We all have things we’d like to do. So many in fact that I always recommend writing them down in a to-do list. A well-designed to-do list not only lets you capture all the vague tasks you’d like to do at some point, it also lets you prioritise what to work on now and what can wait.
One of the most powerful productivity illustrations is called an Eisenhower matrix. I have talked about it in previous posts but I will provide a sample under here in case you aren’t familiar with the matrix.
At some point, a lot of people have tried to build a new habit such as exercising more often, eating healthier food or reading more books. They had good intentions. They wanted to improve themselves and by so doing change their lives. After a few days of going to the gym or eating vegetables for lunch, they gradually slipped back into their old lifestyles. They might feel guilty about this but eventually convince themselves they gave it their best shot. Maybe they just aren’t the reading type. What went wrong? Instead of taking small steps, the people in our example wanted to take a giant leap.
Building a new habit isn’t easy. When you start to build a new habit, you are making a commitment to change the trajectory of your life. Naturally, you will face resistance. Old habits die hard. If you eat six chocolate bars and a cake each day, your mind will rebel if you switch to a vegetable only healthy diet the next day. You have spent years reinforcing your old habits. You will need patience to discard them in favour of a new one.
How much progress have you made towards your personal development plan for the year? Did you complete your tasks for the week? If you can answer these questions without having to do some digging, congratulations you are ahead of most people already.
Many people make lists. New years’ resolutions are an often joked about list. They represent a classic example of what happens to most lists. People write them down, then forget about them. The act of writing down what you intend to do has been shown to increase the likelihood of achieving that thing. However, if you really want to get more done, you will have to make sure your lists are living documents.
Since I began publishing this blog, I have had quite a few conversations about personal productivity. I have had the opportunity to listen to people talk about their productivity challenges. Occasionally, I have also heard how someone applied something they read on my blog and how it helped them in their lives. Through all this, I have kept wondering why do people struggle to be more productive.
I once heard an amusing story about a company won the bid to create a new IT system for a Government Department. When the Company finished the job, they ran into an unexpected problem. The Government Department, having gotten used to Companies asking for extensions to project deadlines, had assumed this one wouldn’t be any different. As such, a team hadn’t been put together for the Company to hand over the project to.
I have a friend who loves coffee. Her first whatsapp Status update every morning is about coffee. As a tea lover, I often tease her about her coffee drinking habits. This post is not going to be about the health benefits or otherwise of coffee. I am also not going to ask you to stop drinking coffee. You’re old enough to know what you should or shouldn’t be drinking.
Instead, I will use coffee to make a point. I want you to ask yourself two questions:
Plans are often the missing link that turn ideas into reality. They are a necessity if you ever wish to turn the wishes in your head into realistic goals. A goal, written down and accompanied by a plan has a greater chance of being achieved than one which stays an unwritten, fuzzy idea in someone’s head. In fact, you are 42% more likely to achieve a goal if you regularly write it down.
While planning is crucial, there can be such a thing as over-planning. There comes a point where one is planning for planning’s sake. At that point, planning becomes an excuse not to get started. When you reach that point, what you are doing is PROCRASTINATION.
The greatest disservice our love for quick soundbites has done is create the illusion that people who reach the top of their game did so within a very short period of time. We get to see pictures of Olympic athletes as they cross the finish line. What we don’t see is the years prior to that where they trained their body to peak performance. If an athlete has their golden moment when all the cameras go off. It’s because they had the patience to do what many will not.
When did you last feel angry at work? Perhaps it was at a colleague who wasn’t doing their share of the team project. Or your boss for being unfair to you? Did you miss out on an expected emotion? Or a vendor who wouldn’t accept responsibility for a poorly delivered service riled you up? It might have been a subordinate who should know better but never does?
Anger is a necessary human emotion. One that should not be repressed. Yet, you can’t allow your anger to define how you react to situations. If you throw a mug of hot tea at a co-worker or throw the vendor out the window, you could get in plenty of trouble that could damage your career. It’s even more important to control how you direct anger towards subordinates. No one likes to work for a boss who publicly humiliates them and disrespects them at the slightest opportunity.
I recently had a conversation with a friend who had tried to turn their passion into a business and had become quite miserable as a result. Instead of finding financial freedom and happiness, they found themselves working every day of the week. It took only a short time for their “passion” to become a chore.