Avoid the Productivity Trap: 3 Simple Steps Leaders Can Take To Build Success

Productivity has long been associated with getting things done. As long as we can check the blocks, we can assume productivity. Right? Not exactly. The truth is, we are not productive unless we are doing the right things to move us in the direction we would like to go. All else could be derailing us and thus causing us to be relatively unproductive.

That said, there is nothing more disheartening than ending the workday repeatedly frustrated because we have spent too much time on things that don’t move the needle to the right. When this is our experience at the end of each day, it may be time to pivot. It’s perhaps an opportunity to start the day differently to build the type of success we would like to enjoy when the day has ended.

For instance, we are too generous with our energy and resolve for the day most of the time. We grossly underestimate how much time and energy we can devote to the tasks on our to-do list. And if we are completely honest, our to-do is too long. It overestimates what we can genuinely accomplish within the given time period.

Listen, I get it. I know it feels good to pen all the many things we would like to get done, but when our resources (time, energy, capacity) do not support it, we may be taking two steps backward. Therefore, making a long list based upon limitless time, energy stores, and capacity does not contribute to productivity. Instead, it’s a reminder that we need to prioritize our efforts and determine what is really important to accomplish that day.

I’ve been guilty. I used to get an 8.5 x11 blank sheet of paper every morning and then begin. I would write down everything I could think of that I needed to do. Most tasks didn’t need to be done that day as they did not contribute to my personal or professional goals. It took me years to finally learn that the excitement I felt while penning the tasks did not match my bandwidth for the day. Consequently, I had to shift my thinking about productivity and intentional goal setting for each day.

Now, I consider the ebbs and flows of my energy and the ordinary tasks I must complete that do not relate to my business before writing my 2-3 Big Rocks to complete for the day. And at the end of the day, I reflect and often feel accomplished because the tasks were just right, and I can see the needle moving. My new practice has helped me immensely, and I hope it will help you too.

Here are three steps to go from frustrated to accomplished at the end of each day:

  1. Set an intention for the day. This is vitally important. Ask yourself, “What do I want to be able to say at the end of the day?” What are the tasks that work together to fulfill the goals that will ultimately help you to realize the vision? It is important that you begin with the end in mind, because wthout a vision, there is no clear target. We need to know what we are shooting for before we can generate the short list to make it happen.
  2. Use a 3×3 sticky note to write down the 2-3 things that must occur for it (what you want to be able to say) to happen. I suggest using a small piece of paper so that it limits what you write down. Using a small, confined space limits unnecessary and unrelated actions. Greater space many times means filling up that space with tasks that do not lead the optimal end result. A 3×3 sticky note only allows for 2-3 thing items so it forces you to be clear and specific about what tasks would yield the most benefit.
  3. Follow through and reflect at the end of the day. Needless to say, there must be follow through. Now that you’ve penned just the Big Rocks for the day and have considered what is reasonable according to your own bandwidth, it will be easier to follow through. And reflection is also another key component. Take the time, even if it’s 5 minutes, to sit with what you accomplished, and enjoy the feeling. It will motivate you to plan the next day with greater intentionality, particularly if you encountered roadblocks during the present day. Reflection helps us to notice, to plan accordingly, and to move forward more effectively.

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