Thoughts on Productivity

Introduction

I’ve been asked multiple times to speak on the keys to my productivity. These discussions allow me to speak on the practices that help shape my day in day out work. I’ve been fascinated with organizational productivity and efficiency since my early 20s, so I always enjoy the thinking and learning that come with preparing for a discussion on the topic.

I thought I would share some of what I’ve learned about the keys to productivity as a way of starting a DM/Text/Phone Call/FaceTime conversation with all of you – as I know many of you are better read than me on this topic and have your own best practices that you put to use in your work life. I would love to know what books, practices, and/or models you’ve put to use in your own work, so feel free to add those to the comments, or DM or text me.

My three keys to productivity are:

1. Have the self-awareness to know your strengths and weaknesses.

2. Efficient processes are essential.

3. Incorporate proven mindfulness practices into your work life.

Let’s jump in…

Have the Self-Awareness to Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses

My first key to productivity is to have to have the self-awareness to know your own strengths and weaknesses, and to play to those strengths as much as you can. Through self-analysis, you can learn what you’re naturally good at (or what you have developed a strong proficiency in), and then you can use those strengths to your advantage. Regular self-analysis allows you to both lean into your strengths while also becoming keenly aware of your weaknesses. And then you can be honest with your team about both – using your strengths to better yourself and your team, while also relying on your team to excel in areas that you might not be as strong in.

For example: While I’m very good at connecting personally with my Clients, I know that I am more book smart than I am business smart (full disclosure: I’m the nerd on the team LOL). But my Sr. VP is very smart business-wise and has an extremely high social IQ. Because we know our strengths and weaknesses, and discuss them often, we’re able to leverage our individual strengths in tandem so that the service we provide to our Clients is of high quality while also being effective across a wide range of situations.

Efficient Processes are Essential

My second key to productivity is having smart, efficient processes in place. I try to have efficient processes in place for every facet of my job. Every interaction, every phone call, every email is unique, yes, but, if they operate in conjunction with smart processes, those processes provide much needed structure to the work day – and that structure allows for efficiencies to be gained with every step along the way.

Take basketball as an example of this: the game is a free-flowing game, with lots of room for creativity and unknowns in every possession – not unlike a work day. However, in basketball, there are processes/systems in place – designed by the coaching staff – that the players work within. The better the systems are, the more efficiently a talented team is able to operate offensively and defensively. To say it a different way: the ability to problem-solve amidst repetitive but unique situations is greatly aided by smart structures.

The same goes for the work day: the better your processes/systems are, the more efficiently you can handle the uniqueness of each business day, and the less you have to recreate the wheel amidst your every day grind. Efficient processes allow you to handle each unique situation – and be creative in your problem solving therein – while also keeping wasted time to a minimum.

Lastly, to use another basketball example for this subtopic, I would add a quote by John Wooden, the famous UCLA basketball coach: “Be quick, but don’t hurry.” Efficient processes are not about being fast or rushed. Mistakes happen when you rush. Quality suffers. You cut corners. All not good. But there is something to be said for being quick – meaning operating at a high level of quality while also moving with purpose and controlled speed. If you can tighten the screws on every one of your processes – that is, shaving 30 seconds off for one task here, or saving a minute for another task there – there will be big productivity adds over the course of your day, week, month, year, and career as all those efficiencies add up. But the goal is high quality and controlled speed, not rushing through a task to the detriment of your work.

Incorporating Proven Mindfulness Practices into Your Work Life

It might seem strange to talk about mindfulness as a key to productivity, but having researched and practiced mindfulness for the last 15 years, I can absolutely attest to its benefits. A mindfulness practice helps most practically with my relationship to stress, as I’m able to observe my stress objectively and put mental distance between my thoughts and my actions. Instead of my stress being in the driver’s seat of my actions, mindfulness trains my brain to rely on objectivity and logic rather than emotion. And that benefits my ability to interact with my Colleagues and Clients, it benefits my professional judgment on the myriad decisions I make each day, and has far-reaching benefits for my personal life.

I would add that numerous top-level performers have said mindfulness has been critical to their success:

Steve Jobs

Oprah

Michael Jordan

LeBron James

Derek Jeter

Kerri Walsh Jennings

Super Bowl winning NFL teams (ex. the 2014 Seattle Seahawks)

If mindfulness can help them, it can definitely benefit us in our daily grind.

Conclusion

In closing, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how these three keys to productivity relate to our current COVID crisis.

Firstly, self-awareness about strengths and weaknesses is paramount in this new normal, as COVID has taken the comfortability out of every day life and has forced us all to rethink our current roles and responsibilities. Regularly thinking through how we can lean into our strengths while also acknowledging our weaknesses can be cause for great flexibility and rapid improvement amidst our quickly-changing economic, financial, and personal landscapes.

Secondly, efficient processes are even more paramount in this COVID season because, to quote Ryan Holiday in The Obstacle is the Way, we can “replace fear with process.” Replacing productivity-blocking fear with smart, efficient processes allows us to stay productive amidst the uncertainty of this protracted pandemic.

Thirdly, mindfulness is a great tool in the toolbox to navigate stress – and I think all of us can agree that COVID has brought added stress to our lives. Whether it be work stress, financial stress, stress about getting exposed to COVID-19, relational stress, or stress about our kids’ schooling, a mindfulness practice can be a great helper in keeping us objective and logical as we juggle the myriad important decisions that need to be made every day.

So those are my thoughts. As I said, I know many of you are better read than I am on this topic, and probably have your own (better) thoughts and models on how to be productive in the workplace. I’d love to hear them – via comments, texts, DMs, phone calls, or FaceTimes. Looking forward to the conversation.

-KGC

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