There are seven days in the week and someday is not one of them.
Ever feel like your day gets away from you and you’ve accomplished little to anything other than sit in meetings and put out fires? If you have, you are among the majority of people who are having trouble making progress on the things that make a meaningful difference. They are trapped as though they are hamsters in a wheel, running like crazy and getting nowhere.
The good news is you don’t have to work that way. You actually can get some control of your calendar and start hitting important project milestones. You just have to adopt a few behaviors for success.
Quick Personal Story
This is an area of great frustration and learning for me. I can remember when I was assigned to P&G’s Toronto, Ontario Office. I had hit my tolerance threshold for being controlled by my calendar. I was feed-up with back-to-back meetings and work piling up at my desk. Being assigned to Toronto was an opportunity to try something different. So, I literally threw away my calendar. I operated on the principle that I would only work on what I judged to be the most important priority at any given moment.
Believe it or not, it was the most liberating period in my career. It did take time for people to get used to. But, eventually I was only invited to meetings where I truly added value (typically where I needed to make a decision). When people asked me to look at my calendar, they were always taken aback when I told them I didn’t have one. I informed them to get my time they needed to connect with me that day. And, if what they wanted me for was more important than anything else I was working on in that moment, my time was theirs. Otherwise they needed a Plan B. It was definitely unorthodox, but the approach worked. We got more of the important things accomplished and people started taking decisions they should have been taking all along.
When my Toronto assignment ended and I moved to the HQ, my “no calendar” approach quickly fell apart. But, many of the lessons I learned during that wonderful (albeit too brief) period held true.
- Anticipate future needs and have information ready. Don’t wait until the last minute to understand things like precedent or how to mitigate the risks of a plan of action. Think it through sufficiently in advance and organize the information in a way it is easily accessible. Do so before this is a critical path item. If the process has to stop and wait for you, then you are creating unnecessary delays in execution.
- Have a personal sense of immediacy. Once you decide something is important to do, do it don’t procrastinate. If you can accomplish something by making a phone call rather than sending an email or having a meeting, then pick up the phone. Resolve issues quickly and move work along.
- If there is a process required for you to accomplish something, then do it right the first time. Nothing is worse than delaying execution because you didn’t follow the agreed-to process. If you don’t like the process, then get it redesigned after your work gets through it. Process improvement is generally a good thing, but not when people are counting on you to get something done against a set deadline.
- Follow through on your commitments. If you say you will do something by a certain date, then make it a matter of personal pride to get it done on time. It is important to the smooth operation of your business and to your personal brand that you earn the highest level of trustworthiness. You simply can’t get there from here if you make and then break commitments.
- Anticipate questions. Think through what Management will want to know and have answers ready. If you don’t, you will be stuck in a loop of having to get back to Management when you finally have the answer. This puts your project progress at the mercy of their availability. Not a good strategy.
- Get your priorities straight. Work on the most important projects where you add unique value. Delegate everything else. That also means that you need to learn to say no when asked to participate in working meetings for projects you have delegated. Delegate them properly.
- Review progress at the end of every week and plan out your next week. This is a great time to challenge yourself and make certain your work plan remains focused on the highest impact initiatives where you add unique value.
I will be the first to admit that the Lessons are easier said than done. But, whenever you feel like you are not accomplishing as much as you want to, then review the lessons. Chances are you will find one or two behaviors you have allowed to creep into your work habit. Address them and move on.
Do you have any tips on how to get more of the important work done? Besides working longer, how do you ensure important deadlines on commitments you make are not missed? Share your thoughts so we can all benefit.
Please leave a comment with your thoughts.
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