Key Lessons from My Leadership Development Workshop
Embrace Your Productivity Style
T-shirts labeled “One size fits all” never fit properly. The arm holes are too small, the neck opening is too large, or the sleeves are too long.
The same applies to one-size-fits-all approaches to personal productivity. Maybe you have tried to use a calendar tool you received in another leadership development workshop or those colored post-it notes that a friend recommended. If the results were disappointing, the fault is not yours—it’s the fault of tools and techniques that do not match your Productivity Style.
So instead of fighting against your natural thinking, learning, and communicating preferences, work with them. Identify your Productivity Style (you can find the link to my Personal Productivity Assessment here) and then embrace it. Use your understanding to guide the choices you make to manage your attention, invest your time, get work done, tame your inbox, and design your work space in ways that are customized for you—not for someone else.
Know Where You Really Want to Go
At the beginning of each new coaching engagement or leadership development workshop, I give my client a magic wand—an imaginary one, of course. “Ta-da!” I declare. “Today, everything in your life is exactly the way you want it!” This never fails to elicit a smile and a laugh. Who wouldn’t want a magic wand accompanied by a promise like that?
But then the work begins, starting with some serious questions. Now that your life is exactly the way you want it, what has changed? What does your life – professional and personal – look like and feel like? What are you doing? Who are you doing it with?
It is amazing to listen to the shift in my clients’ voice as they describe their magic-wand life. There is a new tone reflecting feelings of excitement, joy, fun, meaning, and purpose.
So now it’s your turn. You have just been handed a magic wand. What do you really want? What are your dreams? Do not get bogged down in shoulds – you should want this because you are the partner in a consulting firm, you should want that because you are a loving husband or wife, son or daughter, you should want fill-in-the-blank because that is what everyone wants. Don’t should all over yourself. Instead, imagine what you really want—and get ready to go for it.
Set Your Goals and Align Your Time Spend
Once you get to the point where you can see, feel, taste, and touch your magic-wand life, set your goals and align your time spend to make that life a reality.
Write your R.E.A.D.Y. goals – Realistic, Exciting, Action-oriented, Directive, and Yours. Then Aim your time spend, matching it to your goals with your calendar as the primary tool. Think carefully about each task or project you are considering putting on your calendar. Ask yourself, “How does this task or project move me one step closer towards achieving my goals?”
Be vigilant--do not allow tasks or projects onto your calendar that do not move you closer to your goals.
Invest Your Time Wisely to Achieve Your Goals
How are you investing your time to achieve your goals? Look at your calendar--your time investment statement. What does it show you about your time spend? Are you giving away your time? If so, stop! Maximize the hours in each day by choosing time investment tactics that work for your Productivity Style. Time is a non-renewable resource. Invest it wisely to achieve your goals.
Focus on the Real Work That Is Aligned to Your Goals
There is work—the routine, time-filling work most of us spend our days performing—and then there is your real work, the work that takes you one step closer to achieving your goals. Reshape your task list to focus on the real work you should be doing.
First, examine your assumptions. Where are you letting assumptions guide your decision-making process about the work that needs to be completed? Are assumptions that may be false, misleading, or unsupported getting in the way of you completing the work that is aligned with your personal goals?
Next, look at your current to-do list. What do you need to stop doing? Take a hard, critical look at your projects and tasks and ask yourself whether each project is still relevant, directly tied to your goals, and offers a significant return on your time investment. Eliminate the projects and tasks that deserve to be cut--no one is going to miss them, least of all you.
Then ask, “What do I need to start doing? What projects and tasks need to be added to my to-do list that will enable me to achieve my goals?” Put them on the list.
Leave the busy work to someone else, someone who does not want your magic-wand life. Focus on the real work that you are meant to do.
Stop Reacting and Start Responding
You are in the driver’s seat of your life. Stop reacting and start responding –
thoughtfully, purposefully, and consciously.
Start by taking control of your work routines. Decide what work to complete by considering three variables – your time, the resources or tools available, and your energy level. Turn off the rings, pings, and buzzes on all of your devices. Make technology a tool that serves you, not a dictator to which you bow.
Then take control of your inbox. Use the Email Agility Circle to clear out your inbox, convert emails into tasks, forward them to the appropriate colleagues, or simply delete them. And use all of the email technology tools to make your inbox work for you. Leverage every bell, whistle, and tool provided to you to simplify and streamline your email communication.
Next, stop pushing papers. Build a retrieval system that lets you access any piece of information you want in seconds.
Finally, revolutionize your approach to meetings. If attending a particular meeting is not the highest and best use of your time, say No. Remember, every time you say Yes to one thing, you are saying No to something else.
Reacting all day long is exhausting--and it does not help create your magic-wand life. Start responding instead.
Ask for Help
People want to help. It took me a very long time to really believe this and turn down the voice inside me that says “I have to do it all.” But it’s true--people want to be of service, to contribute, and share their talents with others.
So ask for help. Learn to delegate effectively. Determine what you can and should delegate, avoid dumping and running, and set up your colleagues for success. In the end, both you and your organization will accomplish much more if you overcome your resistance to delegating and instead take full advantage of all the skills, talent, and knowledge your fellow team members have to offer.
The busyness epidemic is pervasive and sadly democratic. It affects us all, with symptoms that vary based on who we are and the type of work we do. Time, freedom, and meaning are the costs.
Thankfully, there is an alternative. When you work from your strengths, acknowledging your unique Productivity Style, and align your work and your tools to support you, it is easier to manage your days and weeks. When you recognize time as a non-renewable resource and get clear on your priorities, it is easier to say Yes to the things that really matter and No to the countless distractions vying for your attention. When you can work with uninterrupted focus, it is easier to tap into your latent, dormant creativity. And, slowly, ever so slowly, you notice a shift in the conditions of your life. You are working simply and living fully.