I don’t know about you but my life is pretty crowded. Actually, I’m betting yours is too. Simple ideas that help me get more done are very attractive—especially when those ideas help me feel good about myself and what I’m accomplishing. And one thing that feels good is leaving my desk at the end of the day satisfied that what I did that day mattered in some way.
That kind of productivity comes down to five basic choices according to FranklinCovey’s updated time management workshop and tools, http://www.franklincovey.com/tc/solutions/productivity-solutions/the-5-choices-to-extraordinary-productivity. These five choices are designed to help you focus your attention, choose high value tasks and sustain your energy. They are:
- Act on the Importantrather than reacting to the urgent. Don’t we all need to be reminded of that one! It’s so easy to react to the latest e-mail, phone call or request that many times the day is over and it’s hard to point to a single accomplishment. Developing our capacity to discern the things that over the long haul provide us the biggest return is so critical to our productivity. That kind of discernment requires reflection time because our brains are hard-wired to react to the urgent. We get the urge to act! Yet a moment or two of reflection allows our judgment to take over and decide what really matters. Building in meaningful reflection time, whether it’s once a week or a couple of minutes scattered throughout the day can make a huge difference.
- Go for Extraordinaryrather than settling for ordinary. What do you want to accomplish today? Tomorrow? In your lifetime? This choice asks you to clarify what matters most to you and to keep those things in the forefront of your mind. My favorite tool FranklinCovey uses here is identifying the many roles you play in terms of their impact rather than the role. For example, I’m an executive coach. That’s great, but not really inspiring. But if I think about the impact I want my coaching to make on my clients my role becomes “a catalyst for extraordinary leadership, individual fulfillment and healthy organizations.” Each coaching engagement becomes an opportunity to make that kind of difference. So I make sure I focus a lot of my time on each coaching session so that possibility can be realized.
- Schedule the Big Rocks rather than “sorting gravel.” Do you remember the exercise where Stephen Covey asks people to fit all these big and little rocks in a container and no one can do it? That’s because they fill the container with gravel first and then try to stack all the big rocks on top. It’s a great metaphor for how we fill our days with the urgent little tasks and then don’t have any room for the big, important tasks. However, if you take out the gravel, put the big rocks in first and then fit the gravel around it, voila! there’s room for a lot more. That’s a powerful message when you know the container is you. Picking one or two important things you need to accomplish and doing those things first means your time packs a lot more punch.
- Rule Your Technology rather than letting it rule you. Turn off you e-mail alarm and set aside several times a day to check your e-mail. The idea is to give yourself time to focus and minimize your distractions. Any system that lets you use your technology to help you rather than becoming a slave to it is the choice you have to make here.
- Fuel Your Fire rather than burning out. If you are constantly working long hours with no breaks you are wearing yourself out and diminishing your ability to focus. So yes, that time you spend exercising, having fun and learning is increasing your productivity. That’s totally counter-intuitive for our urgency-oriented brain, but it’s true nonetheless.
So there you have the five simple choices. What will you choose?
Plum Cluverius, PCC is an executive coach with over 30 years experience in leadership development. She lives and works in Richmond, Virginia.