important work
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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important work Tag

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.

overcoming procrastination

I’ve been hearing a lot lately about people struggling with procrastination. The pandemic has taken a lot out of us, and we are all a bit worn down. When we put off doing what we “need” to do it makes us feel undisciplined and lazy.  The self-compassion experts tell us that just makes things worse.

Instead of beating yourself up, it is much more effective to figure out why you procrastinate. Then you can take positive action to overcome the obstacle. Procrastination is typically NOT about discipline!  When the system is right and you understand what is happening then it takes much less willpower to move into action.

Procrastination Strategies

If simply intending to do the task worked, you wouldn’t be reading this. There are a number of less-typical strategies you can try to see what will help YOU blow through YOUR procrastination obstacles.

Figure Out Why You Procrastinate – There are many reasons people procrastinate. Figuring out your reason(s) is the first step to overcoming them.  Is it self-doubt or do you just need more information?  Do you need more time for the information to percolate in your head, or do you simply need the stress of the deadline to activate?  Are you unclear if the task is important? Or do you just hate doing it?  Understanding the cause of our individual brands of perfectionism helps us move into action.

Make the First Step Small – focus on getting started. Don’t worry about finishing. Set one mini-goal to get you to sit down and start.

Trick Your Brain – Start with an easy task to stimulate your brain. Take advantage of the “pleasure seeking” chemicals and as soon as you finish the easy/fun task move to one of the “harder to complete” tasks.

Identity Motivation –Use a character trait you like about yourself to help you activate. i.e. – I am a learner, I have perseverance, I am a problem-solver. Then ask:

  1. What kind of situation is this?
  2. Who am I?
  3. What does someone like me do in a situation like this? If you consider yourself to be thoughtful – then you’ll ask yourself – what does a thoughtful person do in a situation like this? If you consider yourself to be a problem solver then you’ll ask yourself – what would a problem solver do in a situation like this?

Body Doubling – Body Doubling is having a partner share your space to help keep you on task. They don’t need to do anything in particular. Their very presence helps move you to action.

  • Meet a friend at the coffee shop and work on your “hard” project alone – together.
  • Meet a colleague in the conference room and set your Pomodoro timer.
  • Ask a family member to sit with you while you are getting started.
  • Hire a NAPO Professional Organizer or other consultant to work on your project with you

Change Location – A unfamiliar space can provide just enough stimulation your brain needs to move into action. Weather permitting try working outside, a new coffee shop, or even a new location at work or home. Simply changing chairs at your kitchen table may be enough to shift how your brain is processing the environment.

Freak Yourself Out – Creating controlled stress can help. Make a list of the top 3 consequences of not doing this project. Now make another list – top 3 consequences of not doing this project on time. Not failing can help move you into action.


This is a combo repeat blog post with information from Chapter 4 of my new book Productivity for How You’re Wired available on Amazon.  Next post we’ll look at the burden of procrastination.

Working HybridIt seems we just got used to working at home and now we are returning to the office in some way. Today’s workforce is everything but stationary.

Productivity in the hybrid work environment focuses on mobility and flexibility. Your office is in your work bag. The goal is to work effectively regardless of location. Leveraging the benefits of this new work paradigm means looking at productivity differently.

Acknowledge the Difference

  • Time in the office can be energizing and inspiring. Take advantage of the lift you get when you’re with others, understanding that effectiveness improves with a change of pace and environment.
  • Child care and family obligations shift. Going to work provides a much-needed break. The flexibility enables you to be better in each situation.
  • Self-care continues to be important. Taking time for a walking meeting or planning an exercise break with colleagues helps to maximize the time. Leaders are on the lookout for ideas to support the new normal. Tell them what you need.
  • Planning your start and stop times in the office is helpful to helping you create routine and provides markers to keep you on task and effective.

Uplevel Communication

  • Hold planning meetings with your family or roommates. While regular review of work schedules and obligations is always helpful, holding regular planning meetings when one or many are working from home and hybrid is especially valuable.
  • Communicate goals and deadlines. Understanding expectations helps all parties manage deadlines and avoid stressful last-minute time crunches. Share a work-plan that identifies steps, deadlines, and areas of responsibility.
  • Leaders should consider no meeting days to encourage people to come to the office on meeting days, and support focused work time on WFH days.

Redefine Meeting Etiquette

Meetings in which some participants are in the room and others are on video chat present their own challenges. Identifying these challenges and creating new agreements to support them ensures all participants are treated fairly.

  • Those in the room can read non-verbal cues more easily than those on video. Meeting leaders should create extra space for clarifying questions and priorities.
  • Side conversations exclude those not in the room. While they are always annoying, during hybrid meetings they are especially detrimental.
  • Sometimes new ideas come after the meeting when in-person participants are still in the room. Be sure to include any post-meeting comments and actions in the meeting notes and create time to discuss at the next meeting.

Plan Work Strategically

With less structure it is even more important to build in supports to boost your productivity.

  • Weekly Planning: Identify which tasks are most effective doing at home and which are most effective doing at the office. When doing your weekly planning, block out specific tasks for the place they are most effectively performed.
  • Home is best for project, quantitative and focused work.
  • Office is best for meetings, small group work, creative problem solving and planning/
  • Task Management: When working hybrid, you’ll want to add in the variable of where you are doing the work. You can adjust your task list by dividing your list into HOME and OFFICE subsections.
    • Each day, write out a physical list of the most important things you intend to accomplish for the day.
    • Be deliberate and identify what’s possible to do for the day depending on other commitments and amount of time the identified tasks will take.
    • Build in time when at the office for conversation and walking to meetings.
    • Build in time at home for taking care of the kids/pets and household chores you’re squeezing in.

Create Parallel Work Spaces

Boosting productivity in the office is dependent on your particular work set up.

  • If you have an office, focus on creating an easy transition between work and home. Create parallel equipment set ups; two monitors, a wireless keyboard and mouse in both locations so all you have to do is plug your laptop in and start working.
  • If you have an open seating arrangement, follow the above noted recommendations AND work to find your best space at the office.
    • Don’t pick the center cubical. Instead choose a space at the end of the row so you aren’t between two people that can be distracting.
    • Be mindful of the person with the bellowing voice and move as far away as possible.
    • Sign up for conference room space. Work whenever you can with a door.
  • If you have a permanent desk assignment follow both guidelines above. If it is too hard to concentrate in your assigned space, explain to your manager that your productivity is compromised and work to find a better arrangement. Chances are they’d rather have you in the office some of the time than have you working at home all of the time. See if they will work with you to come up with a better solution.

Take Care of Yourself

Working hybrid blurs the lines between work and home. Consider new ways to refuel and reenergize to create conditions to do your most productive work.

  • Differentiating between work time and non-work time can help you to move from the working-all-the-time mindset and help you create the space to give your mind and body necessary recharge and renewal time.
  • ESQ – Exercise, sleep and quiet are your secret weapons. If these basics aren’t in place everything else will be harder.
    • Sleep – When working hybrid, staying on the same sleep schedule for office and home days will help your body acclimate more easily. An added bonus would be on WFH days using your extra commute time for self-care and starting your work day at the same time.
    • Exercise – Walking, working out, doing quick burst exercises all can help your brain work better. If you’re stuck and can’t get started with your work, move your body.
    • Quiet – Research indicates that downtime improves creative thought, problem solving, and replenishes work mojo. Meditation, reading, playing games all help soothe the mind so when you work you are more focused.
  • Take advantage of being able to go to the office. Don’t automatically think you don’t need to be there. As social beings’ connectedness and sense of belonging is an inherent need. It’s hard to motivate when you don’t feel connected.

Working hybrid brings more complexities. If we can structure our work and our time effectively, the hybrid model – working from home for focused work time AND going to the office to collaborate and connect, is the best of both worlds.

overcoming procrastination

I’ve been hearing a lot lately about people struggling with procrastination. The pandemic has taken a lot out of us, and we are all a bit worn down. When we put off doing what we “need” to do it makes us feel undisciplined and lazy.  The self-compassion experts tell us that just makes things worse.

Instead of beating yourself up, it is much more effective to figure out why you procrastinate. Then you can take positive action to overcome the obstacle. Procrastination is typically NOT about discipline!  When the system is right and you understand what is happening then it takes much less willpower to move into action.

Procrastination Strategies

If simply intending to do the task worked, you wouldn’t be reading this. There are a number of less-typical strategies you can try to see what will help YOU blow through YOUR procrastination obstacles.

Figure Out Why You Procrastinate – There are many reasons people procrastinate. Figuring out your reason(s) is the first step to overcoming them.  Is it self-doubt or do you just need more information?  Do you need more time for the information to percolate in your head, or do you simply need the stress of the deadline to activate?  Are you unclear if the task is important? Or do you just hate doing it?  Understanding the cause of our individual brands of perfectionism helps us move into action.

Make the First Step Small – focus on getting started. Don’t worry about finishing. Set one mini-goal to get you to sit down and start.

Trick Your Brain – Start with an easy task to stimulate your brain. Take advantage of the “pleasure seeking” chemicals and as soon as you finish the easy/fun task move to one of the “harder to complete” tasks.

Identity Motivation –Use a character trait you like about yourself to help you activate. i.e. – I am a learner, I have perseverance, I am a problem-solver. Then ask:

  1. What kind of situation is this?
  2. Who am I?
  3. What does someone like me do in a situation like this? If you consider yourself to be thoughtful – then you’ll ask yourself – what does a thoughtful person do in a situation like this? If you consider yourself to be a problem solver then you’ll ask yourself – what would a problem solver do in a situation like this?

Body Doubling – Body Doubling is having a partner share your space to help keep you on task. They don’t need to do anything in particular. Their very presence helps move you to action.

  • Meet a friend at the coffee shop and work on your “hard” project alone – together.
  • Meet a colleague in the conference room and set your Pomodoro timer.
  • Ask a family member to sit with you while you are getting started.
  • Hire a NAPO Professional Organizer or other consultant to work on your project with you

Change Location – A unfamiliar space can provide just enough stimulation your brain needs to move into action. Weather permitting try working outside, a new coffee shop, or even a new location at work or home. Simply changing chairs at your kitchen table may be enough to shift how your brain is processing the environment.

Freak Yourself Out – Creating controlled stress can help. Make a list of the top 3 consequences of not doing this project. Now make another list – top 3 consequences of not doing this project on time. Not failing can help move you into action.

 

What’s the difference between a Productivity Coach and a Time Management Coach?This question is a thing.  And I don’t want it to keep you from getting the support you need, so I will share with you my thoughts about what I think the difference is.

Really nothing, and perhaps everything.  Time is fixed and finite.  We all get 168 hours each week and no matter what we do we can’t change that.  It is how we spend that time that that we can control.  Both a Time Management Coach and a Productivity Coach can help you build supports and systems to help you maximize the time you have.

It doesn’t quite matter what a coach calls themselves. A good coach is going to work with you to come up with solutions to the issues you bring. And while you may think the goal is to improve your work productivity – that’s not all. While clients call with the goal to improve things at work, what they really want is to have time, energy, and focus for things other than work. As a coach I work with my clients to routinize the less unique aspects of their work and life so they both do their best work AND enjoy their time not working.

Some of the things I focus on as a productivity coach is helping clients do their work effectively and efficiently.  Common outcomes include:

  • Putting systems in place to control what’s controllable. This results in less stress about work and more focus to do the work
  • Making time off count. The only thing worse than working all weekend is not working, yet not relaxing because of the worry of what’s not done
  • Identifying and doing the work that matters, to the right degree of excellence (not beyond)

Yes, these outcomes are all about how you spend your time.  And while our focus is on productivity, it’s productivity around your time.  If your struggling with stress around your tasks and the pressures of your life, you may want to seek out support from a Productivity Coach or Time Management Coach.  As “they” say, I don’t care what you call me…just call me!