Lisa works with major companies and smaller firms to offer them solutions that allow them to attract, develop and retain their high-potential diverse talent. Prior to that, she was an investor at Cardinal partners, an early stage healthcare venture capital firm, and she's had roles at Proctor and Gamble, GE Capital, as well as her own consulting practice. In this Masterclass Moment, she shares her tips on how to successfully get the right stuff done.
Your 'To Do' list doesn't reveal much about you. But your 'Done' List will tell it all.
How many of you find yourself exhausted at the end of the day but when you look back are not really sure exactly what you accomplished? My goal is to give you some proven tips on how to move yourself forward while actually taking things off of your to do list. You'll learn the amount of time you actually spend being productive versus the amount of time you spend thinking you're doing things that are productive, that actually are not.
Let's start by defining exactly what productivity is. If you look it up in the dictionary, there's a very dry definition around the measure of the efficiency of a person or a system- converting inputs to useful outputs. My personal favorite is that it's to keep the main thing, the main thing. Being busy is working harder and trying to be good at everything, as opposed to being productive which is working smarter. You're extremely laser focused and you're great at a few important things. Not great at a few things, but the most important things.
If it's not important and not urgent, you shouldn't be doing it at all. Even if it gives you satisfaction to check it off, it is wasted time because it's not aligned with your goals.
Let's talk about the three theories of productivity, things that you may think are driving you or helping you that are actually working against you.
Drive. In this environment where there are no boundaries between our work life and our personal life, we're on 24/7. The problem with that is we're seeing an increase in anxiety and sleep issues and an impact on relationships. It's proven that after 50 hours, your productivity start to wane. If you're in that 65 plus hours zone, you will actually see a decline in performance. More hours doesn't necessarily translate into greater performance or greater output.
The notion of excellence versus perfection. When you think about excellence, this is your true north, right? It is taking risks, being open to new things, being more creative. But lack of productivity is actually built into perfectionism because you won't let things go if they are not perfect because you are afraid of judgment. As a result, you will be more frustrated, you'll be more angry, you will be less open to taking the risk and taking the action that's needed. As Brene Brown says, "When perfectionism is driving us, shame is riding shotgun in the seat next to us. And fear is that annoying backseat driver." So a lot of us like to say yes, "I'm a perfectionist," but know that it's actually working against you. Quite frankly, it's not achievable. It is an unattainable goal. Even though it seems logical, it actually is a path to shame and a very quick path to judgment and the ultimate loss of productivity. And as Warren Buffett says, "You can't let other people set your agenda in life."
Information. We have so many things going on at the same time, no wonder we’re not productive. We're spending on average 23 hours a week in meetings, yet 71% of us say we're unproductive. In fact, those meetings are keeping us from getting the right things done. The information overload and then just this lack of boundaries can work against us.
A Better Path Forward.
You always want to start with your goal. Not only do you have to have a goal, you have to create a system for having it because if you have a goal but it's not tethered to something, it won’t get done. Ultimately your aim is to automate decision making and the first tactic is to kill your To Do List and keep track of your accomplishments. What matters most is not your work in process but what you're actually delivering. Your To Do list doesn't reveal much about you. But your Done List will tell it all.
It is all about the priorities. You should spend a disproportionate amount of your time just thinking about priorities. Is this important now? Once you have everything laid out, prioritize and categorize. If it's not urgent and important, then it's not on your To Do list. Over time, it will make its way to your To Do list. If it's not important and not urgent, you actually shouldn't be doing it at all. Even if it gives you satisfaction to check it off, it is wasted time because it's not aligned with your goals. You want a Success List as opposed to a To Do List. Most people believe in the 80/20 rule. So you want to think about the 20% that will give you the 80% return.
Zero-based calendaring. Stop thinking about your day in terms of days or hours and start thinking about them in terms of minutes. There are 1440 minutes in a day. Think about how you allocate those minutes. Most of us have a calendar with some activities and lots and lots of whitespace. Consider actually accounting more intentionally every minute of your day. The benefits of doing that is that you get a clearer estimate of how long each task will take. The problem with To Do lists is they're very, very long, but you haven't thought about whether they're actually achievable. So if you assign a time then before you even start down that perilous path, you're going have complete clarity on what you can accomplish. You're going to reduce the waste of time in between and protect your personal time.
Time boxing. This is the cousin to zero-based calendaring. You think you're good at multitasking but you're not. Every time you have to stop and do something else, there's a loss of productivity. On average, we have 87 interruptions in a day. And 58% of us can't even go an hour without looking at our phone. So you don't even have the focus time to get something done with excellence. In fact, it takes 90 seconds to get back on track. So while you're eating and you're texting and you're watching something, you think you're getting more done, but you're not, and it's very fatiguing to your brain. The notion of mindful meditation not only reduces stress but actually gives you clarity of mind. It increases your ability to connect with others and ultimately get more stuff done. So with time boxing, you're going to estimate the amount of time, you're going to plan the time in your 1440 minutes and you're going to add in breaks. Think about being fully on and then fully off, then stop multitasking and start to develop a routine.
Get up early. You might as well get up early and take advantage, it will allow you to start visualizing your day before other people's things get in the way. And it actually will energize you. Not to mention the impact on your spirit. But the benefit is again that not only do you minimize the distractions, you gain more hours in the day and you won't be as prone to procrastination. You'll start to adapt those good standard operating procedures of how you're going to engage, very early on.
Make quick decisions. It's better to make a decision and be wrong than have no decision at all. Think of it as one-way and two-way door decisions. If it's a decision that if wrong, you can reverse, then this is maybe a 10 second decision. If this is something that has broader implications than a one-way door, then you'll give it a little bit more mental map. But think about how you make decisions even with imperfect information because it will give you the data and the feedback quickly, in case you need to iterate.
Rapid fire kind of success tips when it comes to getting things done:
-Wake up early to minimize distractions.
-Meditate before going to the office.
-Focus on minutes, not hours. So think of the 1440 minutes. How are you allocating it? How are you maximizing focus on one thing at a time, getting that done with excellence, and then moving on to the next.
-Don't use To Do lists. It's all about the Success lists.
-Beat procrastination with time travel. Visualize your goals and say, "what are my actions today that are either going to further that goal, or take me on a detour?"
-Use a notebook, get all of the stuff out of your head so that you don't miss things, and you can start prioritizing them.
-Set up a system.
-Schedule chunks of uninterrupted time so that you can focus on getting the most important thing done.
-Process emails only a few times a day. Try not to be tied to be a whipsawed by all the information that's coming in. Pick the times in which you actually pick up your phone. Ideally not first thing in the morning.
-Eliminate unnecessary meetings. Ask yourself is it really, really critical?
-Say no to almost everything.
-Follow the 80% 20% rule: 20% leads to 80% return, then delegate almost everything assuming that you have someone to delegate to.
-Touch things only once. When you get to something, take care of it, dispose of it, and then move on.
-Read and don't skim.
-Do the hardest thing first. Even if you get satisfaction from checking off those little things, it's not going to move you towards your goals.
-Ultimately, just give yourself a little grace. We're going to make mistakes. We're not going to get it right. Sometimes when you cut yourself a break, you actually create the space to do more. So I'm giving you permission to give yourself a little grace.
Find Lisa Skeete Tatum on LinkedIn.