We tend to think of tension in terms of stress. But tension isn’t always negative. Think how important it is to stretch cold muscles before a work out at the gym. Without the tension, you risk injury.
Leaders of productivity experience healthy tension as well. It’s not enough to employ positive time management practices or set up disciplined regimens. Everyone’s work is in a constant state of change, which means our leadership needs to adapt as well. What represented high productivity yesterday may not be productive tomorrow.
Here are five ongoing tensions all productive leaders consider in their quest to stay effective.
1. Activate – What am I not doing that I should be doing?
We pay attention to the tasks we perform, but it takes discipline to consider the ones outside our purview. No one wants to underperform a critical task that’s on their plate. But what about the critical task that’s not on their plate, but should be? When situations change, our mix of responsibilities should change as well.
2. Accelerate – What am I doing that I should be doing faster?
Thank goodness for innovation! Without it, we’d be stuck doing the same tasks in the same old way. But unless we embrace new methods, that’s exactly what happens. Productive leaders are constantly on the lookout for ways to innovate their current practices, even if those practices seem to be working fine.
3. Automate – What am I doing that a system should be doing?
We’ve all benefitted from the force multiplier effect of technology for decades, even in the minute details of our work. That said, we’re almost always still performing more tasks manually than we should be. Looking for an automated solution is the modern day equivalent of “sharpening the saw” so we don’t exert a higher effort than we should.
4. Delegate – What am I doing that I should hand off to someone else?
If delegation was easy, everyone would be doing it. It can be uncomfortable to let go of work we do well and to ask others to do more. But as our leadership responsibility grows, our capacity will be stretched. Productive leaders think ahead about which tasks they may need to delegate – and who would be the right people to take those tasks on.
5. Eliminate – What am I doing that no one should be doing?
Stephen Covey once said, “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” Sometimes less is more – a lot more. It’s worth taking a periodic audit of the tasks that produce the least results. If you cut out 20% of the bottom tasks altogether, where could that effort be re-focused?
Ultimately, productivity isn’t a one-time thing. It’s an ongoing commitment to effectiveness. At the end of the day, productivity isn’t about making new rules or setting new boundaries that box us in. It’s about focusing our work so it sets us free to accomplish what’s most important.
This article is included in the Leadership-in-a-Box® program:
Time Management & Productivity
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