2020 is quickly approaching and with it comes the opportunity to ‘course correct.’ Rethink what habits are keeping you busy but not really productive, and build a new system that focuses on quality work.
According to research, about 60% of us hope for a better future and accordingly set resolutions that will guide us into the new year. All in all that’s not a bad statistic, but the problem is only 8% of people actually follow through. So, what holds us back? How can we maximize our performance for different outcomes? How can you maximize the ROI on your efforts?
Here are some ideas to help jump start you and your team for transformational growth in the coming year:
1. Follow the formula for productivity
It’s difficult to simply will yourself to be more productive. Instead, it’s helpful to adhere to proven guidelines that will ensure better results, especially as you go about the scheduling and managing of your daily routine. Dr. Mark Atkinson of the Human Potential Institute has identified a formula for productivity.
Productivity = Clarity + Energy + Focus + System – Distractions.
He says that pairing clarity, energy and focus with an organized system will transform your creativity, effort and knowledge into the outcomes you desire. Essential to his system is an organized workspace, a schedule for every workday, and a focused ability to stay on task.
In order to schedule your workday for maximum productivity, Dr. Mark encourages individuals to identify their most important tasks (“MITs”) and to plan to do those tasks during your “prime time” when you are most alert and focused. For me, it’s my morning zone, between 6 – 10 am. I also like to start the week with a plan and revisit it daily to see if the most important tasks have changed.
A simple hack: We don’t have to reinvent the wheel, because the formula for productivity is clear. With this as a guideline, design your day-to-day and on January 1st take the first step to showing up as a more productive version of yourself.
2. Minimize distractions and maximize deep work
On average, Americans send 26 billion text messages every day and view their smartphones 52 times per day. Amidst digital disruption, our teams are navigating more distractions than ever before, and often try to juggle them all without setting boundaries or prioritizing work. 95% of business professionals say they multitask during meetings, with one in three admitting they lose track of or have trouble retaining the info that is being discussed. We are losing time, efforts, and ROI over these distractions.
One impactful book I read recently and highly recommend is Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport. Newport defines deep work as “professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skills, and are hard to replicate.” In contrast, most of us fill our day with “shallow work,” or those tasks that are less-cognitively-demanding, don’t create value and are easy to replicate. These are the tasks often performed while distracted, and they tend to take up the majority of our energy and workday.
In order to move the major rocks and initiatives ahead for your firm, you have to be laser-focused on the deep work. While it is increasingly rare, it is becoming more and more valuable, with Newport referring to deep work as “a superpower in our increasingly competitive twenty-first century economy.” If you can identify what is deep work for you it will set you on the right track towards hitting key goals at a differentiating pace.
A simple hack: In addition to your ‘to-do list’ around focused work, make a ‘what-not-to-do list’ that will eliminate distractions. For example, I will never check emails or my social media platforms when I’m doing my Most Important Task work, and I will never pick up my phone during meetings to see what emails have arrived. And then say yes when you mean yes, and no when you mean no.
3. Prioritize your health to increase your energy
Our minds and bodies are intricately connected, so it is crucial to take care of the whole-you. Of course, some fundamental elements to our physical health are staying hydrated, eating healthy and getting enough sleep. But there are several things that can supercharge you as well, such as protein bars or Brain Octane Oil—some items from Bulletproof that I personally use. If your company provides snacks and they are full of junk food, be the voice that recommends brain food options and overall healthier snacks for your team. And for those that decide the larger ticket items for your office, consider investing in standing desks or even walking treadmills. It’s important that leadership models these things and encourages their team to participate. You may even want to think about developing a more holistic health and wellness program at your firm to help lead employees to maximize healthy habits and keep a competitive edge for productivity.
A simple hack: Time is a finite resource, but you control the energy of your day. Your high-performance zones should follow intermittent and intentional breaks to keep the whole system at an optimal level. Stay hydrated and avoid foods that decrease energy and you will maximize the best version of you.
Doing what matters
This has been my mantra for many years. I certainly didn’t come up with it, but it’s been a driver for me personally and professionally. Especially in today’s world, with so many distractions, we have to identify and focus on what’s most important in every phase of our life. Because when you do, your world becomes more productive, it will reduce overall stress, keep your team on task and keep you firmly planted on the path to reaching your goals. And you can actually accomplish something — doing what matters most.