Over the years, I’ve developed a bit of an obsession with productivity or, as I prefer to talk about it, efficiency.
The concepts of getting more done, managing my time more effectively, and being able to focus on accomplishing my most important work, have all been lifelong endeavors as I seek to counter-act the deficiencies of my attention issues. If you’re at all like me, I think you’ll find today’s post to be a useful lens with which to audit where your efficiency is breaking down.
When it comes to productivity, there are three places where things break down. You may struggle with one of these, or all of these.
1. Do you have a Project Management Problem?
Project Management includes the capture of high-level ideas and initiatives, the requisite list of tasks, and the assignment of responsibilities and timelines that together bring an idea into reality.
Project Management is where you need to have systems in place for rapid capture of information, the ability to sufficiently organize information for fast and efficient retrieval, and the ability to sequence the tasks into a plan that minimizes wasted effort or waiting time.
You will know you have a problem with Project or Task Management when you lose WHAT you are supposed to work on, struggle with WHEN something needs to be accomplished by, or can’t figure out WHO is responsible.
Signs that you have a Project Management Problem
- Losing track of what needs to be done
- Frequently missing due dates
- Confusion about who is accountable for tasks
- Difficulty finding tasks in your system
2. Do you have a Time Management Problem?
There are two interrelated concepts under the heading of time management.
Time Management (for the individual) which includes how individuals and groups allocate their available time toward assigned work.
Workload Management (for the organization) which is how those assigning work understand the time limitations of those being assigned work.
These two factors are where Project Management collide with reality. Ineffective time or resource management can render even the most well organized project management useless. Effective time management requires a tight feedback loop between those doing the work and those assigning the work.
What good is it to assign 35 hours of tasks to an individual or group with only 25 hours of availability? At the same time, 40 hours of availability doesn’t guarantee that 10 hours of work will be delivered as improper calendar management can easily cause bottlenecks or wasted time.
On an individual level, time management requires an understanding of energy levels throughout the day, how long work takes, how long task switching may require, and the ability to address tasks in the proper sequence. You know you have a time management problem when you end each day or week feeling as though you WASTED too much time or DIDN’T ACCOMPLISH ENOUGH, or when you miss too many due dates.
On an organizational level, workload management requires understanding the individual or group, and assigning the appropriate amount of work to align with their unique work style. You know you have a resource/workload management people are severely stressed out about their workload resulting in BURNOUT. Another early warning sign to watch out for is when too many due dates are being missed. This can indicate that there is too much being assigned for how much availability an individual or team may actually have.
Signs that you have a Time Management Problem
- Do you feel burned out all the time?
- Do you feel scattered and not know what to do during the day?
- Do you constantly feel worried that you aren’t accomplishing enough?
- Are you missing too many due dates?
Signs that you have a Workload Management Problem
- Are people burned out?
- Are people working late all of the time?
- Are too many due dates being missed?
3. Do you have a Priority Management Problem?
Often forgotten amidst the world of productivity tips and tricks is the discipline known as Priority Management. There are a multitude of methodologies and ideas about how to get MORE either through careful project management or time management. However, there is far less fan fare around the idea of saying “no” and working on what is more IMPORTANT.
Priority Management is a simple concept, but quite difficult in our modern work. With so many things competing for our attention, choosing to say no to the endless distractions and work on the things that serve our highest purpose or loftiest ambition seems almost selfish. Yet, I would argue that Priority Management is the most important of these three productivity management disciplines. Without it, the other two have no meaning, and are little more than the treadmill of busy.
You know you have a Priority Management problem when you are always BUSY but fail to get to the most important work. That’s it. If you are not checking off the most important work from your list, then you have a priority management problem, and for every 10 individuals or organizations that have a productivity problem, 9 of them are likely failing to manage their priorities.
Signs that you have a Priority Management Problem
- Are your most important projects failing to get done?
I recently had a conversation with Michelle Natalya Moore on my podcast Shareable where she convinced me of primarily shifting from the word productivity to the word effectiveness. We are not machines, we’re humans. Our goals for being more productive, ultimately are to be more effective. This requires us to better manage projects and tasks, properly allocate our time, and most importantly tie it together by working on what matters most, our priorities.
You may struggle with one of the three areas I’ve mentioned in this post, or like most people and organizations, a little of all three. It’s nothing to be ashamed about. The purpose of this post is to give you a few questions to ask and things to think about when something doesn’t feel right, so you know where you need to go to work.
Good luck and if you need some help, you know where to find me.
Also published on Medium.