Let’s accept; busy-ness is an addiction for most of us and we actually enjoy it. It provides us with a sense of being important and in demand, indirectly satisfying our need of job security. If we are not busy or not fully occupied, we may feel insecure.
The issue gets further complicated by the fact that most of us never received a formal training in personal productivity. What is preached in the name of time management does not work either. In reality, there is no time management; there is only self-management we can do.
Self-management requires a mindset change; it cannot be managed by to-do-lists. It requires a higher level of consciousness. We cannot solve the problems with the same level of thinking at which they were created.
Here is my 10 step formula to get you out of the busy-ness syndrome; starting from strategic mindset change to day to day tactical remedies:
1. Find the purpose of life:
It’s not about work-life balance; it’s about work-life integration. The new reality for business leaders is 24/7 working hours. Adjust your pace and rhythm. Life is not a sprint race; it’s a marathon. Stop living in compartments; you have only one life and it’s short. Get out of the corporate prison and take your life back. We spend our life helping our employers accomplishing their business mission and vision and forget about the purpose of our own life. Work is an integral part of life. Find a purpose that integrates your work, family and personal life. Then set your priorities in a broader life perspective and narrow down into short term objectives and goals.
2. Focus on your career and profession:
Job is temporary; your career and profession is permanent. Experts are predicting 8-10 job or role changes in near future as a norm over the career lifecycle of a professional. Are your prepared enough for your next role or burnt out in the current job? Become a long term member with an independent professional body outside work. Know what is happening in your profession and keep learning and developing. You need to spend at least 10% of your time on learning new things today to stay where you are. If you want to make progress and grow you need to spend at minimum 20%.
3. Make close friends at work:
We spend our life at work. The best part of our day and energy is consumed by work. To enjoy our life we need to be at the best place to work. But the ‘best place to work’ is not about cafeterias and gym facilities. The ‘best place to work’ is where your buddies are. Imagine how relaxed, happy and energetic you are when you are among your friends. Don’t hesitate to develop close friendships at work. Some of my best friends were found at work.
4. Delegate, delegate, delegate:
This one is really a kicker and a game changer. It’s not about dumping the work on your deputies. It’s about re-defining the roles and responsibilities with a different mindset. Take a look at your org chart and significantly enhance the roles & responsibilities of the bottom half. Don’t under-estimate the potential of these people; if you trust them and give them a chance, they will do wonders. Start loading up the positions from the bottom and work upward. This will create enough room at upper half of the org chart to carry out more strategic work. If you cannot do this for the entire organization, start with your own function or department.
5. Get out of the reactive mode:
Don’t reply to emails immediately unless you really have to. It’s ok to respond within 24 hours. You will be amazed how many issues get resolved already before you even get involved. Listen more than speak particularly in front of your staff. Being a boss does not mean that you are the smartest person in the room. Let others take the lead.
6. Get the slow movers out of way:
Have you noticed slow drivers on a fast highway obstructing the way for other drivers? Corporations are like highways; and there are always some slow drivers (employees) who slow down everyone else. Get them out of way. Send them to a slower highway where they can drive at their own pace. You will do them a favor.
7. Stop checking your phones every 2 seconds:
I know it’s even harder than quit smoking. This one is the biggest productivity killer and top distractor. Shut down your emails and messengers and discipline yourself to check your messages only 3 times a day. Sky will not fall in between and you would be amazed by the quality of focus you enjoy doing other things.
8. Start standing meetings for 30 minutes only:
This is what we started recently at our company with wonderful results. People started to show up in time, needed less time greeting and socializing, and focused more on finishing the business within the given time. It’s amazing how quickly our mind re-calibrates if we set a new target. Try it in your company.
9. Apply 50:10 Rule:
I learned this productivity technique from one of my mentors and it did wonders for me. For any task, assignment, or project that you need to finish yourself, set a timer on your phone for 50 minutes and then cut off yourself from rest of the world. No phones, emails, visitors or any other distraction. Free yourself from everything else and immerse into your task. When the timer beeps up, stop right there whether your task is completed or not. For the next 10 minutes do something casual; take a cup of coffee, go for a natural break or chat briefly with a colleague. You may repeat the drill to complete the same assignment or start a new one. You would be surprised how much you can get done in 50 minutes with a clean focus.
10. Plan special times for big projects:
This idea my not fly well with many of you but it has delivered miraculous results for me over my career. For projects and assignments of critical importance, plan and schedule special dedicated time and occasion. The best achievement of my career in the form of reports, analysis, project plans, business models, training programs etc. were done while I was on vacation at a beach or from the comfort of my bedroom during my weekend. Find out where you are most relaxed and creative. If you have correctly configured your work-life integration, you should have no problem setting up your priorities whether it’s part of work or personal life.
Questions? Thoughts? Please post your comments below and I will try to reply.
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— Saleem Sufi