The Productive Leader Blog
Improving Leadership Effectiveness One Task at a Time
productivity, leadership, time management, strategic planning, volunteer and leader development, nonprofit, small business, organizations and associations
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The Productive Leader Blog

We’ve all gotten pretty good at squeezing in an email, quick call, or text in a moments time, however when we have project work or multi-step tasks it a bit more complicated. Both productivity and performance improve when we are in flow.

Daniel Goleman, the Father of Emotional Intelligence, describes FLOW as a state in which people become utterly absorbed in what they are doing and their awareness is merged with their actions. He says “you know when you are in flow; work becomes easy, you lose track of time, you feel happy, and joyful, and productive.

It makes sense that we would want to create the flow state for when we finally get to doing our really important work. For the brain to engage, work has to be challenging enough to stimulate the brain. The challenge itself is energizing and motivating.

However, there is more we can do to propel ourselves into flow:

  1. Clearly define the goal and create an outline or plan. Being specific minimizes your getting off task.
  2. Create your optimum environment by eliminating distractions. This can mean no noise, white noise, music with words, or music without words. Wear headphones so people know not to interrupt you, close your office door (if you’re so lucky to have one), or find a secluded place to work.
  3. Clear the decks. While some people can jump in and “eat the frog”, others need to get the little nudgy annoying tasks off their plate so they can concentrate and be completely engaged.
  4. Block off enough time. Some people can work in micro blocks – 15-30 minutes, and the next day pick up right where they left off. Others need 2 or 3 or 4 hour chunks so they don’t have to waste time ramping up to get to where they were the day before.
  5. Build in accountability and feedback. Outside support often helps to stay on task.

 

When I dig into a task this is what works for me:

  1. I write out my goal and put it in front of me. Then I outline the steps to reach the goal, often on post-its, organizing the process. And, it helps me stay motivated when I can throw away a completed post-it.
  2. My optimum environment includes finding a quiet spot where no one can talk to me. I turn off my phone, ALL social media, and often the internet. I prefer to have either white noise or music without words playing in the background
  3. I clear the decks almost 100%. My desk surface only has the current project – nothing else.  My critical email are completed, my phone calls are made, and I try to have completed as many  little annoying tasks as possible.  This enables me to solely focus on the important work.
  4. I block out time in big chunks, preferably 4 hours. I waste too much time remembering where I was and getting back to that point if I work in lesser amounts.  If I am working on a presentation or something with lots of moving parts, I may block out the entire day.
  5. My accountability to myself is enough for me, so engaging others isn’t helpful, but many clients and colleagues do benefit from knowing they will be reporting in on their progress.

 

The one most important thing to know about flow is that it happens when we are working on things we love doing. What do you love doing?  How can you create your environment to get to do the work you love more?

Much is being written about productivity these days, though it doesn’t seem to be really helping too many people.  Perhaps it’s because of the “one size fits all” approach I discussed in last weeks blog. My perspective, and why I’m choosing to include LEADERSHIP in my blog theme, is because your productivity is influenced by the productivity of others in your sphere. We don’t operate in a vacuum. The effectiveness of the people we work with impacts our personal effectiveness.

I know, you may not think of yourself as a leader, but I do.  I define a leader as someone who influences outcome through collaboration and communication.

And, I just love this quote from Jed Bartlett of West Wing fame: A leader without followers is just someone out taking a walk…

Do you influence outcomes?  Do you lead people?

  • As a entrepreneur you lead your vendors; be it your web designer, bookkeeper, virtual assistant, graphic designer, professional organizer, or coach.
  • As a member of a team you lead the people on the team. While you may not always have formal authority over them, quite often informal leaders have great impact on outcome.
  • As a subordinate you lead your boss. If you have ever influenced the outcome of a discussion with your boss, than you are a leader.
  • As a volunteer you lead to achieve the mission of the organization for which you volunteer. No matter what your position, your work influences and impacts the team and the outcome.
  • As a family member you lead your family. Think about deciding where to go to dinner. In my family this takes the ultimate of leadership skill!

For you to be effective, not waste time, and get work done, you depend on those around you. You can either isolate or collaborate. When you collaborate, your productivity is impacted by the cultural health of the team.

And if you’re the leader, your success is absolutely dependent on the productivity of the team.

Productivity isn’t just personal, is it?

Have you ever wondered why that book on time management didn’t help?

What about that article espousing the top 5 things you must do each morning to have a productive day?

And how about that author who focuses on the one great thing you must do to be successful?

Have you thought “what’s wrong with me – that will never work?”

I have good news for you.  Productivity is not one size fits all.  These “experts” are talking about what works for them. They are sharing the secret to their success. They are not sharing the secrets to your success.  They are not considering your unique needs; your brain wiring based on your life experiences, your learning style, your body-clock, or your temperament.

How can they even imagine what will work for you?

The one thing I can tell you with absolute certainty, after spending the last 18 years helping clients get more organized and be more productive, is that what works for one person won’t necessarily work for another.  There are many right approaches.

The secret is in actually figuring out what the best “right approach” is for you.  I work with my clients to help them determine their best solutions.

We look for clues:

  • What has worked for you in the past?
  • What doesn’t work for you?
  • When have you felt most in control?

And then we create a strategy based on those clues. And we don’t stop there. We test the strategy.  I tell my clients to think of themselves as a science experiment.  We test and we tweak until we end up with a “best solution” that really fits.

Meet my client Margie (not her real name!) Margie has ADD and understands the value of exercise in keeping her brain functioning optimally.  She came to me wanting to create a structure so that she could get up each morning at 5 am and exercise before her work day began.  She had read that this was the one best thing she could do to manage her ADD; her doctor agreed.

However, Margie didn’t fit the norm. She worked from home, she liked to work at night, and often got her most important work done in the wee hours of the morning.  Margie hated mornings and hated exercise more.

I had this suspicion that exercising at 5 am wasn’t Margie’s best solution.

  • We discussed when she’d been successful exercising in the past (when her daughter was young and she’d drop her at preschool and exercised right after.)
  • We learned that having a time-driven deadline prior to exercising was helpful.
  • And we talked about how badly she felt about herself when she pressed the snooze button at 4:45 am and didn’t get out of bed, though she couldn’t really go back to sleep.

Alas, Margie wanted to try.  So, we did. However, I asked her to try 5 different times to exercise and to track her success.  This is what we learned:

Exercise Success   Time of Day  to Exercise # of workouts in one-week period  
Week 1  5 am  zero
Week 2  9 am 1
Week 3  Noon 1
Week 4  4 pm 3
Week 5  7 pm zero

Turns out 4 pm was Margie’s optimal workout time. She wanted to have dinner with her family at 6:30 pm.  Working out at 4 gave her time afterwards to shower and get dinner on the table. That time-driven deadline of a 6:30 pm dinner helped motivate Margie to get started exercising at 4 pm. She found the late-afternoon break refreshing and that she actually enjoyed her workout. And the extra couple of hours sleep in the morning was really helpful all around. When the system fit it was easy to implement and easy to stick with.

One-size did not fit Margie?  Does one-size fit you? Is there something you should rethink that might fit you better?  Try the following 5-step process to create your best solution:

  1. Look to the past for clues
  2. Create an experiment with different variables
  3. Test the variables
  4. Assess the results
  5. Pick your “best solution”

 

I’d love to hear what you learned.

Welcome to the Productive Leader Blog 2.03 things productive leaders do

I’ve taken my own advice.  I set aside blogging and writing on personal productivity, and productively engaged in my volunteer leadership responsibilities. But I’m back.

Last week at the NAPO2019 National Conference, I was honored with the 2019 Founders’ Award – our industry’s top recognition for advancing our profession.  What a thrill. Gratifying and fulfilling, the Award acknowledged my 7-year service  on the NAPO Board(National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals) Board, including 2 years as their President.

And now it time to get back to the business of my business, and I’m excited to share my thoughts and ideas, with a clear focus, on supporting productive leaders.

Here’s what I know about being a productive leader – it is someone who:

  • Creates an engaging, positive, and psychologically safe environment so those they interact with can do their best work, …
  • and implements and supports practical systems so those they interact with can work most effectively, …
  • and exemplifies excellence by having and executing reasonable personal productivity habits.

Providing you with short, useful, and meaningful takeaways on leadership, team productivity, and personal productivity are my goals for the Productive Leader Blog.

So, stay tuned or unsubscribe as you see fit. As always, I welcome your questions, comments and thoughts.

Here’s to a thoughtful, fulfilling, and inspiring future.

Strong leadership is critical for good productivity and good productivity is critical for strong leadership.  As most of you know, for the past two years I’ve served as volunteer President of the most fabulous 3500+ member, non-profit, education based national association ever (NAPO.net.) To say that I dedicated much of my free time to NAPO would be an understatement – but it was all incredibly gratifying and worthwhile. I grew and learned in ways that one could never imagine.

Most specifically I became very clear on how critical good leadership is to productivity and how critical good productivity is to leadership; this is the direction in which I plan to take my business next.  My term is ending soon and I had planned to resume blogging shortly thereafter.  But as luck would have it I was contacted by the Leadership Editor at CNBC and he published the article below yesterday. This is the perfect way to launch my next chapter with you.

http://www.cnbc.com/2017/05/05/try-these-3-productivity-hacks-to-have-a-more-successful-monday.html

and a nice quick video: http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=3000616286

Looking forward to sharing my weekly tips with you regularly, and stay tuned for my updated website coming soon.

Ellen

timers

Time management is such a funny phrase.  We all banter it about like we understand it, but really what does it mean?  My definition of Time Management is getting done what you have to do so there is time to do what you want to do. There is such a wealth of information and tools to help manage your time – but as with everything I espouse IF IT’S NOT EASY, IT’S TOO HARD.

What works?  Here are some simple strategies you can implement starting now: (more…)