“I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.” ― Stephen Covey
In Stephen Covey’s classic productivity books (First Things First and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People), Covey expressed the virtues of focusing on the most important work before the lesser important work and to prioritise based on importance instead of just urgency. While that might be the intent and preference for many workers, it’s not necessarily what they do. Is there a disconnect between how you work and what you want to be known for?
We usually don’t realise it but how we work communicates a persona to those we work with. Unfortunately, not all personas pitch us in a good light. Thinking back to Stephen Covey’s 4 Quadrants in the time management matrix, how would we be perceived if we spent most of our time in a particular quadrant? It might look something like this:
- Last Minute Larry – these are the people who at school would cram for exams the night before. While they might get the job done, be wary of the cost (quality, impact on others or self).
- Focused Fred – excels at planning and driving outcomes. While timeframes aren’t immediate, deadlines are met to ensure consistent achievement while minimising the amount of work that falls into Quadrant 1.
- Urgent Ernie – loves the adrenalin rush from getting stuff done. The problem is it’s the stuff that doesn’t really move the needle in making a difference.
- Wasteful Wally – simply lacks focus to make an impact on the important goals. It doesn’t mean they’re not busy, they’re just not very effective and it’s where time wasters gravitate towards.
The average worker only spends 15% of their time in Quadrant 2 (Focused Fred). Alternatively, high performing proactive leaders devote 65% - 80% of their time in this quadrant. It’s here where most workers want to reside but either don’t know how to or have the discipline to be able to stay there.
It’s important to understand how your time is being consumed. Is it in sync with where you want it to be or the persona you want to be known for? If it’s not, then a way out is to maximise your personal productivity by becoming an expert at planning, prioritising, scheduling and executing. If you don’t know how to embed the techniques yourself then consider in investing in a coach or a mentor.
There’s a big difference between being efficient and effective. The challenge is you need to be both. Are you satisfied with how you work?