Have you heard about GRIT? New research has shown that GRIT is responsible for kids to get better grades and for Leaders to become stronger. GRIT is also what it takes to get really good at being productive.
To be productive you must learn to focus long term
Anyone can focus for a second or two. Heck we can focus on a task for a few minutes fairly easily, as long as we aren't interrupted. But how do you focus on something for longer than that? Sure shutting the door helps. Reducing outside distractions is important. I love headphones for that. But the interruptions still come. They still hit us. Again, and again and again.
Distractions pummel us
Just like pounding rain on you as you run to your car or someone winging a ball at you in a game of dodgeball, distractions at the office are ruthless. Someone interrupts. The phone rings. You hear a conversation that you wish you hadn't because now, you should probably go intervene.
Before you know it, you are way off track.
Here is what works for me.
1) Decide - Just decide to focus. You simply have to decide that you will focus. I learned a long time ago that if I decide ahead of time, how many reps I will lift, how much I will spend or how far I will go, that is exactly what I do. But I can't be wishy washy about it. At back to school time I said "I'm only going to spend about $100 on a pair of runners" for my daughter. Instead it became closer to $140 because I was not firm.
To get through the distractions, get gritty
If only it were that easy. The truth is, it takes what Angela Duckworth calls GRIT. I have to dig my heels in. I need to be determined. I must be firm with someone who comes to my door to talk to me by saying "not now". I have to be persistent in sticking at it. Sometimes it requires a high level of will power. Actually, most days it does! I in fact, have to be a Women with Grit.
Decide, be determined, get focused, and be productive
Setting your mind to completing a task can go a long way to getting it done. Decide what it is you need to complete, in what time frame, and get going.
Watch below for more about getting focused.
Scheduling our days is often about schedule around things - meeting, appointments and conference calls. You take whatever time is left and put in the "real" things you need to get done in between those other "important" things. I suspect that process is not very effective for you. I know it doesn't work for me.
Try a new way
What if you put your schedule into your day-timer first? Not everyone else's things. For example, if you need an hour to focus on a project or perhaps you have someone's performance appraisal to write. Maybe you are working on a funding submission. What if you scheduled them in first, when you had the most energy and were most focused? I am suggesting at 8:30 or 9:00 am.
When are you most energized and focused?
Studies show us, and I know it personally, that I have the most energy and focus first thing in my day. What doesn't get done before 11:00 am has a strong chance it won't get done that day. What about you? Do you have more energy in the morning and find that by the time you have a window of time to do the other tasks, you are running on empty?
Take time to consider when you are most energetic. Some of us get another boost later in the afternoon. That is another time to utilize more effectively.
Be the catalyst in positive change for more efficiency on your team
If you want to change things, you will need to voice your thoughts. Change starts somewhere - why not with you deciding it's time to be more productive your way.
Watch here for more ideas about using your time more efficiently
Leaders used to have 9 key things on their To Do list and they could devise relatively simple systems to help prioritize their tasks. Now, we have at least 99 things on our To Do list, and many more that we’ve forgotten about.
The squeaky wheel gets the Leader's attention
We tend to react, simply to the item that is screaming the loudest or doing the best “you need to pay attention to me now” dance. Alternately, we turn to the one that will require the least brain power because we are numb from all that is required of us. That would likely be sifting through the same inbox again and again for an hour.
This way is killing you
None of these methods work. You know that! You know because you’ve done them for a while and you still feel like you aren’t getting anywhere. You are not getting to the really meaningful things you want to be working on.
The only way to do the work that matters is to do it.
I’ve learned over the past few years that the only way I am going to do the things that really matter, is if I do them. It’s that simple. They will not magically get done in the wee hours of the morning. There is no Rumpelstilskin in my office. They won't get done in between meetings that someone else thinks I should attend. They get done, when I put them in the top priority spot of my To Do list.
Try a new way to prioritze
The way to place meaningful work at the top is to identify what really matters by asking yourself these 3 questions when you prioritize your daily tasks.
#1 - What will bring our team closer to meeting our purpose or vision?
What is the real reason you are working on things? It isn’t about a report, a meeting or a task. Stop and think about why you do the work you do. It’s about people isn’t it? It is about real live humans that have a need. You know how to help them. The problem is that their needs get pushed back with all the administrative tasks. Get clear on what you need to do to meet the real needs of the people you serve.
#2 - What will grow our team stronger?
Running scattered this way and that will surely make it feel like you don’t have time for your employees. They will feel unimportant and separated from you. Yet, you know that a cohesive team is what gets teams through the tough times. Strong teams excel at excellent work. If you instead consider them and their need, and determine perhaps how their needs can fit with your needs you might find ways to grow together. Just like cooking or working-out with your kids close by when they are young, having your staff member actually help you with a report will not only have them develop their skills, but it will develop your relationship with them. Working together on things, rather than divide you, will grow your team stronger.
#3 - What will grow me?
The best Leaders focus on growth for themselves constantly. They read. They reflect. They take training. They involve themselves in conversations that stretch the way they think and encourage them to see things from different perspectives. But this requires time. You must schedule time to read. You must schedule time to be coached, have coffee with your mentor or attend a networking session. Do it. Make it happen.
Push the meaningful work to the top of the list
Separate the real work, the meaningful work from the task and administrative duties that blur your vision. Move them to the top of your priority list. In doing so, you will find you enjoy your job a whole lot more because you will be doing what matters most.
Watch for more inspiration about how to make the meaningful work hit the top of your list
You want to be a more productive Leader right?
Because when you are productive you know that that you are more focused, clearer and that you feel much better not only about the work you do, but about yourself.
In your attempt to be more productive you might make a To Do list with a few key things on it and then drop the ball on other things. Or you may be the type to make a massive To Do list with everything you need to do.
Long ToDo Lists are overwhelming
The problem is that with so many things on your ToDo list, it is overwhelming to look at. Just like having a messy desk it is hard to see what you need to actually get at now, during this next hour. These lists actually suck energy out of you just by looking at them.
Here are three lists that you should develop instead of the one massive, overwhelming To Do list.
List #1 - Monthly Focus
First, sit down at the beginning of the month (it doesn't matter if it is the middle of the month now, just do it) and make a list of the projects, tasks and things you need to focus on this month.This list will be the one you come back to several times over the coming weeks to guide you in what to do next and where to focus. For me this month, my focus is on my new blog, the marketing of two upcoming trainings and the redesign of my website.
List #2 - Weekly Priorities
Next, start each week looking at what you need to get done in that week. Weekly focuses give you a span of time to fit things into. Knowing if you don’t get it done the first day of the week, you still have four more days to place it a priority. The weekly focus list will come from a review of your monthly focus combined with any alterations you need to make in your priorities. This week I included my weekly blogs, my Leading the Way weekly video, an application for speaking at a conference, as well as switching my workflow tracking from Things to OmniFocus.
List # 3 - Daily Musts
Finally, the third list is your daily priorities. This list is smaller. It actually will be the top 3 things you absolutely need to get done that day. It is the critical things that you don’t want to drop the ball on. When you get these 3 things done each day, you can move on to what else remains on your weekly focus. But these 3 things come first. My list today included getting this blog posted, recording next weeks video and designing the marketing material for my upcoming Growing Great Woman Leaders training.
The key is to following the system ritually
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