5 Steps to Maximize Your Productivity

Do you know that you get 80% of your results from just 20% of your time and effort and consequently 80% of your time is virtually wasted on non-productive activities? Once you realize this, it’s easy to take advantage and either reduce the hours you work or significantly improve your productivity.

The 80-20 rule was first discovered by Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto a hundred years ago.  The rule means that in any area of our lives, literally 80 percent of our fruits are derived from only 20 percent of doing “what matters”. In other words, there is only a very small portion of all that we do each day, regardless of the situation, that brings us the “higher return”. Using this knowledge is incredibly powerful in combating the “not enough hours in the day” mentality of today’s society.

How can you benefit from being aware of this principle? Implementing a strategy based on the 80-20 rule can result in greater wealth and greater leisure time. Just imagine how productive you will be if 80% of your time could be spent on productive activities. The bottom line is that the things that matters most should never be at the mercy of activities that matter least.

Start maximizing your productivity with these 5 steps:

  1. Keep a work log for at least a week. Write down all of your activities and the time spent doing them.  Yes, this may be time consuming initially but it is essential that you get a true picture of your working week.
  2. Analyze your activities.  Separate your activities into high priority – those that produce a return or where only you have the skills to do the work – and low priority – activities others can do where the activity can be delegated to support staff. You will almost certainly find that you are spending most of your time on low-priority activities rather than activities directly providing a return. In almost all businesses, these non-productive activities tend to absorb time at a far greater rate than they should.
  3. Delegate non-productive activities.  Once you can identify the low priority activities, delegate as many as possible to support staff (providing training where required). If necessary, employ an additional member of staff to take responsibilities – the cost will be more than offset by your improved productivity. There may be a number of low priority activities you are tempted to keep. Unless it is absolutely unavoidable don’t be tempted and don’t get involved in non productive activities or your productivity will fall.
  4. Calculate the time required for any remaining low priority activities. Once you have delegated all that you can, your next step is to calculate how much time you should be spending on the remaining low priority activities to make maximum use of your productive time. Don’t work disproportionately hard on these low priority activities and set aside specific time each day or week to complete them.
  5. Prioritize your remaining activities. Once you’ve cleared out the activities that don’t bring you any return, it’s time to turn your attention to the activities in your life that are bringing the most reward. Prioritize your activities and concentrate most of your time just on a few high-priority activities.

The objective throughout is to maximize your results from the areas of high return and to delegate those activities that have a low return. Spending a disproportionate amount of time on non-productive activities is a major source of stress for many businessmen. Delegating these activities will therefore have the added benefit of reducing the stress you are under; it’s all about doing less work for greater return.

For more success in life, whether that’s more money, more time with your family or just making time for golf, you should start implementing the 80-20 rule immediately. It will help your career as well as your personal life and, as a bonus, following the 80-20 rule day in and day out can make you very wealthy over the long term.

Are you currently making the most of your time? What do you find to be the “time draining” activities in your daily activities?  Do you think the 80-20 rule can help you?

Determining a Business Purpose

The more I speak with people working hard in organizations, the less I see a “9 to 5″ mentality. As work evolves in the 21st century, separating our professional and personal lives proves to be an artificial divide. Your personal purpose influences your work purpose, and vice versa.

A company’s purpose  starts with its leaders and their vision, then infiltrates through the organization and people. It shows up in products, services, and employee and customer experiences.

An inspirational purpose often lies hidden within an organization. The following suggestions will help you identify and articulate key elements:

  1. Revisit your organization’s heritage (past history).
  2. Review successes. At what does the business excel?
  3. Start asking “why?”
  4. What won’t your organization do? Review false starts and failures.
  5. Interview employees.
  6. Interview top leaders.
  7. Interview high performers.
  8. Talk to customers.
  9. Follow your intuition and/or heart.

Where your talents and the needs of the world cross, there lies your calling. ~ Aristotle

A purpose is informed by the world’s needs. When you build an organization with a tangible purpose in mind — one that fills a real need in the marketplace — performance will follow.

Ask the following questions:

  • Why does your organization do what it does?
  • Why is this important to the people you serve?
  • Why does your organization’s existence matter?
  • What is its functional benefit to customers and constituents?
  • What is the emotional benefit to them?
  • What is the ultimate value to your customer?
  • What are you deeply passionate about?
  • At what can you excel?
  • What drives your economic engine?

Mission statements used to have a purpose. The purpose was to force management to make hard decisions about what the company stood for. A hard decision means giving up one thing to get another.  ~ Seth Godin, marketing expert

The Art of Making and Keeping Agreements

“Like litter on the side of the highway, most unhappy relationships are strewn with broken agreements in all shapes and forms,” said Charlotte Kasl, Ph.D., author of A Home for the Heart. From canceling dates at the last minute to “forgetting” to do something we said we would do, broken agreements cause an erosion of trust, the basic foundation of any relationship. 

Giving our word and standing by it and being steadfast and reliable in our affairs are measures by which we judge commitment and integrity. For this reason, agreements—both spoken and implied—should be given thoughtful and careful attention. 

Consider Chris. Again and again he promised to come home early enough to share dinner with his family. And night after night, either he called to say he couldn’t make dinner after all, or he simply didn’t show until long after the dinner was ruined and the family was hungry and disappointed. 

Or Tina. She and her husband had an agreement that she wouldn’t make any additional charges on their over-burdened credit cards. But every month, the bills arrived, fat with new charges and higher-than-ever balances. 

In confidence, Diane told Judy about a problem. What an awkward surprise when Gayle, a mutual friend, asked Diane how she was coping with her difficulty.

In each of these instances, an agreement was broken and a trust betrayed. Everyone involved was tarnished by the experience—those to whom agreements were made, and those who made, and broke, the agreement.  

Making and keeping agreements requires that we are honest and that we intend to carry through. Thoughtful and careful agreements require that we listen to our inner voices and pay attention to our bodies for clues to our feelings about the promises we make. 

Whenever we make an agreement we need to ask ourselves: 

  • Is this a pledge I really want to make?
  • Is it realistic for me at this time?
  • What will it take or what will I have to do to keep the agreement? 

Some agreements are implied and ongoing. For example, the unspoken pacts of friendship might include maintaining or initiating contact, keeping confidences and talking about problems. In some cases, it may help to discuss expectations and needs. 

Sometimes, no matter how careful we are, we make an agreement we regret. Our schedules are dangerously overbooked or something that sounded good at first doesn’t feel right now. (Again, it’s important to pay attention to our inner voices and our bodies.) It’s better to call and make changes as soon as possible, rather than wait until the last minute or, worse, simply not show up. It’s important to tell the truth, too. Fake excuses and white lies don’t hold up under the straight beam of integrity’s light. 

The art of thoughtful and careful agreement-making is a learned skill. Broken promises and unfulfilled commitments may be as ubiquitous as the shards of ceramic that surround an apprentice potter. Still, we turn back to the wheel of our intentions, and begin again. Making and keeping agreements is a way of maintaining balance and showing our love and respect for others as well as for ourselves.

Author’s content used under license, © 2008 Claire Communications

Characteristics of Trusted Leaders

“We can build our leadership upon fear, obligation, or trust. However, only a foundation of trust results in the collaboration and goodwill necessary to achieve our peak performance.” ~ Roger Allen, Organizational Design Expert

 These words could hardly be more succinct in expressing the central role that trust plays in building and leading high-performance organizations. 

With the integrity of our business leaders under such a microscope these days, it’s valuable to take a moment for a refresher on trust in leadership. For integrity, though critical to trust, isn’t the only element of a trust-based management style. According to Seattle-based management expert Stephen Robbins, trust is based on four other distinct elements in your relationship with the people you lead:

  1. Competence. At first this may seem strange—after all, can’t incompetent people be trusted? Of course, but not if you want to lead. Leaders are held to a different standard, and part of what your team trusts is that you know what you’re doing. It comes with the territory.
  2. Consistency. This is one of the most pragmatic elements of trust. If your team knows what you stand for, then they will believe that you will react in a predictable way to certain situations. Over time your consistently expressed values become the shared values of the team. Some charismatic leaders may purposely act unpredictably to “shake things up,” and they may well be wildly successful. But they won’t necessarily be trusted.
  3. Loyalty. To a certain extent, your team can only trust you to the degree you are committed to their success and well-being. Max De Pree, the legendary CEO of Herman Miller and champion of the “servant leader” concept, puts it this way: “The leader’s first job is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the leader must become a servant and a debtor.” This servant/debtor relationship to your team is one that strongly conveys your loyalty to them.
  4. Openness. Trust is ultimately the characteristic of a relationship, and it is through its relationship with you that your team expresses its trust. Openness is a cornerstone of the ability to build these relationships. If your team can’t get to know you, then they probably can’t get to trust you, either. With openness comes the requirement for a certain vulnerability: In this arena, you will generally have to “go first” by reaching out and creating such relationships.

By investing in building and strengthening these qualities in your leadership, you will be steadily reinforcing your trust relationship with your team. Those relationships, in turn, become the foundation for building a high-performance team, particularly in times of change and stress, when people tend to rely upon their personal relationships. If your team trusts you in good times, they are even more likely to stand with you when the times turn challenging.

Author’s content used under license, © 2008 Claire Communications