We’re all ridiculously busy these days. Nearly every leader I talk to feels overloaded and overwhelmed. As crazy as it may seem to add something else to your to-do list, there’s no better time to invest some energy in thinking about how you work and finding ways to be more productive and effective, because the payoff will start immediately.
Improving productivity has a lot to do with dealing more effectively with barriers, distractions and anything that interferes with your momentum. Here are some of the principles I use to help my clients get the right things done effectively. It can be helpful to think of them in terms of differences you can learn to recognize:
The difference between being busy and being productive. A lot of people think they’re the same. But busy-ness is easy to fall into and productivity is hard work that requires clarity, focus and strategic thinking as part of a larger plan.
The difference between something that’s important and something that’s urgent. Lots of things seem important in the moment, but in reality they’re urgent—which lends them an air of false importance. It was President Dwight D. Eisenhower—a master of time management—who pointed out that the most urgent decisions are rarely the most important ones. When you’re stressing over an issue or engaged in making long-term strategic plans, keep this distinction in mind.
The difference between procrastination and focus. Procrastination is easy, while true motivation requires focus, hard work, and following through. As much as possible, avoid setting down something unfinished to work on something new.
The difference between working hard and working smart. Hard work involves both physical and mental effort, while smart work is all mental and logical. Working hard keeps you on the path toward meeting a goal, but working smart usually knows some good shortcuts.
The difference between a bad and good habit. The first step in truly understanding this distinction is to identify your habit loops. Then you’re ready to evaluate them and, where you need to, make a change. Old habits, as they say, die hard. They may have already reprogrammed your brain. But you can create new habits to replace the old ones that keep you from being effective or productive.
The difference between when to say yes and when to say no. Knowing when and how to say no frees you to say yes only to proposals that meet your personal criteria and projects you’re genuinely excited about. The more you say no, the better you’ll be able to focus on your most important work.
The difference between overwhelming and manageable projects. It’s as simple as breaking things down into smaller tasks. When you do, you’re forced to think through each step up front. Remember, small things done consistently create major impact.
Once you really understand and absorb these principles, you’ll be prepared to handle any situation. And, as if that weren’t enough, you’ll be more relaxed and confident. You’ll get more done with less effort, more effectiveness and no down side.
Lead from within: Productivity doesn’t happen on its own, it’s a task you must do every day to get the right work done effectively.
N A T I O N A L B E S T S E L L E R
The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness
After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.
Additional Reading you might enjoy:
- 10 Productivity Hacks That Will Motivate You to Get More Done
- 12 Successful Leadership Principles That Never Grow Old
- A Leadership Manifesto: A Guide To Greatness
- How to Succeed as A New Leader
- 12 of The Most Common Lies Leaders Tell Themselves
- 4 Proven Reasons Why Intuitive Leaders Make Great Leaders
- The One Quality Every Leader Needs To Succeed
- The Deception Trap of Leadership
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR, Inc.com, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.