Many of the concepts developed here come from my upcoming book on productivity – Being busy is just an excuse.
In the last post I covered how there are three major tasks that you need to examine when seeking to improve your productivity. Firstly, you need an idea of where you currently stand. I covered this in the last part when I recommended that the best solution was to track exactly how your are spending your time. Next, you need an idea of how you are going to get to your destination and finally you need to know your final destination. In this second article I’ll look at determining where you want your productivity to take you, that is, your destination.
If you were financially independent and didn’t need to work what would you do? What would fill all the time you currently spend working? When I ask that question of people many can’t answer it because they have been so busy working they haven’t even considered what they are working for. They have fallen into the trap of simply working for works sake. Likewise, when you ask people what excites them you typically get answers that are far removed from what they are doing or have done recently. This divide between desire and reality promotes frustration and stress. If you want your situation to be different from the way it is now, you are the only one that is going to make it happen.
Let’s say that you want to aim to work only 40 hours a week and leave the office by 5pm every day. That’s your goal, now you need to start working backwards to achieve that. You need to be ruthless in many ways and cull the items in your agenda which don’t allow you to achieve your goal. Likewise, you need to examine the other things you do and determine whether they can be done more efficiently. Given that you already have a detailed report of where you spend your time each week (from part 1 of this series) you should be able to determine whether you can achieve your goal. Remember it is all a matter of priorities, If you want to finish by 5pm then you need to be disciplined and stick to this goal.
Many people say that they can’t leave at 5pm because everyone else is still there in the office slaving away. My response to that is simple. What do you get typically paid for? How you do your work – or the end result? Most good bosses don’t really care how you get your job done as long as you get it done. If you can do it more efficiently than others why shouldn’t you reap the benefits? It is a sad state of affairs when we measure an employee’s worth by how late they stay in the office. Who knows how much time those other employees in your office have wasted during ‘normal business hours’. If they have been fiddling on Facebook while you have been productive why should you feel guilty leaving at 5pm? Don’t let them dictate how you spend your time. They are just jealous that you are getting things done.
Now, just because you have created extra time in your schedule by removing bad an inefficient practices doesn’t mean that good and efficient ones are going to take their place. As I said earlier, if you didn’t have to work what would you do? What would you fill your time doing? I’m sure that most people can fill those initial hours with stuff that excites them but what about after that? Don’t you want to have more free time for the rest of your life? You need to look at how you are going to spend the free time you generate now and forever, not just for the next few weeks.
As I said in my earlier post, there is no doubt that you won’t be able to do everything you want to at the office if you plan to work 40 hours a week and leave by 5pm. However, you should certainly be able to do everything that you "should" be doing with some time left for some things that you would "like" to do. This will typically come at the expense of things that you "should not" be doing, but why the hell are you doing stuff that you "shouldn’t" be doing I ask you? Here’s the key, it is all around priorities, for remember, once you allocate your time you can’t recover what’s been spent.
So now with your current situation and your destination in hand all you need now is a plan to get from one to the other. That’s what I’ll cover in my final part which will give you some techniques to help you improve your productivity and give you more time so you can meet your goals and be able to do more of the things that excite you.
As always if you have any feedback, comments or questions on what I have talked about here please add them as comments on this post so everyone can benefit. You can also contact Robert direct via firstname.lastname@example.org. You’ll find information about myself and my business at www.ciaops.com.