#FreeMyFriday – Start with a list

February 13, 2015

It’s Friday, which, in my world immediately poses one question: is my Friday free?

For some time now I’ve been really focused on helping managers and leaders to seriously improve their productivity to the extent that they have a whole extra day each week, typically Friday though sometimes taken in a couple of half days or shorter regular slots, to concentrate entirely on the the important development work that will improve or move things forward in significant ways. The key to this is the implementation of proven techniques and finding innovative new ways to get the usual five days’ work done in four so our heads can emerge from the day-to-day and consider the bigger picture.

Don’t we all face the massive challenge of handling the myriad of stuff that comes our way every day, spinning those plates as best we can just to keep our heads above water?

Doesn’t that continually leave us with that irritating (sometimes downright depressing!) feeling that genuinely important work that would make a big difference if we could only get time to do it, lies untouched for yet another week?

This is what #FreeMyFriday is all about and it starts with making that list.

Start with writing a really clear and concise list of the things you would love to get round to doing – things like going after new customers, training your team members, taking your team out to lunch, designing some new product or service offering, reading more, perhaps even finishing early and taking the kids out after school…the list will be specific to your role and the demands of the business you’re in. But do – for goodness sake – go ahead and write it!

It’s just the beginning, but it’s a super-important beginning. Being clear about where you want to go has an incredible way of enabling you to find solutions to the challenges that prevent you from getting there.

Have a fantastic Friday…and maybe now even you could start writing the list of what you’d like to be doing this time next week?

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I’m still being WAY too reactive (& so are you, probably)!

November 26, 2014

There is a certain conversation I often have with people attending the Effective Personal Management workshop, and sometimes even those seeking to take their productivity to a seriously higher level through our Effective Personal Productivity programme,

I say, and almost everyone agrees, that we do our best work and achieve loads more – typically three to four times more – when we are in the ‘non-urgent / important’ quadrant of the famous time-management matrix, compared to when we’re reacting to people and things shouting loudly at us that draw us into the urgent side of the matrix.

But then the objections and qualifying circumstances are raised. This kind of thing:

Workshop

“That’s great Nick,but our industry is really reactive….”

“I understand what you’re saying, but in my role I have to be super-responsive to the customers.”

Whether it’s external – customers, typically – or internal – the boss, department heads, finance etc – we all have those things going on in our work that make what seem like super-urgent demands upon us that we just can’t ignore.

You know what, sometimes that’s exactly right. We should respond because it’s really, really important and definitely requires immediate attention. But how many times can we say that is genuinely the case? One in ten? One in fifty?

The vast majority of what comes my way in the usual week can be predicted, generally speaking at least if not the exact detail, planned for and provision made to schedule the appropriate time to deal with. The same is probably true for you too.

I’ll end with a quick example that illustrates what I’m saying.

One particular manager I was working with on our Productivity programme was having a lot of trouble getting things done on time because of the incessant demands of a few of the company’s best customers. “We can’t afford not to respond to these….the customers pay the wages”. However, the constant interruptions by phone and email were having a seriously negative impact on the business as a whole.

The solution: In seeking to apply the ideas in the programme, the manager in question approached the biggest culprits and said something like this:

“You’re great clients of ours and we really appreciate your business. In fact, I’m so keen to make sure that we’re giving you the attention and levels of service you deserve, I wonder if we could try something that I think will help. Rather than me responding haphazardly to your needs and requests, i’d like to be certain that I give the work we do for you 100% focus. Would you mind if we set up a regular conference call, twice a week for half an hour to begin with, where we go over everything to do with our current projects and anything you need to share with me… and vice-versa?”

Far from being annoyed, the client loved it! No-one had ever shown them so much consideration. The manager in question freed up about half a day per week as a result of being less reactive. It was definitely a Win:Win scenario. A similar approach to the above can often work interally when, for example, it’s your boss who’s your biggest source of urgent interruptions.

I could tell dozens more stories like this, but the simple truth is that I, and perhaps you too (!), are still being WAY TOO REACTIVE.

I’m on a mission to help busy leaders and managers find an extra day a week for the important work (and pleasure) activities that they don’t currently have time for. If you’d like a gentle kick up the backside to get you going with this, drop me a line – I’ll be glad to have twenty minutes on the phone or Skype to assist with kickstarting your own major productivity boost…perhaps to the tune of a whole extra day per week!


Impossible not to be inspired!

April 7, 2014

Yesterday I completed my first ever proper running event – the Regency 10k in Leamington Spa. I wasn’t going particularly fast or , achieving anything especially impressive compared to the accomplishments of many others in so many different fields of life, but it was something i’d set a goal to do so it felt great to go out and do it. Just for the record, I came 636th!

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What really took me by surprise was the impact that the cheering, shouting and encouraging words from the crowds watching and also the stewards and marshals stationed around the course had on me. It was genuinely very profound and made me want to run faster and push myself to get round in the very best time I could. It was like my own mini London 2012 experience!

I can also recall so many other situations where I’ve been going into new situations in both a personal and professional context and there alongside me was someone significant cheering me on, expressing confidence in my ability to succeed and giving me that undeniable boost that comes when someone else shows belief in what you can do.

In discussions around good leadership and management we talk often about the value of praise, encouragement and reward, but I’m not sure we really appreciate just how much of an impact we can have on those around us. As I discovered in a small way yesterday, it’s impossible not to be inspired when others cheers you along, congratulate you on your progress and urge you to dig in and keep going.

Find someone to cheer on today and see what happens!

 


“Meaningless” and “Unrealistic” Targets

April 4, 2014

One of the news headlines that caught my attention today as I’ve been listening to Radio Five Live on my travels, has been the report that highlights “a culture of fear” within the Met Police, describing many of the targets that were used to manage performance as “meaningless” and “unrealistic.”

My intention is not to judge this particular story, but rather to highlight the fact that I have regularly come across situations where organisations, as well as individual leaders and managers, have been using targets and measures for their own and others’ performance that have been exactly the same i.e. meaningless and unrealistic!

This is not an unusual scenario.

It would be well worth a chunk of your quality thinking time to evaluate whether the things you are measuring and the targets you are setting are the best they could possibly be when it comes to stimulating the activity that is most important for people to be doing.

Why is this so crucial?

Well, the old adage goes, “People do what they like doing and what they are measured on.”

For example, if the managers in your business are only measured (and rewarded) on bottom line results of their project or department and yet you really want them to be investing more in the coaching and development of their team members to increase long-term capacity of the team, there’s a high degree of probability it’s proving frustrating….because the results they are being judged on are different to the ones they are being told are the highest priority. We have an alignment issue.

So, the key questions are:

1) What results do you want?

2) What are the best measurements to encourage and reinforce the behaviour that will drive those results?

Have a great weekend!


Another day of practise

March 18, 2014

This morning I am running the Effective Communication session on the LMI Leadership Forum course. It’s lesson 4 of 6 of a programme that’s focussed on practical ways to improve the productivity of leaders and managers in their workplace.

Without fail, every time this communication lesson comes round (& I must have led this at least 50 times!), I find myself immensely challenged. Every single day we are communicating back and forth with so many people via so many different media and I reckon there are at least half a dozen instances every day where I’m involved in communication which could have been better.

I don’t think of myself as an expert, just someone embarking on another day of practise to try and communicate better….to listen harder, to show more empathy, to ask better questions and to clearly share ideas and information.

How about joining me in seeking to communicate today just a little bit better than yesterday?


A simple lesson from school we stupidly forgot!

July 25, 2013

Do you remember being at school and worrying about how you were going to fit everything in? I mean, it was crazy – so many different things going on, way too much to remember!

How on earth did we manage to fit in Maths, English, French, History, Geography, General Studies (!), Chemistry, Biology, P.E., R.E., Physics….the list goes on.

And yet, as I recall it, I never once fretted about how I was going to manage to squeeze in enough lessons of each subject to get through the curriculum and be ready for exams at the end of it.

Why not?

Simple. We had a timetable.

This is very profound. We had a schedule to follow that allocated blocks of time for each subject that would allow us sufficient number of hours working on the material that would prepare us for the end goal – passing exams.

Why is it then that having left school, and with just as many different things coming our way in life and in work, that we tend to wing it…hoping we’ll manage to fit it all in, responding to the things that shout loudest, often leaving insufficient time for seriously important things.

Solution? Simple. Timetable it.

The creation of a weekly timetable, or Time Picture, as we call is, is often one of those massive ‘light bulb moments’ for our clients as the realisation dawns…

“You don’t find time; you schedule it.”

We used to know that in school. We forgot.


Getting started

January 26, 2013

If you are anything at all like me, you’ll be sat reading this with a
head full of 1001 things you’d like to do, want to do, need to do or
generally feel that you probably should get round to do.

I am continually amazed with these kind of things how often (not
always, but pretty often) once I get going on something, having put
aside some time to do it  (or it just became really desperate and I
just HAD to do it), it takes a less effort and is more enjoyable than
it felt like it would be before I got started.

So here’s a simple idea that I’ve started using myself. If you got
something that seems pretty big and daunting that you need to get
done, just block an hour to get started on it. Having done that,
continuing with it might just be a lot simpler than you thought!