If papers pile up on your desk, the message count in your inbox has four digits, and your entire day seems to have been double-booked before you even start, it can be hard to contemplate improving your personal productivity. However, there are five basic starting moves that almost anyone can make to boost personal productivity and drive business success.
Your goals may be to increase sales, reduce costs, or just feel more in control. No matter what the objective, it's impossible to tell whether you are getting anywhere unless you describe the goal specifically.
Jana Kemp, a consultant and author on time management, meeting leadership, and decision-making in Boise, Idaho, suggests there is more to setting goals than picking a number. "The biggest thing missing from goal-setting is who is going to get done whatever the goal is and by when," she says. "Every goal should include what is going to be done, by whom, and by when."
List and rank the actions you'll take to reach those goals.
It may be tempting to select actions based on how quickly and comfortably they can be achieved and crossed off a to-do list. However, Kemp says prioritizing should be based on effectiveness in accomplishing objectives and not on ease. "If an action doesn't help accomplish stated goals, why is time being spent on it?" she asks.
This productivity booster doesn't require time to complete, but it may consume some energy as you force yourself to attend to the tasks identified by your goals and priorities as being the most important ones to tackle. It requires effort to decline to respond to a phone call or incoming message bell when you know you need to attend to next quarter's budget figures.
The trickiest kind of focusing may be when you have received a request that you know you should decline, Kemp adds. "Remember, it is okay to say, 'No, thanks for thinking of me. I am not in a position to pursue that activity,'" she says.
Clarity is the communications colleague of focus. Whether you are declining an invitation, instructing a subordinate, or reminding yourself what is important, expressing yourself clearly is of paramount importance in order for you to get the results you want.
Kemp says that if, despite your best efforts, things seem to be falling apart—with deadlines missed, work incomplete, and budgets overrun—it could be time to check with a co-worker to see if your communication skills are part of the problem. "Discover what you can be doing to improve the clarity and effectiveness of your communications," she urges.
Balance is a final consideration that runs through each of these basic steps to improving productivity for business success. Do what you can when you can, rather than forcing yourself into an unnatural-seeming activity.
"For instance, there are days when I know that I am not at my best for reaching out to new clients," Kemp says, "so I tackle work that can be done at my desk that day and regroup for client outreach the next day."
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Jana Kemp, Meeting & Management Essentials, Boise ID, JanaKemp.com.
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