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Naphtali Hoff


Maximal Productivity, Part 1

Planning is the foundation of success

Published: Tuesday, February 18, 2020 - 13:03

Workplace productivity is a huge challenge for nearly every company, business, and organization. Leaders struggle to get their own work done (and do the right work,) while also guiding, empowering, and motivating their people to achieve maximal productivity. Although the projections vary, estimates suggest that businesses worldwide lose hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars annually due to underproduction.

To help my clients address this important issue, I have divided the path to increased productivity into four steps:
Plan it. Plan the process in advance to get really clear on task, process, and outcome.
Share it. Involve others in the work through meetings, communication, and delegation.
Do it. Get the work done by removing distractions and optimizing your time and energy.
Sustain it. Develop a mindset and self-care approach that ensures continuity.

Each “step” contains five action items, for a total of 20 items. In this first article of the maximal productivity series, I will address step one: plan it.

The planning process is in many ways the hardest part of a task. After all, we are so conditioned to do that often we just want to roll up our sleeves and get things done. The problem is that the work we do is not necessarily structured for success, nor is it the work that will produce the best or most impactful result. Planning forces us to carefully consider our options before jumping in and doing.

Here are the five steps of the planning stage:

Identify the right tasks

These are the tasks that will produce the optimal results and address the most critical issues you face. These are often referred to as “big rocks,” as in the priorities that you first need to place in your “jar” (i.e., complete) before filling other things around it (the metaphorical pebbles, sand, and water.)

To do this, consider using the Eisenhower Matrix to guide you. The matrix places every task in a quadrant, from “Do” (i.e., tasks that are both urgent and important, such as a time-sensitive customer request); to “Plan” (nonurgent but important—this is where your strategic and visionary pieces fit); to “Delegate” (urgent but not important items, such as responding to inbound communication); to “Eliminate” (or at least limit, like time wasters).

Remember the Pareto principle (also called the 80/20 Rule),which suggests that 80 percent of our outcomes comes from 20 percent of our efforts. Choosing the right place to focus our efforts matters more than we often think.

Manage and prioritize your to-do list

There is a big debate about the value of keeping a to-do list. If you use one, make it most useful by prioritizing the items on it based on the following considerations:
• Which items, if completed, will have the biggest positive impact on you and your work or company? These should be prioritized. (See Pareto principle, above.)
• Keep the list short and manageable.
• Remove the ever-present items that never seem to get done but just pushed further down the list.
• Schedule tasks on your calendar to ensure proper focus.

Set positive, actionable goals

Goals that drive action are stated in a positive way (i.e., what you will do as opposed to stop doing). They are also “SMART.”

SMART is a system that helps people set goals that produce results. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable/achievable, relevant, and time-bound. The most important part of the goal is that it is specific. This represents the who, what, why, and how of the SMART model—who will do the work; what you (or they) will do; why that is important; how you will achieve the goal; and how the goal will make you feel.

Organize your workspace

Whether you consider yourself organized or not, research is clear that we get more done when we know where things are. This is true with our physical things (e.g., papers, files, gadgets) as well as our virtual ones. Not only can things be found more easily but there is also a psychological benefit of maintaining a neat workspace. Our external order creates internal order and allows us to do more, and better manage challenges in stride. In contrast, a messy workspace sends a subliminal message that your work isn’t important, or that the process you’re involved in isn’t critical.

Determine what’s needed

Assess what is needed, in terms of materials, knowledge, and skills, to get the job done. Perhaps you’re lacking a sufficiently powerful computer or CRM option. Maybe you need to learn something additional. Whatever it is, position yourself in advance to hit the ground running so that you experience the fewest interruptions and setbacks possible before getting started.

Now that we have laid out our plan for the work, my next three articles will walk us through the process of sharing, doing, and sustaining it over time.

First published Dec. 11. 2019, on the SmartBrief blog.


About The Author

Naphtali Hoff’s picture

Naphtali Hoff

Naphtali Hoff is an executive coach, organizational consultant, trainer, and lecturer. He has a doctorate in human and organizational psychology, which analyzes successful individual or organizational change and development, and he holds two master’s degrees in education and educational leadership. Hoff’s personal experience in the leadership field allows him to understand leaders’ needs and craft solutions to help them optimize their performance and success.