As we move into the summer months it’s going to be more important to manage priorities to make time for all those summer activities that we love. I would call that work life balance. While we’re working we need to make the most of our time. So this week’s topic is managing priorities. Many things come into play in managing priorities: tasks, time, deadlines, budget or resources and of course deciding what’s important.
Prioritizing starts with time management and most articles include these steps:
• Define your to do list. What is your system of tracking tasks? Most professionals currently have a system.
• Define priorities on that list. Generally you know, but if you’re not clear on the expectations or priorities then don’t guess, get key stakeholders involved.
• Do the work. Which of Stephen Covey’s quadrant are you in most of your day? See below
• Minimize distractions – Focus appears to be the greatest factor increasing productivity. Contact me for the articles about these.
Covey’s Time Management Matrix (from 7 Habits of Highly Successful People) This was a beautiful matrix but now it’s text.
As you know Covey’s matrix has four quadrants designated as to how Urgent or Not Urgent and Important or Not Important
Quadrant 1 — Urgent and Important
- Pressing problem
- Deadline-driven projects
- Some meetings
- Some preparation
Advice –> Do it now!
Quadrant 2 — Not Urgent but Important
- Some preparation
- Relationship building
- True recreation
- Teaching or training
Advice –> Decide when to do it – but DO it!
Quadrant 3 – Urgent but Not Important
- Some phone calls
- Some email, some reports
- Some meetings
- Many proximate pressing matters
- Many popular activities
Advice — Delegate it
Quadrant 4 — Not Urgent and Not Important
- Busy work
- Some phone calls
- Time wasters
- “escape activities”
- Irrelevant email
- Other people’s business
Advice – Dump it
We manage ourselves not time. Am I suggesting you have no fun at all – Oh..that’s not what I said. But I do suggest you judiciously use the recreation time to make your outside of the office time expand!
And of course you’re welcome to come talk to me about managing priorities.
Motivation is even more important today than a week ago. Actually, not really more important, but just as important as it was a week ago. It’s Sunday night, the Packer’s are beating the Bears so all is right with the world. Now I am starting to think about my week ahead. I promised that I would put new motivational ideas here weekly. Since I couldn’t get it posted on Friday I thought I would add this before the next week started.
Start a book club – a business book club. Put it on the calendar and put it into the work day. They may (like there’s even a chance) not get time to read during the day. But talking about the content of the book during the day makes sense as it’s a strong component of leadership development. The employees build their library, you build your people, you gain a cohesively formed team, and they build internal relationships and grow their resources especially if the club is cross departmental. Select the list of top business books including a selection of team building, communication skills, presentation skills, change management, innovation or biographies. When they come to consensus on the books they are using team skills and self forming groups with emergent leadership. It’ll bring out useful skills in other situations.
Start with one of my great take-aways from grad school which is a book on how to read a book in 30 minutes. I thought this was an optional book. But it was THE single best book I bought, EVER! The book is by Mortimer Adler and it’s called How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading. This book will save you and your people hours of time wading through the pulp of a great book. They will read more if they can get through the books faster. So will you.
If your team is dispersed bring them in via teleconference. The program would be especially effective with a sales team who is separated by distance around the country.
Establish some ground rules or let them form their own group and rules. Here are sample ground rules:
1. Get a core group of people to start it.
2. Establish a regular schedule.
3. Advertise the program.
4. Create a simple list of questions to create a dialogue on the book; over all reaction, biggest take away, any surprises, any inconsistencies, anything we can implement, how?
5. Ask for stand in facilitators to each volunteer to manage a meeting.
6. Start with a list of books to schedule.
7. Give it twelve months with a few months off during vacation season or the tough season for your business.
Trust that you employees will be responsible and fulfill their commitment to the group. They will have to contribute or be noticeably a slacker. Regardless of how much they read they will get the gist of the book and the benefits of reading the book by attending the meeting or reading part of the book.
I would love to hear how this idea works in your office.
What to do if you don’t know what to do.
So I have spent more time procrastinating on this blog than ever before. Oh…I guess I am not counting the time before I even started the blog and posted my first one. It’s amazing what a person can do to distract oneself from the task at hand. Is distract the right word? Or would protect be a better word? I don’t know since blogging is the way I will connect with people who need to change their organization or want to change their career. If I don’t blog my business won’t grow. That seems like that should be incentive enough to move the hands to keyboard right? Well eventually it was or you wouldn’t be reading anything new on my blog. But what was the problem? In looking back I don’t know the exact spot where the problem rises and thwarts my efforts to succeed. What I do know is that procrastination is insidious and comes in many logical rational forms which give appearance to working. It looks like I am actually doing my job but am I doing the most important thing I need to do at the time.
Part of my problem was that I wasn’t really clear on what to write about. I coach on conflict but I see so many people stuck in the hard part of change. What’s more important? Either way it’s a conflict either with yourself, someone in your organization or the change itself. So I sit at a blank page and what? I don’t usually work that way. I do nothing (or so it appears to those watching) and then when I write it takes no time at all. But until I get the idea I am flustered and actually quite hard on myself. So instead of giving you ideas of growing your emotional behavioral self I am going to give you ideas of what to do when you need to germinate an idea, or motivate yourself to write that cover letter or pick up the phone to call someone new in your network.
Ten ways to bring new life into your change process:
1. Take a break from your electronic screen(s). A full cup cannot accept more. With additional room (quiet) you’ll find new ideas. Look away from the screen. Besides you don’t let your kids watch as much TV or play as many video games as they want to and you know why, because it doesn’t evoke creativity.
2. Coach someone on the same topic. Doing something nice for someone else feels good but it makes you aware of what you can do. It’s actually third order of learning which solidifies new information in your own brain and behavioral pattern.
3. Finish something that’s hanging out there. It’s started. It was a great idea when you started it. It’s just hanging out there calling to you. FINISH IT! You get the reward of it being done but positive psychologists connect accomplishment to happiness which I equate to creativity.
4. Give back to the community. Volunteering, positive psychologists show incremental sustainable happiness through helping others. Get involved with an organization that brings out your passion; you’re productive, it feels good and who knows who you might meet.
5. Bring a plant home. Digging your hands in the dirt has great rewards. First it’s good for the planet, second the feeling of your hands in the dirt brings you back to solid ground (no pun intended) and third the physicality of moving dirt around for live entity is empowering. Better yet start a kitchen garden and grow some delicious food that nourishes you body and mind which would be the fourth benefit.
6. Find something, anything to be grateful about. It might even be that your cup of coffee is the exact right temperature. People who are mindful of all the good in their lives are shown to have more genuine happiness.
7. Take a walk even if the weather isn’t optimal. Put your sneakers on and go outside. Say hello to everyone you see. I live in LA and it’s fun to get the surprised response from people. Connecting with people even at that level brings humanity back to your day.
8. Call someone who’s always delighted to hear from you. They may be an Aunt or an old friend whom you know would LOVE to hear from you. Those ten minutes can make their day and yours. If you can ask for their help on your stuck situation you might get a great idea. Who knows? They might have a lead or an idea for you. They have friends who have friends or kids in high places you’d like to be.
9. Plan a future date for something fun. How will you celebrate your new job when you get it? Is it a ski trip next season? A trip to botanical garden? Long lingering lunch with a dear friend before you go back to work?
10. Prepare to be busy. You know this time when you aren’t crazy busy will be gone before you know it and those projects that take time could be moved along now. Get new systems in place so when your time is much more structured things will go more smoothly.
In other words when you’re stuck or at a standstill with the job search or the project at hand do something counter intuitive. It’s amazing what happens when you take a break and replenish the juices. Stephen Covey in his book Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, talks about sharpening the saw using the analogy of cutting lumber (task) with a dull saw takes more time to cut the same amount of wood, than taking the time to sharpen the saw and then proceed with the same task. In that respect you could coach someone else on how to do the same thing you’re trying to do and see how productive you become. Now go play and find some new ideas!