Achieve Optimal Productivity. Use This 7-Step Loop.
This is how you end your struggle with productivity and efficiency.
Do you have trouble finding the right set of tasks that move you ever closer to your ideal outcome? Do you have a fully-formed vision of where and whom you want to be in five years? Are you clearly able to measure your daily progress concerning how well it brings you closer to making your long-term vision a reality?
I’ve struggled with those same challenges most of my life thus far. I developed the framework in this guide to help me overcome my productivity hurdles. I use it daily and am more productive than I have ever been as a result. I also enjoy my day more as I’ve eliminated busy work and meaningless distractions.
This process enables me to experience a shorter, more powerful, and more rewarding workday. I have no doubt it will offer you the same if you commit to the process.
The first key to optimal productivity is prioritization.
In this process, there are four classifications of task work.
- Important and urgent
- Important and not urgent
- Unimportant and urgent
- Unimportant and not urgent
First, process all of your tasks through this filter to determine if they even need to be done and the sequence of those tasks. Intentionally prioritizing work empowers your scheduling process.
The second key to optimal productivity is organization.
In this model, you have four strategies for how people handle task work.
First, eliminate tasks that are "unimportant and not urgent." These destroy your productivity. People are wildly inefficient. In my experience after helping hundreds of businesses optimize their processes, I've found that we can safely eliminate as much as 80% of the task-work that comes across our desk without causing any significant disruptions. Wasting time on tasks that are unimportant and not urgent serves as a distraction and does not bring you any further toward accomplishing a vital goal.
Second, determine which repetitive tasks can be automated. Can a automation accomplish these menial tasks thereby freeing up time for humans to work things that only humans can do?
Third, delegate as many of the "important and not urgent" tasks to in-house subordinates or outside contractors. These are often the tasks that require very little creativity and problem-solving skills that are too complex for modern computers to solve right now. It's also a good practice to put this level delegates supervising and interacting with the automated processes.
Finally, the "important and urgent" tasks are often those that require strong creativity and problem-solving skills. Delegate as many of these tasks as is reasonably possible to the highest value team members. This way the majority of your time can be spent only on completing the most important and most urgent tasks. The person who solves the most significant problems deserves the biggest payday.
An important tenet of leadership is to inspect what you expect.
The most effective way is to set expectations as clearly and accurately as possible. After collaborating with and managing many hundreds of people at all levels, I've refined a blueprint for setting expectations that can be measured and progressively improved.
Follow these seven steps, and you'll set measurable expectations that will continually and progressively move the needle in meaningful ways.
- Clarify a Meaningful Goal.
- Add a time frame to each Meaningful Goal.
- Transform each Meaningful Goal into a Business Objective.
- Backward plan to outline all Required Actions for each Business Objective.
- Develop a Master Checklist for each Required Action and a Supplementary.
- Create a checklist for each complex sub-task.
- Track your progress with clear and meaningful metrics.
- Optimize performance through testing using leading key performance indicators.
Begin by setting your specific focus and clarifying your precise intentions.
This process helps you establish a Long Term Vision and a Personal/Business Ethos.
Set fully formed goals for each period (year, quarter, month and week) that progress incrementally toward achieving the vision. Set tasks for the day in the form of required checklists to follow that cumulatively work toward solving your most pressing business challenges.
Use these examples of Meaningful Goals to craft your own.
Give each Meaningful Goal a time frame. Every Meaningful Goal comes with an expiration date.
- Improve production floor output by 10% over the next three months.
- Increase sales penetration by 300 million this year.
- Grow email subscribers by 6,000 every month.
- Launch one new value-added product every 90-days
Use backward planning on each Meaningful Goal to outline Required.
Actions: “What specifically has to happen for [ X ] to become a reality?”
Keep asking the question for each answer until you can go no further. These steps will become the checklists. Then you may have to create additional lists for sub tasks. If you outsource certain aspects, then have the provider generate the checklist and ensure it is optimized to help you reach your Meaningful Goal.
Transform your Meaningful Goal into a Qualified Business Objective.
A fully formed goal is one that includes the Meaningful Goal + an expiration date + a Required Action as to how you will achieve it.
- Improve production floor output by 10% over the next three months by upgrading the automation and improve training and incentives for operators.
- Increase sales penetration by 300 million this year by hiring and training three more sales reps who have a proven track-record.
- Grow email subscribers by 6,000 every month by improving the effectiveness of our content marketing strategy and adopting best-practices for social media promotion.
- Launch one new value-added product every 90-days by surveying our current customer base to determine their under-served needs.
Refine your Business Objective into actionable steps.
Ask these questions to draw out checklist tasks. Given your defined business objective, what are the specific steps that must be completed to deliver the desired result? Will any of these steps need to be automated or delegated/outsourced? How will I handle that? Do I need to develop checklists for any sub tasks? This line of questioning continues for each task and sub task until you identify a path to success.
Optimize For Results
Along the way, you'll need to monitor progress to ensure that the checklists are useful and that the results align with the Business Objective. You can not improve what you are not tracking. Identify key performance indicators that serve as meaningful feedback.
Precisely how will I track progress so that I can easily see what I should stop, start, or change along the way before things get off track? What metrics matter here? How will I implement the monitoring process to ensure quality and production? Will the output/dashboard provide me with meaningful data that I can use to make specific improvements? Will any of these steps need to be automated or delegated? How will I handle that? Do I need to develop checklists for any sub tasks for the monitoring processes?
Map out Required Actions for each Business Objective.
Write each checklist as if a child had to follow it with your instructions alone. You can never be too precise, specific, or thorough. Do you need to include screen captures, videos, images, links to additional resources, policies, or examples in your checklists?
Doing it this way keeps you and your team productive and efficient. You’ll be prepared to outsource specific tasks and easily monitor progress. A fully developed checklist for each business process helps ensure you identify most obstacles you will encounter before they become costly. You’re able to solve problems before they arise. Following this process will shorten your path to success, saves you money, time, and reduces setbacks.
Once you've created it, stick to the plan.
“Optimal productivity is doing what works and nothing else.” —Jeffery R Powers
Here are six common reasons for failure that you can easily prevent.
You don’t have a plan.You were not accurate, precise, thorough, or specific enough in your planning.You don’t personally have the skills but refuse to delegate to anyone with better skills. You don’t follow the plan without fail. You don’t track your progress. You don’t consciously and deliberately modify your plan to achieve optimal productivity.
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