There is a certain conversation I often have with people attending the Effective Personal Management workshop, and sometimes even those seeking to take their productivity to a seriously higher level through our Effective Personal Productivity programme,
I say, and almost everyone agrees, that we do our best work and achieve loads more – typically three to four times more – when we are in the ‘non-urgent / important’ quadrant of the famous time-management matrix, compared to when we’re reacting to people and things shouting loudly at us that draw us into the urgent side of the matrix.
But then the objections and qualifying circumstances are raised. This kind of thing:
“That’s great Nick,but our industry is really reactive….”
“I understand what you’re saying, but in my role I have to be super-responsive to the customers.”
Whether it’s external – customers, typically – or internal – the boss, department heads, finance etc – we all have those things going on in our work that make what seem like super-urgent demands upon us that we just can’t ignore.
You know what, sometimes that’s exactly right. We should respond because it’s really, really important and definitely requires immediate attention. But how many times can we say that is genuinely the case? One in ten? One in fifty?
The vast majority of what comes my way in the usual week can be predicted, generally speaking at least if not the exact detail, planned for and provision made to schedule the appropriate time to deal with. The same is probably true for you too.
I’ll end with a quick example that illustrates what I’m saying.
One particular manager I was working with on our Productivity programme was having a lot of trouble getting things done on time because of the incessant demands of a few of the company’s best customers. “We can’t afford not to respond to these….the customers pay the wages”. However, the constant interruptions by phone and email were having a seriously negative impact on the business as a whole.
The solution: In seeking to apply the ideas in the programme, the manager in question approached the biggest culprits and said something like this:
“You’re great clients of ours and we really appreciate your business. In fact, I’m so keen to make sure that we’re giving you the attention and levels of service you deserve, I wonder if we could try something that I think will help. Rather than me responding haphazardly to your needs and requests, i’d like to be certain that I give the work we do for you 100% focus. Would you mind if we set up a regular conference call, twice a week for half an hour to begin with, where we go over everything to do with our current projects and anything you need to share with me… and vice-versa?”
Far from being annoyed, the client loved it! No-one had ever shown them so much consideration. The manager in question freed up about half a day per week as a result of being less reactive. It was definitely a Win:Win scenario. A similar approach to the above can often work interally when, for example, it’s your boss who’s your biggest source of urgent interruptions.
I could tell dozens more stories like this, but the simple truth is that I, and perhaps you too (!), are still being WAY TOO REACTIVE.
I’m on a mission to help busy leaders and managers find an extra day a week for the important work (and pleasure) activities that they don’t currently have time for. If you’d like a gentle kick up the backside to get you going with this, drop me a line – I’ll be glad to have twenty minutes on the phone or Skype to assist with kickstarting your own major productivity boost…perhaps to the tune of a whole extra day per week!