I have a contrarian point of view about personal development and professional productivity: Until you change, nothing will change.
There aren’t enough hours in the day to get done what you want to get done if you continue working this way. If you think you’re ever going to “catch up,” you’re fooling yourself. If you think you’ll have more time later, you’re lying to yourself.
The truth is you’re doing the best you can, where you are, with what you have. Look, it’s possible to develop yourself as a leader or manager and to be more productive (and less busy). You just need to do some things a little differently.
To make your best even better, there are three questions you need to answer:
- Where Are You Going?
- What’s Distracting You?
- How Much Energy Is Left?
I’ll talk more about those questions – and give you some ideas on what to do with your answers – later in this post. For now, let’s start by looking at your current reality. This is where it all begins; get honest with yourself about where you are AND THEN you’ll be able to propel yourself – and your team, organization and community – forward.
Do you have important things to get done? Do you want to be more productive and reduce your stress at work? Think differently, and you will get more done.
THE “SO THAT” PROCESS
Recently I spoke to groups of managers in New York City and Philadelphia about the topic: “Optimize Your Time and Focus to Get Momentum.”
My intention was to demonstrate how important it is to think differently and plan out the different “sizes” of projects to start and changes to make. When I coach leaders to achieve success while working in alignment with their purpose, we use a tool called “So that…”
Want to test the power of this mindset?
Easy…open your notebook to a blank page and on top write the name of a project you’re working on over the next year or so. (Make sure it’s a long-term project, ok?) Then, under that project name copy this:
I’m working on __________ so that ______________________.
“I’m working on a book proposal to my publisher so that I can pitch them on a third book.”
Then, keep going AT LEAST 10 more times. Each time you write down why you’re doing THAT.
I’m pitching my publisher on a third book SO THAT I have something new to share with clients.
I want something new to share with clients so that they have another reason to hire me.
I want clients to have another reason to hire me so that I can help leaders build more skills.
I want to help clients build more skills so that …
You get it. Recently, a client sent me a text:
“I am using the ‘So that’ process every day to be more productive at work.”
I immediately called her and asked, “How are you doing this?”
During a 3-minute phone call she said that for the previous month or so she’d started EVERY meeting by asking people to write down at least 10 SO THAT statements at the beginning of each of her meetings. She told me that she thinks the 3-5 minutes it takes to write and share these statements is making the meetings more effective, more efficient, and more productive.
What are the “So thats…” that drive you to do your best work for the individuals, groups and organizations you serve? You know… as author and TED Speaker Simon Sinek asks, “WHY? do you do what you do?”
What’s the purpose of you working as hard as you do, worrying about problems that need to be solved, and raising your opinion – and your voice – about what’s happening around you?
GET STARTED HERE
Sure, you are working on many projects, but right now choose one meaningful project. It could be personal, or something at work to get done. Open your Momentum Journal and write 10 “So thats” for a project you’re working on this year.
Continue thinking of three different “sizes” about the project. Do this to be more productive, reduce your stress and work in alignment with your purpose. Whether you chose a personal or professional project, you can go up and down the scale of thinking.
Large Thinking: The WHO. Describe the community and specific reasons they will benefit when you are finished.
When I wrote my book, Your Best Just Got Better, I had a wall of pictures I had taken from magazine covers and printed from websites. They were all the people I had wanted to send a copy of my book to for their endorsement. Some people I knew, some people I had not met yet, and the common denominator was simple: EVERY person was in a position to ask hundreds or even thousands of other people to read my book.
Medium Thinking: The WHAT. What is a “rough draft” picture of the deliverable? Describe in detail what it will look, sound and feel like when the client or community uses it.
When we launched v3 of www.LeadersGetMomentum.com, I had (on the same wall in my office, of course!) printed out 12 different “Requests” from current members. Throughout the rebuild of the website and revision of the materials, we constantly referred back to that information asking ourselves, “What do our members want from us?”
That became the filter for everything we did.
Small Thinking: The HOW. Open your calendar and choose (this week) a 75-minute block of time to talk about, plan and work on that project. Create the desk/office space you need to have a successful practice session.
Getting Things Done isn’t just about managing time anymore
Back in the early 2000’s, I was a GTD facilitator and coach; I helped people organize their office, empty their inbox and make lists of things they had not done yet.
What do I know after having facilitated more than 500 days of those seminars in 6 years?
Time is not the ONLY factor that limits your ability to get things done. You need to add in three other elements:
An Ability to Focus
The Energy You Have
Where Are You Going?
So what if you’re more productive? Who cares if you get more done today than yesterday, and what difference will it make…really?
It’s relatively easy to come up with a list of tasks to add to your to-do list. Anytime you check your email, there will be SOMETHING to do, and one review of your calendar 30-90 days from now will no doubt make you start thinking of some things to get started on sooner than later. But, what’s the point?
My mentor is a woman named Frances Hesselbein. She recently turned 103 years old, and at dinner together last month she reminded me, “Work is love made visible.” Another mentor of mine, Rao, gave me this advice:
“Find a problem you can fall in love with and want to work on solving for a long, long time.” Want some help in identifying your why? Invite someone to meet you for coffee to talk about your projects and brainstorm how what you do might help people you want to serve.
What’s Distracting You?
Notice, I did not say “Who?” I said “What?”. That is, if you go to that place you CAN focus, you do not want anything left on your mind that will distract you while you are there. Want a tip?
Take this one that you can read about from David Allen’s book, “Getting Things Done:”
“…you will want to collect anything else that may be residing in your psychic ram.”
How do I do it? Before I start any work session (writing, planning, thinking, even facilitating a workshop!), I make a hand-written list of at least 30 things that are on my mind. When I do this, it lets a part of my mind relax so I can go to work. Later on, I will come back to and look at that list to see what I need to do.
How Much Energy is Left?
Ok, so are you a morning person? An evening person? Do you get energy by being around people? Alternatively, do you feel better and get more done when you work alone? There are two ways of looking at this third prompt:
1) How can you boost your energy on the front side of a work session; or
2) How much energy do you have, and what are you good for?
Look, I am a morning person. I know it, my wife knows it, my friends know it, and I have even trained my clients so that they know it! If anyone around me wants the BEST and most I have to give, they know to plan something in the morning. However, this does not mean I cannot work later in the afternoon, or into the evening.
If I am going to work at my non-prime times, then I will have my tricks and tools handy that help me stay engaged when I need it most.
You are not going to find a one-size-fits-all when it comes to being as productive as possible.
Start by identifying your “So thats…” and continue by making sure you are thinking at all the levels you need. Use this “So that…” process to think – and work – productively and purposefully.
No, just identifying your purpose or mission statement won’t be enough to radically improve your productivity, but you do have to start there. Bring this to life by sharing your answers to the “So That…” process with mentors, colleagues and friends. Oh, and if you ever want some help come on by www.LeadersGetMomentum.com We’re here to serve!