Why You Should Define First, Then Conquer

In today’s economic times, we’re all doing more with less.  Companies and organizations have cut costs, downsized and restructured many times over and they expect you to deliver results with ever-increasing efficiency.

What would happen if you stopped for a moment each week to define your true priorities and focused your time and energy on the tasks needed to complete them?  Would you get more done?  Would you feel better about what you accomplish each day?

I taught a series of Project Management Workshops, recently.  As I researched and prepared materials, I began to consider how Project Management methodologies enhance productivity.

Project Managers spend significant time DEFINING a project before implementing.  We work with project sponsors, work teams, customers and other stakeholders to clearly define requirements (the nuts & bolts of what’s really important).  Then we clarify goals and outline project deliverables.  Doing so, helps Project Managers know how to leverage and where to allocate often-limited resources.

This concept extends beyond Project Managers.  No matter your industry or job title, you too can benefit from well-defined goals.  Unfortunately, though . . . because of tight timelines and rushed schedules, we move ahead (fighting fires along the way) and end up exhausted with little to show for our effort.

We mistakenly believe we are productive because we’re busy.

Being productive and being busy are not the same.  A few years back, I coached a Virtual Assistant who shared with pride, how she’d invested a considerable amount of time searching for a coupon to “save her client money” on office supplies before placing an order.  Despite good intentions, she failed to account for the time she spent looking for the coupon.  Her client paid by the hour!  She would have saved him more money by simply executing the task quickly.

Doing MORE of the wrong thing – or doing the wrong thing FASTER – does not make you productive.  Focusing on the right activities makes you productive.

By spending just 30-minutes each week defining your focus and outlining key activities or tasks before executing, you will get more accomplished.  More importantly, you will have focused on those “high impact” tasks that move you closer to your goals.

Use this 3-step formula to bring sanity back into your work week:

  1. Schedule regular time with yourself.  Many business professionals plan a half hour every Monday morning – before the doors open, the cubicles fill up or the phone rings – to review their upcoming week.  However, Sunday evening may be best if you travel frequently or have personal time commitments, like dropping the kids at daycare or preparing meals for a loved one.
  2. Identify this week’s top priority.  Then outline the activities or tasks needed to achieve that priority and plan everything else around it.  High impact tasks are those that directly affect your goals.  Of these, determine which you absolutely MUST execute yourself.  Delegate others to a trusted resource and check-in at intervals throughout the week to ensure they are on task.
  3. Review your week’s schedule and workload for conflicts.  Plan more complex activities or meetings requiring high engagement when your mental acuity is at its peak.  Generally, that’s morning for most, late afternoon or somewhere in between for others. Less involved tasks like returning phone calls, etc. can be left for times when you have less mental and physical energy.

Our lives have many moving parts.  Want better results?  Start your work week by defining your focus and outlining high impact tasks.  It’s one way to set yourself up for increased productivity.  When they have been clearly defined and prioritized in advance, you find it easier to execute tasks.

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