Written by Dave Jarrold
Beware anyone who tells you they have *the* solution for productivity. I’m aware that might be an odd opening for an opinion piece, but there are many ways to achieve and maintain personal productivity. The actions that work for you might not work for me. And what’s more the actions that work for you today might not work next week.
Much advice and training on productivity, especially personal productivity, skips over a critical phase. They tend to focus on the ‘what to do to get things done’ aspect, and fail to address the overarching principles.
What we’re talking about is weather vs climate. What you do today to get things done in the context of the prevailing demands and pressures, that’s your response to the current weather. And when those daily conditions change, so will the effective actions. Hard and fast ‘rules’ won’t work, and flexibility is critical.
What I want to address here are the climate factors for productivity. These factors are connected, but they are not linear, and we need all of these elements if we want to create a climate that supports and enables our productivity, and influences these daily weather patterns.
There are 5 critical elements to creating a positive productivity climate.
Whatever workflow or work planning system you use – it must have a robust capture element to it. It has to capture everything you need to do, could do, or random thoughts about what you might do one day. If it doesn’t catch all of this, then you won’t use it and you won’t trust it. Forget about prioritisation for now, just focus on catching it all. Does your system capture everything that you could possibly want to do? When you wake up at 4am with that killer idea, where does that go?
Most organisations set sensible, considered, strategic annual targets. Few organisations effectively connect these targets to daily actions. How well do you do that? The key is to have a mid-term element. This could be monthly, quarterly, or even 100 days. But everyone in your organisation should have a mechanism that bridges the gap between annual aspiration and daily actions. Does your system do that? Ok, now answer that again and dig deep. Would people in your organisation say the system supports them to do that? Can they tell you how what they are doing right now links to their annual goals?
How much work is habit, and how much is conscious choice? This happens at both a personal and an organisational level. Why are we doing it like this? Oh it’s ‘aye been’ done that way. Maybe that’s ok, maybe it’s not. But the pace of the world we operate in is ever increasing, and our resources are not keeping pace. Are the priorities you are working to the right priorities? How are these assessed and set? How are they reviewed and adjusted? This should feed into your mid-range process connecting goals to actions.
Almost at the point of rubber meeting road. How are you planning? Is this an occasional activity or a daily habit? Planning and reviewing should be a part of every single day. It should be an automatic element that ensures we stay focussed on what matters and makes a difference. So, what’s your planning culture? Is it an activity that people need a run up at, or is it a regular habit for everyone in the team?
Get It Done
Getting back to the daily weather, how do you get things done? Do you know what works for you (and do others know what works for them?) How do you flex and achieve the things that matter in the face of changing weather? To be effective here we need more than a to-do list. We need to know ourselves and others. What are the tools you have that make things work?
These are the big picture questions. If you can answer these effectively, then you can progress onto effective productivity systems. But, if these elements are not in place, supporting the creation of an effective productivity climate, then you might find yourself in snow wearing flip flops or on the beach in wellies. Progress is possible, but it’s not going to be easy, comfortable or effective.
Dave Jarrold runs Lasting Impact ltd. and specialises in personal productivity and team effectiveness. He makes organisations stronger by making people and teams stronger.