Extraordinary Productivity

Want to work harder and get more done? Then STOP READING!

But if you’re like me and think you work as hard as you can, yet still want to make a bigger difference, let’s hang for a moment.  I’m trying something new and you can join me.

First, let me say I’ve spent the past decade becoming “more efficient.”  I get LOTS of stuff done and I’m pretty darn quick.  In my last blog (link here please!) I talked about making quick decisions.  That in itself has made me more productive.   But… Team CYBIS expanded its vision and it’s time for me to expand my mind.  We aim to be a world-class leader in creative communications.  That means we seriously want to make a BIG DIFFERENCE.  We want to contribute more and inspire more.  But as CEO, I’m BUSY!  How can we achieve more if we’re already tapped out, exhausted, and simply out of hours in the day? 

The answer requires us to first recognize what most “knowledge workers” do during their day.  We spend 70% of our work time with urgencies and irrelevancies, and only 30% of our time on important priorities.  We’re spinning our wheels.  And typically by the time we finish that 70%, we’re probably not even that focused and effective with the important stuff leftover.  I often convince myself that “after I finish all of this” I will be able to focus on “this big important thing.”   But the truth is that I will never be done with the influx, which means unless I change my approach, I’ll never be able to contribute to the things that matter most.

Per the Time Matrix, we how we spend our time falls into one of 4 quadrants.

5 Choices Quadrant lorez

Notice the important activities in Q1 and Q2.  And the urgent activities in Q1 and Q3.  Q4 is neither important nor urgent and therefore a waste of time (social media updates, drowning yourself in TV and mindless Internet searches).

Study the chart for a moment and you’ll see that Q2 is the golden ticket to extraordinary productivity.  And please notice it’s not about more work. It’s about the right work – the strategic, proactive, planning, and high-impact items.  In fact, it’s not even all about work at all, as it includes a healthy balance of learning, renewing, and relationship building.  I think it’s honestly beyond the word “productivity” – Q2 is a great sense of fulfillment and happiness!  : )

Unfortunately, most of us spend a quarter of our time with crises and last minute urgencies (Q1).  These are important items that we must tend to right away.  However, the case can be made that with better planning, proactivity, and strategy, (ahem, Q2), we can greatly reduce the number of “emergencies.”  Therefore, the more time you put into Q2, the less time you’ll even need to be in Q1.  Physiologically, Q1 activities give us a dopamine hit and the rush and excitement gives us a temporary high; even a feeling of superhero status.  That’s why it’s addictive and must be consciously minimized.

Then, we spend a quarter of our time with interruptions and distractions that seem really important.  By the time we finish our day, we’re exhausted because we think we’ve done so much.  And the tricky part is that we actually have an adrenaline rush from the stress, thereby deluding ourselves into believing we were “productive.”   Unfortunately, reacting to the urgent is like a mouse in a spinning wheel.  There is no end to these things.  And the faster we do them, the more there seem to be!  These endless activities are confused with accomplishment but they’re not helping anybody make a big difference.  Q3 people are urgency addicts.

“Quadrant 2 things are important but not urgent.  This is the ‘Quadrant of Extraordinary Productivity’ because here you take charge of your own life and create your own great future.  Q2 people do the thoughtful, creative, proactive work that changes the world.  They act on the important; they don’t react to the urgent.  They plan, they prepare, they prevent crises.  They learn, they create, they build relationships.  They continually renew their energy levels so they don’t burn out.  They do the things everyone knows are most important but few seem to get to.”

So join me in a life focused on the important (but not urgent things) and tell me if you feel a greater sense of peace, control, and fulfillment.  I think this is one technique to help us really make a bigger impact on the people and world around us, and ultimately live extraordinary lives.

Source: Mostly hijacked from The 5 Choices of Extraordinary Productivity (www.the5choices.com).  I highly recommend the book for busy professionals. 

Post by Jeff Douglass, Founder & CEO


Guide to Making Quick Decisions

Penguin TimerDo you need to find a way to accomplish more each day?  Do you want every decision you make to be the best decision possible?  Do you stress over all the options you face every day?

Team Cybis recently completed the StrengthFinders 2.0 assessment (Gallup) and I found out that one of my strengths is, apparently, “Decision Making.”  The theory behind the StrengthsFinder insight is that when people leverage on their strengths (instead of dwelling on their weaknesses) they can be happier, more productive, and more successful.  So, now I’m making it a personal mission to be a better decision maker.  For me that means making quick decisions.  I bet you can do it, too.

Research has shown that “quick decisions” may be just as accurate or preferred as those we mull over.  If you’re like me, consider how often you thumb through a menu out of fear of ordering the wrong meal.  …The wrong meal!  Assuming you’ve been out to eat before, how hard should it really be to decide if you want pasta, a burger, or a salad?

This used to be me, but a friend recently reminded me that it won’t be my Last Supper.  The next time you visit a restaurant, try committing to being the first one ready to order instead of the one who needs to “order last.”  I believe you’ll immediately feel a triumph that can set the stage for thousands of decisions ahead in your life.

Instead of fearing the wrong decision, start to fear not making a decision.  The time and energy exhausted by weighing the myriad of options every day can be channeled into productivity and enjoyment.  The legendary former CEO of GE, Jack Welch, insists that we not “sit” on decisions.  “Decisions at every level should be made in minutes, not days or weeks.”  I recently bought an egg timer so that I can force myself to commit to decisions within a finite amount of minutes.  I’ve already found that our team can confidently press forward with projects with several minutes of discussion rather than an hour.  In the company, this time equates to money.  But, perhaps more importantly, each decision we make frees our minds in a powerful way that leads to great satisfaction and… let’s face it, the next decision.

Check out this fascinating comparison of “pondering whether to do the laundry” versus just doing it.

My favorite excerpt:

You’re allowed to make some wrong decisions when you’re making a lot of right decisions. You have my permission to make the wrong choice, as long as you do it quickly. Now give yourself permission. You’ll find that the fear of making wrong choices is one of life’s greatest hoaxes and a root-cause of dissatisfaction.

My first blog might not be the best ever, but I’m three weeks ahead of schedule because I opened my laptop and just decided to write what I knew.  I would typically procrastinate on something like this, dreading the idea that I may not have the most riveting blog about decision making.  But you know what?  I made the quick decision to go for it.  Now I’m finished and you read it – so mission accomplished.

What are you debating about today?  Give yourself 5 minutes to decide and do it!

Post by Jeff Douglass, Founder & CEO