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Productivity Consulting and Leadership Coaching for business and nonprofits - get your most important work done. Collaborating with leaders and their teams to become more strategic, focused and productive. Leadership and Board Coaching, Strategic Planning Facilitation, Productivity Coaching and Consulting, Professional Speaker.
Productivity Coach, Productivity Consultant, Leadership Coach, Executive Coach, Business Consulting, personal productivity, time management, nonprofit, board coach, collaboration, strategic planning, facilitation, change management, leading productive teams, project planning, board development, volunteer engagement, association management, workplace productivity, executive director.
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It's not really balanced...

Work-life balance isn’t really a thing. Betty Friedan has been quoted as saying “you can have it all, just not all at the same time.” Balance implies evenness, sameness, a destination. It isn’t.

No one is ever in balance for more than a moment. Perhaps what we are striving for is harmony. In classical music, sometimes the percussion is louder, sometimes the strings are louder, sometimes the brass is louder. There are forte sections where everything is blaring at once and there are pianissimo sections where sound is barely audible. And there are rests, quiet spaces when no sounds are made at all. Just like life! In life, different parts are louder than others at different times, but as a whole, it can be harmonic and beautiful.

When on a deadline or project, work is loud. During times of celebration or sadness, family is loud. While training for a 5K or other personal endeavor, self-care is loud, and when on vacation there are times of quiet and silence. Framing life like a symphony and striving for harmony seems so much more reasonable.

If one were to divide a “life pie” into four balanced parts — work, family, self-care, other interests —  you would be spending an equal amount of time on each portion.  That’s not how life is.  And we know no day, week, or month is ever the same. To think it would be is not realistic. Additionally, imagine how boring life would be if every day and every week were the same.

What would be possible if you gave yourself permission to live in harmony and not strive for perfect balance all the time?

Harmony at Work

The same concept of harmony applies to work as well. If you are only doing unrewarding tasks and projects, it’s hard to stay engaged. Therefore, when creating your task list, consider the importance of putting meaningful things on your list. If all you do are things to please others, you won’t be very motivated to do your best, most productive work.

Traditionally, around Thanksgiving, I write a blog post about our lives being too full, like a Thanksgiving plate. If we fill our Thanksgiving plate with foods to please everyone else, we won’t have room to eat the foods we love. This results in us leaving the Thanksgiving table unsatisfied and unfulfilled. Then later, we eat more pie than we should. If you want to be satisfied, it is important to make room for the sweet potatoes and stuffing, or whatever your favorite Thanksgiving food of choice is.

In life and work, it’s important to make room for the things that matter too. Is it time to pull your passion projects off the back burner? Is it time to stop spending precious time making unimportant things perfect? Is it time to have more fun? With variety, NOT BALANCE, you’re much more likely to be productive.


This is compiled from Chapter 5 of my new book Productivity for How You’re Wired available on Amazon. Worksheets and online templates are included via the time tools link discussed in the book.

 

This is not your typical business school goal setting post! It’s about getting clear about what’s important to you.  Because when you know what is important, it is easier to say yes to the things that matter.

Intentions and Not Just Goals?

Goals are useful in some cases. They just aren’t applicable for everything. Considering intentions (how you want to live) expands your possibilities.

Goals have specific outcomes

  • Make profits over six figures this year.
  • Complete the team on-boarding program by June.
  • Lose four pounds a month each month this year.

Intentions clarify how you wish to live

  • I work smart and provide a great service.
  • I live a healthy, happy life.
  • I give my best self to my family.
  • I continue to learn so I can help other leaders grow.

Goals AND Intentions 

Most people have both goals and intentions. To focus on one and not the other is addressing just a portion of what is important.

My clients tell me they need help figuring out how to get all their work done. In reality, work is only part of the challenge. Many say they would like to take time off without worry, spend more quality time with their families, and even have a bit of time for themselves. As you work through identifying your own goals and intentions, you may want to consider more than work. Remember, a key reason to improve productivity is to have a full and better life.

Use the Planning Map Snapshot format below to plan a better 2023

Step 1: Identify Focus Areas — The life areas you choose to prioritize.

  • Focus Areas are the spaces in which you want to spend your time. In a financial budget, you’d have areas such as home expenses, utilities, clothing, food, and entertainment.
  • Your life’s Focus Areas may include business, work, professional growth, personal growth, self-care, family, spirituality, friends, volunteerism, service, activism, or advocacy.
  • Only Four Areas! Challenge yourself to limit your number of Focus Areas to four. When you spread yourself too thin, you end up accomplishing less. When you force yourself to narrow your focus, you do better work and are more productive.

Step 2: Determine Goals and Intentions — The ultimate outcome you are striving for.

  • A few people can state their goals or intentions off the top of their heads. Most can’t.
  • If the answers don’t come easily to you, start by developing your priorities (step 3). Then use your priorities to back into your goals and intentions. While it goes against every rigid business planner’s process, completing your priorities first can help you see exactly what matters.
  • Ask yourself “what is the reason these priorities are important? What is my purpose in accomplishing them?” The answer will bring the goal or intention into focus.

Step 3: Set Priorities — The overarching projects and tasks you need to complete to achieve your goal or live your intention.

  • The next step is to figure out the three most important things you want to accomplish in each Focus Area. Your priorities should be actionable within the established time frame of your plan.
  • The priority should identify what you will do.
    • Start with an action word such as plan, complete, strategize, or implement.
    • Be concise — provide enough detail for you to understand what you want to do, but not so much you can’t easily grasp the action at a glance.
  • When identifying your priorities, it often helps to prime the pump by asking yourself questions such as these:
    • What project, task, or action is critical to my success or my organization’s success?
    • What do I want to accomplish?
    • What would I be disappointed with if I didn’t achieve?
    • What do I need to do to be who I want to be?
  • Was it hard to identify three priorities for each life area? Having too many priorities is more often the problem. Remember, it’s better to do a few things fully and well than attempt many things that never reach completion.
  • While you may only have three priorities per goal or intention, when you consider your four Focus Areas, you will have twelve priorities for the entire year. Completing twelve priorities is a challenging, yet generally attainable target.

My wish for you for 2023 is that you take a bit of time to get clear about what’s important for 2023. I suspect that if you do, you will actually have a happy New Year.


This is compiled from Chapter 7 my new book Productivity for How You’re Wired available on Amazon. Worksheets and online templates are included via the time tools link discussed in the book.

Productivity for How You're Wired

I am so happy to share with you that my new book Productivity for How You’re Wired is out!

It truly has been a labor of love.  My most sincere hope is that it will help people work and live better.

Many have asked how they can buy the book. It is available on Amazon.  If you like it, I hope you’ll leave a review.

As a loyal subscriber, you’re invited  to my Virtual Book Launch Party and Book Signing.  It will be on Wednesday September 28th between 4pm and 7pm Eastern Time.  Please put it on your calendar and plan to drop in for as much or as little time as you like.  I have some fun activities planned.  We might even play a game…with prizes!  For those of you who want your books signed, I’ve figured that out too.  I think you’ll love it.  (Zoom link to follow).

In my last blog post I introduced you to the concept of Structure Preference – how much structure you personally need to do your best work.

In this week’s post we’ll use that information to guide you in finding the way you work best.  Knowing what’s unique about how you work can guide you as you craft productivity systems that fit how you’re wired.

David Keirsey, Professor of Psychology, and co-author of the seminal book Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types, streamlined the Myers-Briggs® by identifying personality types based on two specific personality characteristics. He theorized that the way one processes information influences behavior. He believed SENSORS are most affected by the way they function in society, while INTUITORS are most influenced by their decision-making processes.

Applying Keirsey’s concepts to productivity inspired my productivity styles: Catalyst, Coordinator, Diplomat, and Innovator. Use your structure preference to narrow your options. If you are Task Priority Focused chances are your either a Coordinator or Innovator.  If you are Relationship Priority Focused you’re most likely a Catalyst or Diplomat.   Review the chart below.

Can you recognize your Productivity Style?

Once you understand your more about yourself, you’ll understand more about how to set yourself up for success.

For example, let’s look at how people with different productivity styles approach doing a to-do list.

  • CATALYSTs thrive with simple systems. They keep it high level by using their list to capture ideas and identify most urgent tasks.
  • DIPLOMATs benefit from taking time to plan their work. Since their tendency is to verbally process rather than write, committing to the system is key. They make it fun by color coding and using creative labels.
  • COORDINATORs love seeing everything in one place. They plan their work and work their plan.
  • INNOVATORs like to plan but can get lost in trying to improve the system. They do best when they use their list to capture ideas and prioritize, and then quickly move into action.

Are you staring to think differently about how who you are affects your best way to do things? If you’ve ever felt like a square peg in a round hole, understanding how who you are impacts how you do things will shift your perspective so you can consider alternative approaches.

Book News:  The book WILL be out next week.  Available for purchase on Amazon next Wednesday, September 7th.  I’ll send a link to you next week when the book is available.

Save the Date: Virtual Book Launch Party – Wednesday September 28, 2022 from 4 p.m to 7 p.m.  Eastern Time.  This will be an open house so please drop in for a few minutes or longer, whatever is good for you. I’ve ordered these amazing custom bookplates so that I’ll be able to “sign your book.”  And we’ll have give-aways, readings, Q&A, and just celebrate.  Zoom link coming soon.

Welcome to The Better Work Better Life Blog – Here I share big ideas to help you think differently about your productivity, your work, and your life. My goal in this series of posts is to summarize the concepts I share in my new book (out next week) Productivity for How You’re Wired. My promise to you, as it’s been for the last 15 years that I’ve been blogging, is to write something short enough that you can read it in the moment.

Structure Preference to Boost Productivity

Understanding your structure preference will help you leverage your strengths and give you context to create systems that work for you.

The concept of Structure Preference grew out of my observations of successful clients over the past 20+ years.  Rooted in situational leadership theory, the same principles apply to organization and productivity. Connecting how you’re wired with how you work (and live) helps identify how much structure you need to be your most productive self. This is the crux of my soon to be published book, Productivity for How You’re Wired.

Why does structure preference matter?

  • It builds self-awareness and helps put in perspective why you are the way you are.
  • It shows you how to adjust a situation to make it fit you, rather than changing how you’re wired to fit a situation. (Think round peg/square hole or square peg/round hole!)

There are two elements to consider when determining Structure Preference:

  1. Priority Focus — how your brain prioritizes work.
  2. Situational Structure — the degree of structure in your work and life.

Individuals do their best work when their priority focus complements their situational structure.

  • Those with a propensity towards task focus excel in low and high structure settings.
  • Those with a propensity towards relationship focus thrive in moderate structure settings.

Your priority focus is inherent to who you are. While small tweaks to your priority focus may help a little, the power is in adjusting your situation to match who you are. Knowing you can adapt your structure to how you are wired is empowering. Understanding how to adapt your situational structure to your highest performing self is the game changer.

In Real Life:

The Covid pandemic did a number on many of my clients’ situational structures.

For those with a Relationship Priority Focus, losing a consistent work schedule, not having to physically be in meetings at specific times, and not traveling to and from the office moved them from moderate to low structure, which isn’t their best fit. By defining work starting and stopping times, creating a work–only zone, and implementing regular planning sessions, they were able to build in enough structure to move themselves back to their moderate structure sweet spot.

For those with Task Priority Focus, the change to routines, shifts in how work was done, and the inability to know what was coming next moved them from high to moderate structure. By identifying top priorities, scheduling team check–ins, and creating personal accountability systems, they were able to move themselves back to their high structure sweet spot.

Can you see how understanding your structure preference can help you be more productive?

Book News: I’m putting the finishing touches on my Book page and Amazon page now.  It’s not quite done but you can learn more here and look at the pre-order information here.  The paperback releases right after Labor Day! (That’s really soon!)  As I’ve learned, there is no pre-order on the paperback. You’ll have to wait until September 7th.  I am working on planning my Virtual Launch Party now.  I’ll share the launch party details with those of you who are receiving this Blog post in your email inbox. If you want to sign up to get on my list and be notified of the Launch Party details you can do that here.

 

The 5 Pillars of Productivity

A Note from Ellen: I’ve been working on a book. In the coming weeks I’ll be previewing snippets from the book on my blog. It’s important information I want to share. Today’s post is a summary of Chapter 1.  If you would like to learn more, I’ll post book updates here on the blog. It is exciting. Stay tuned! 

These 5 pillars of productivity are core to your productivity success. Whatever you learn, whatever you do, keep these in mind and build from here.

Productivity is a Quality of Life Issue

Productivity is a quality of life issue. When we don’t know what is important, we end up doing unimportant things. We spend our weekends thinking we’ll get work done, yet we’re exhausted and don’t. We end up more stressed and less effective come Monday morning, worried about the work we didn’t do. Finding a way to work better brings greater ease, peace, and happiness to both career and life.

One Size Does Not Fit All

Each of us is wired differently, and what works for one person absolutely may not work for someone else. Being willing to experiment and discover productivity solutions that fit YOU is essential. I discuss this pillar in depth in this post: Productivity That Fits How You’re Wired.

If It Isn’t EASY, It’s Too Hard

One of the biggest mistakes that people make when trying to improve their productivity is making their systems too complex. Too many steps and the systems are destined to fail. Too much time to learn the systems and more time is spent on the tool, with little time spent on the task itself.

Not All Work is Equally Important

Pareto’s principle, the 80/20 Rule, supports the concept that you can achieve 80% of the results in 20% of the time. Learning how and when to apply the 80/20 rule helps free up time for important things, in and out of work. Be deliberate in how you invest your time.

  • 20% of your work/clients contributes to 80% of your profits
  • 20% of your apps are used 80% of the time
  • 20% of your meeting time achieves 80% of decisions
  • 20% of your time yields 80% of the result

 Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan

Taking the time to plan is the secret sauce to productivity. If you think you don’t have time to plan, you don’t have time NOT to plan. Investing a little time for planning drives the shift from overwhelmed to productive.

The greatest benefit of planning may be the process of thinking things through. Winston Churchill may have been right when he said “Plans are worthless, planning is priceless.” Yes, sometimes plans go awry. However, things go much more awry without them.

  • Planning helps you stop worrying about missing a deadline or an opportunity.
  • Planning helps you to anticipate so surprises are minimized.
  • Planning helps you prioritize tasks moving you towards focused success.
  • Planning helps you use your time well. When you say yes to something off–plan, you are saying no to working on–plan.