In the past I have written about the need to make the time required for your change. In particular, I focused on “Stop,” the importance of identifying what you are going to discontinue doing in order to have the time, energy, etc. needed to “start” your change. Today I am presenting a few techniques for increasing your productivity through time management.
I am currently enrolled in Ryan Eliason’s Visionary Business School; this blog is drawn from our time management training, and includes both techniques that were refreshers for me, and ones that were new. Hopefully there are tips here that will help you improve your productivity, and free up time to invest in the changes you are making in your life.
The First Big Questions
Each of us has our own “tricks” for keeping track of what we need to do. Sticky notes; white boarding; to-do lists; Kanban; index cards; file folders; stacks of paper…the options are endless. As we finish each task, we throw out the sticky; erase the white board item; check or cross off the list; move the task along the flow; file the paper; etc. What most of us fail to do, unless we are using an actual project management system, is to ask one simple yet critical question.
What is my next action step?
What we record through each of these approaches is a set of tasks; but it is an incomplete set. And, in most cases, they are not linked to one another. So, we complete a task and it is done. We move on. We look at the set of tasks that we have laid out, and select another one from the list; it may or may not have anything to do with the task we just completed or the project and outcome we were working on. If it does not, it is all too easy to loose sight of that project and that outcome until a red flag pops up.
These days, each time I check something off, I ask myself, What is my next action step on this change? What will move me one more step closer to the outcome I am seeking to achieve? And each morning as I set about my planning for the day I ask myself, Which of my next action steps are the most important ones to be working on today? If I am only able to complete one priority today, what is that one?
Importance and Urgency
Importance is not the same as urgency, yet we tend to give urgency the greater priority. if the email is urgent, if the phone is ringing (it may be an urgent call), if the family member or friend is interrupting, we respond.
Ryan reminded me of this when he provided this graphic based on the teachings of Ryan Covey.
While his focus is business (“biz”), you can easily apply the model to your life, and the critical changes that you are undertaking. Not only do the urgent (including the urgent and not important) claim our time and attention; we tend to fill in the empty space with the “not important and not urgent.” They don’t require a lot of time (unless we want to give more time to them); they don’t require a lot of energy; and they are a great way to relieve the stress of the day. They also don’t move our change forward.
Working on your change means setting aside time for what is important and not urgent. And it means giving priority to those things over the things that are unimportant, whether or not they are urgent.
Two More Big Questions
Two more big questions that tie to the urgency/importance focus. (Thanks again to Ryan Eliason.)
Am I being productive, or am I just being busy?
Am I inventing things to do in order to avoid what is truly important?
The invitation is to set aside time–3-5 minutes–three times a day to ask yourself, and honestly answer, these questions. So simple. So challenging. So revealing. These two questions alone should help guide you to improved time management, and increased productivity as you tackle your change.
What tools and techniques do you use to ensure you have the time and energy to focus on your critical changes? Comment below.