeting "on time" but absolutely nothing was accomplished. Someone may have a false sense of "being busy" when there is no tangible result from all of the perceived time allotted to activity which causes them to "have no time."
While we must work within the social construct of time, to be successful leaders, we must let our focus be on results, productivity and accomplishment first and let this drive action.
A highly influential titan of the nonprofit world once told me "the meeting is NOT the accomplishment" and he was right! So often I coach people on how to power an effective meeting. Many meetings are miserably ineffective- why? Because they fail to produce real results. They are unproductive. I'll hear people say "that was a great meeting we met for 5 hours- boy was it long but it was really good!" I'll ask what was accomplished and they'll look at me confused and say "well, we had a meeting" or "we got through the agenda". When, in truth, the meeting lasted way too long, there were many people in attendance that did not even belong there, the agenda was not oriented to productive action and forward movement, the team was allowed to "spin around" for hours getting nowhere and people left mentally exhausted and more lost than when they got there! Funny, yes- but I've literally coached people on this very thing. Remember, the meeting is not the accomplishment. Don't let time dictate your meeting. Meeting is a very important thing- avoid relying solely on agile tracking and collaboration tools, while effective for tactical management, critical and creative thinking thrives in human to human interaction. And your meetings should be treated very intentionally whether remote or in-person. Your meeting should be tailored to an actionable outcome- something that requires robust thought, creativity and innovation from the team that will produce a new idea, product, program, technology, service or agile-based prototype for the organization- a result that will add value to the organization. I'm a big fan of the iterative approach where you may need to swarm more often but for shorter periods of time. These staccato meetings will only work with a skilled leader who maintains team momentum and keeps the team clearly focussed on OKRs and the final project vision at every swarm. Your team should only meet for the time needed to produce or add value and be made up of only the essential people who are needed to create and be in the know- no more no less.
When you shift your thinking to results instead of time management, your personal productivity also skyrockets. Often, I see people distracted by doing too many things at one time- and truth be told- nothing gets the attention it deserves when you do this. Productivity requires concentrated attention. In our distracted world, you need to control what you will focus on. You choose what gets your attention- and what doesn't. When you put your focus and un-divided attention on a productive result you want to achieve- you can achieve it. It is a choice and a discipline.
Looking at time management through the lens of productivity takes practice. Sometimes it helps to start out small and approach one project in this way and then observe what happens. You may just see that time does indeed start to work with you and not against you!
Here are 3 easy hacks to help you become a super producer, turbo-charge your productivity and get you into the mindset of being a results-oriented powerhouse.
3 Hacks to Make You a Super Producer
Block Work- If you have a major project to lead, create blocks of time in the day to devote to just working on that project. The block must be un-interrupted time and be focussed on just this one project. Pick milestones for this project that you promise to accomplish in the block and stick to it. Do not close the block until your milestone is completed. I came up with this concept long ago because I recognized the value of the result achieved as an outcome of focussed attention. I realized that working in this way improved my overall efficiency on the project outcome and the dedicated attention made for a higher quality product. One caveat, you must have leadership that supports this and if you are a leader you need to support this in your team. Block work, as I like to call it, takes discipline but I can tell you from personal experience- it works!
Ohio- This is an acronym that stands for "only handle it once". Some apply this principle to email de-cluttering. However, when I learned about this concept, I recognized its brilliance when it comes to productivity. Basically, if something crosses your path- you only handle it once- you make a decision and an action about it and move on- you don't put it aside for later. Now, this is easier said than done and may not work for all things- however- the principle is excellent at making you aware of what to focus on and what not to- and how much time to allocate to it. When it comes to productivity- I apply Ohio to the project I'm focussed on- usually when I'm in a work block. This means that if I'm working on launching a new project, I will only handle those things that pertain to that project milestone. And out of those things, I discipline myself to handle it one time with definitive action.
Subtracting- I once had a colleague that worked for a very prominent software company. He told me that his only job was to cut words out of communication to streamline messaging- the fewer the words the better-and ironically that enhanced the message! I call this subtracting and it can be applied to productivity as well. Think about all the things you can streamline or subtract from a project or from day to day work while maintaining rigor. Identify those things that bloat your work and subtract them to get to the real "essential juice" as I like to call it- to determine what is not necessary and what is absolutely a must have essential. Cut those things that detract from your final result and put focus toward what is essential to the result. This is a method that I always use and it has been very successful. What you find is that when you cut through the noise, you come out with a better product. It takes courage to make the cuts, but being strategic with subtracting will add to your velocity as well as overall result.
For more tips and helpful coaching on how to be a super producer and/or lead turbo-charged productivity in your organization- and have the courage to actually do it- contact firstname.lastname@example.org.