My dad used to say. “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” I hated hearing that saying. However, it made great sense. Its wisdom was in the fact that I may have intended good things, but my behavior worked against those intentions.
In your work, or in your life, I’m sure that you normally want to achieve, do well, meet expectations, and succeed. But so often our day-to-day unconscious behavior sabotages our great intentions and before you know it, you’ve run the clock on the day out of time and not getting done what needs to be done.
After reflecting on some of my own old behaviors and observing people working for many years, there are 7 Deadly Sins of Productivity that block people from achieving what they need to do. Which of these sins that kill productivity do you commit on a regular basis? (There is no special ranking of these unproductive habits – the severity depends on the individual)
1. When you start the day without a written list of outcomes to be achieved for that day and that you understand how they affect your ultimate goals. “I prefer to be flexible and spontaneous,” you might say. Yet when the plane takes off from NY to LA, if the GPS is not working you’ll probably end up somewhere. That somewhere might be a place you do want to be. The same is true for your work.
2. When you have goals that are poorly defined, vague, non-measureable, or just not written. If you cannot define it and measure it, you cannot manage it. The “goal post” keeps moving. This is especially important when working with others including your boss. What gets measured, gets focused. What gets focused on, gets done. Focus on relevant meaningful well defined goals and measures.
3. When your first, or nearly first activity is checking email. This behavior can get you moving in all kinds of distracting directions that doesn’t create real results. Be honest with yourself on this one. If you’re guilty, try not doing it for a few days and notice what happens to your productivity.
4. Doing reading tasks (email, reports, research, etc.) using a traditional mindless, passive linear approach. Unless you’ve had effective training 95% or more of your reading tasks are done inefficiently, not to mention ineffectively. You can regain hours a day when you know how to utilize your brain’s power to do these tasks.
5. By not implementing a well-defined system for organizing your tasks, documents, planning, communications, and monitoring of outcomes you are responsible for. This also includes not using disciplined tactics for dealing with interruptions, drop-ins, phone calls, and meetings. Inordinately, those who consciously use a system will outperform those who do not. This is a tough sin to get redeemed. It requires “consciousness” to implement.
6. Strictly adhering to the clichéd “Open-Door Policy” and you mistakenly believe you need to always be available to others, including the boss, in order to be “part of the team.” Yes, we all need love, to be needed, to be “in the know, to be a “part of something,” but we also need to get things done. There’s a huge body of research that demonstrates the counter-productivity of not closing the door to complete tasks that require high levels of concentration, creativity, and analysis.
7. Working harder, not SMARTer. This sin can include many of the previous undisciplined habits that kill productivity. It also includes other subsets of behaviors such as chaining yourself to the desk without taking breaks, forgoing exercise, not working with your natural energy cycles, incessantly working late, not sleeping enough, and most importantly reacting and responding to whatever crisis is currently happening causing an imbalance between work and personal life.
If you are honest with yourself about these sins, you will come to understand the difference between “being crazy busy” and being productive and performing well.
After doing the examination of conscience from the above deadly sins, confess them to yourself. After all the first step to change is admitting the need to change. Then get help.
Productive Learning Systems, Inc. has been helping thousands of individuals and organizations work more productively and effectively for over 20 years. Be sure to check out the Productivity Series of Virtual Classes at www.productivelearn.com and www.speedreadingtips.com. Or call for a free initial consultation – 800-852-7903.