Are you resisting the opportunity to work smarter?

“What got you here won’t get you there” — Marshall Goldsmith

How we work is engrained. We default to what seems natural each day but especially so during busy periods or when pressure is at its highest. It sounds good in theory but it's not for the workers who have ineffective work methods. Are you resisting the opportunity to work smarter?

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How to stop wasting time at work

“You either waste, spend or invest time. Make your choice wisely” - Sunday Adelaja

How much time do you waste at work? Come on be honest, whether it’s on purpose or by accident, you’ll be wasting some time each week. If you’re not, then you’re in the minority because according to a Forbes study, 89% of people waste time at work. What can be done to limit the amount of time wasted?

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Meeting actions – do you negotiate or blindly accept?

“You can do anything, but not everything” – David Allen

I didn’t realise what a can of worms I was opening when I decided to write some blogs on meetings!!! (See Elon Musk’s 3 rules on meetings, Do this after every meeting and How to make status meetings more effective). Feedback has ranged from being thanked for providing pragmatic tips through to detailed questions on how to run better meetings. There’s one theme though that’s stirred the emotions more than anything else and that’s: “How do I to stop overcommitting during meetings when my manager is allocating tasks I don’t think I can achieve in the expected timeframe, but before you know it I've said yes.”

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How to make status meetings more effective

“Actions speak louder than meetings” - Lee Clow

Ineffective meetings that don’t drive decisions are a waste of time. This is especially true with status meetings. Sure, the team needs awareness of the issues and progress of key initiatives but having key resources just talk about what they’ve been up to is inefficient when it doesn’t lead discussion on the most important points. Is there another way to hold meetings more effectively?

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Do this after every meeting

"If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself" - Henry Ford

How often have you attended a meeting and the energy is sucked out of the room when it’s discovered that agreed actions from the previous meeting weren’t done? It happens a lot, doesn’t it? Whoever missed the deadline apologies, explains how busy they were and then commits they’ll get it done by the next meeting. This has a big bearing on the success, tone and culture of meetings.

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When you don't have enough time to do it all

“Unnatural work produces too much stress” – Bhagavad Gita

A familiar theme for middle and senior managers is a feeling of not having enough hours in the day to get everything done. The sentiment is exasperated even more when their manager above or direct reports aren’t helping much or supportive. The result is stress, poor sleep and a lack of enjoyment in the job. What do you do when you don’t have enough time to do it all?

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Elon Musk’s 3 rules on meetings

“The least productive people are usually the ones who are most in favor of holding meetings” - Thomas Sowell

The #1 complaint busy workers tell me a major impediment is to getting their work done is due to the amount of time consumed attending meetings. That shouldn’t surprise as it’s widely reported how white-collar workers typically attend an average of 61.8 meetings per month with at least 50% of meeting time is wasted. How do the best deal with so many meetings?

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Don’t overlook how these block clarity and focus

“Clarity affords focus” - Thomas Leonard

Workers find it hard to be successful in their role when they don’t have clarity and focus. While there are many reasons that can cause workers to lose clarity, there are common work method issues that aren’t necessarily hard to resolve once you understand the negative impact they have.

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Level of seniority has nothing to do with productivity

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change” - Charles Darwin

It’s incorrectly assumed that senior managers are more productive than the people who work for them. While a manager might be the absolute best candidate for their specific job, title bears no correlation to a level of personal productivity. In fact, many senior managers are so busy that they’ve fallen into unproductive habits. When this happens it’s critically important to improve personal productivity to unlock the individual to drive targeted business outcomes.

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The simple secret high achievers do differently

“Guard your time fiercely. Be generous with it but be intentional about it.” – David Duchemin

High achievers drive outcomes and exceed targets on a consistent basis. They’re able to do this because central to their real expertise is they action what’s important. If only all workers worked this way. Unfortunately, the majority don’t, however, there’s a simple secret to success that high achievers do that can be a learned skill by anybody.

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Cheating at work, it’s just not cricket…

“Cheating is a choice, not a mistake” - Unknown

The Australian cricket teams ball tampering affair put cheating at the forefront of country’s consciousness. Fallout has seen long-term suspensions, resignations and emotional apologies from each of the chief instigators involved. On one hand, we’re shocked the cheating occurred (they couldn’t be that stupid, could they?), but should we be as cheating happens every day in all forms of life. What responsibility should leaders bare when cheating occurs in the workplace?

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The procrastination lie we tell ourselves

“Procrastination makes easy things hard, hard things harder” - Mason Cooley

Habits and ego can either be strengths that propel us to get our work done or weaknesses that self-sabotage our productivity. Procrastination is an example where most workers fool themselves into believing they don’t do it. The reality is they procrastinate either directly or indirectly.

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All talk no action?

“Don’t talk it, walk it” – Lars Ulrich

For just over 40 years I played basketball at many levels that ranged from a social game through to playing in a semi-professional league. Regardless of the level I played, the teammate who frustrated me the most was the player who talked a good game, but their level of play couldn’t back it up. In some cases, they were blissfully unaware of it, whereas other occurrences saw the player always having an excuse for why they were unable to do what they said they would. Players like this were the teammates I knew I could trust the least when it really counted with the game on the line.

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Do you invest or waste time?

“Invest time, don’t spend it” – Jeffrey Gitomer

In the early 2000’s “Invest Don’t Spend” was 1 of 10 guiding principles my employer (System Software Associates) embedded within the culture of the organisation. “Invest Don’t Spend” essentially meant that return on investment (ROI) applied to everything. It was framed as “would you spend the money if it was your business?” The same logic can be applied to what gets our attention. How much time do you invest towards driving targeted outcomes versus wasting throughout each day and week?

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The profound effect of saying “No”

“Just saying yes because you can't bear the short-term pain of saying no is not going to help you do the work” – Seth Godin

I’ve always been involved in team sports so sharing success and having a sense of teamwork were engrained into me as what you do from a young age. The same principles applied at work since supporting colleagues was gratifying, sometimes necessary and a way for the team to grow. This mindset served me well until it got to a level where I started constantly putting the priorities of others ahead of mine. In a strange way I became more effective in my job when I learnt that saying “No” isn’t always a bad thing. 

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Do this to increase focus and output

“I don’t care how much power, brilliance or energy you have, if you don’t harness it and focus it on a specific target and hold it there, you’re never going to accomplish as much as your ability warrants” - Zig Ziglar

We’re more effective when we’re able to work in a rhythm. However, performing at our optimum level within an office environment can be challenging due to fragmented and disjointed workflows that can happen when trying to work amongst a level of interruptions, distractions and meetings. To succeed, it’s imperative to establish and maintain our preferred rhythm that’s complimentary to achieving targeted outcomes within expected timeframes.

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Stop pretending you're good at multitasking

“You can do two things at once, but you can't focus effectively on two things at once” – Gary Keller

Let’s face it, we suck at multitasking. Yet, we have so much to do we trick ourselves into believing we’re more productive if we multitask. We think we’re able to perform multiple tasks at the same time but in fact we’re not as our brain is just switching tasks. All we end up doing is achieving less, making more mistakes and feeling exhausted.

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Is it scalable and sustainable?

“A successful product may not be scalable, a successful process always is” - Faisal Khosa

As part of my job I get to see how people go about their work. Not surprisingly, the extremes range from very good through to very bad. While a number of factors come into play in determining whether an approach is good or bad, a good place to start is to ask: “Is it scalable and sustainable?”

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How to achieve the important outcomes

“Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan.” - Tom Landry
 

In my line of work, I get to meet and support many workers who either have the right intent but struggle to make progress, who would like to do better or who are feeling overwhelmed. While 65% of executives say the overwhelmed employee is an urgent problem (Source: Deloitte Human Capital Trends report), a far greater percentage aren’t maximising their potential. How can you achieve more of the important outcomes?

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