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In my last blog post I explained the importance of setting your goals and intentions, and we discussed why adding intentions was so important. In my book Productivity for How You’re Wired, I share 3 different models you can use to set goals and intentions based on your structure preference. You can create your own plan by following the steps below.  Definitely do the first 3 steps. Steps 4 and 5 are optional based on “how you’re wired.”

Step 1: Identify Focus Areas

Focus areas are the spaces in which you want to spend the time of your life. In a financial budget you’d have areas such as home expenses, utilities, clothing, food, and entertainment. For your life’s Focus Areas these may be business/work, professional development, personal growth, self–care, family, spirituality, friends/social, volunteerism, service, activism/advocacy.

Step 2: Set Goals and/or Intentions
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 “what is the purpose of doing these things” (the priorities.) The answer will bring the goal or intention into focus. Keep your goals and intentions concise and clear. They cue you to remember. They do not need to include ALL the details.

Step 3: Determine Strategic Priorities
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 so you understand what want to do, but not so much you can’t easily grasp the action.
  • When identifying your priorities, it is often helpful to prime the pump by ask yourself questions such as these:
    • What project, task or action is critical to my success/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? 

Step 4: Create your Mission/Purpose/Success Statement

This is your WHY, your driver, what motivates you in work and/or life. If you know your WHY, add it now. If not, it often comes into focus as you complete the rest of the map. This step is optional. Add it if it supports you. Your statement should inspire you:

  • Use words that will reinforce what is important to you.
  • Define what success means to you.

Step 5: Plan your Quarterly Tactics

If you thrive in high structure and you’re excited about having a full–blown, step–by–step quarterly plan, this last section is for you. However, if the thought of doing this last step sounds dreadful, you’re best to skip it.

  1. Think the project through.
  2. Now put the project elements in order. Consider what steps must come before the others. You’ll probably identify a couple of things you are missing. Add those in.
  3. Estimate the time you’ll expect to spend on this element. A good rule of thumb is to double your time estimate.
  4. Now plug the elements into your quarterly plan.

Start thinking about what matters to you.  Use a template from the book or design your own. What’s most important is that you take a bit of time to identify how you want to “spend” your time.


This is an excerpt from Chapter 7 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.

 

In my last post I introduced you to the Productivity Flow Framework featured in section 2 of my new book Productivity for How You’re Wired. Today we move to Chapter 7 where we explore the first concept of the framework – setting your goals and intentions.  Remember, the reason we do this is to clarify and commit to priorities – those things that take time yet YOU deem as most important.  

Many of my clients struggle to set priorities. When asked they simply aren’t sure about what is and isn’t important. Setting goals and intentions helps you clarify what is important – namely those things you want to achieve. Goals have a specific outcome. Intentions are more general and reflect how you wish to live. We look at how and why to integrate both into your plan.

Why 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 the value of this exercise.

Goals

A goal has a specific outcome: 

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

The business world embraces the acronym SMART to define the best practices of goal setting. 

  • SPECIFIC
  • MEASURABLE
  • ATTAINABLE
  • REALISTIC  
  • TIME–BOUND

A benefit of measurable goals is that they help define achievement. If you know you want to make $100K for a period of time, then you also know when you have attained that benchmark. This takes a bit of pressure off the workaholic, type A, never-enough driver. It helps them to know it’s actually okay to slow down. Goals are great for certain aspects of your work and life. They’re just not the complete picture. 

Intentions

An intention clarifies how you wish to live. 

  • I work smart and give 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.

Intentions speak to your inner-self and bring meaning to the things you do. They can be aspirational, motivating you without the pressure of measurement. Intentions help you find success as defined by you.

Consider SMART intentions:

  • SOUL–FOCUSED
  • MEANINGFUL
  • ASPIRATIONAL
  • REASONABLE  
  • TRANSFORMATIVE

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.

Success On Your Own Terms

When people think of success, most think dollars. However, when they clarify what success means to them, they typically find they are seeking something more holistic. The money part is more the vehicle to get to the life they want. 

Do you want to have time to take care of the kids or an aging family member and still have a career? What if you want to travel and still have your work? What if your success is defined by having time to give back to your community?

Success is not always about the money. Being intentional about what matters in the big picture of life helps keep you from falling into the trap of letting others define success for you.


This is an excerpt from Chapter 7 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.

Today’s post summarizes Section 2 of my new book Productivity for How You’re Wired. I will provide more detail in future posts but we’ll start here –  with  the 30,000 foot view.  

The Productivity Flow Framework provides you with tools and context to help you achieve your goals and intentions and become your most productive, successful, fulfilled self. 

  • It is strategic. You are creating your process to work more effectively. 
  • It is a framework. It provides you context to work within. 
  • It flows from tool to tool. Everything impacts everything else, and helps you find flow in work and life.
  • It is customizable to your structure preference and productivity style. It reflects you.

Think of it as a picture frame. It holds the picture. The picture is you.

Goals and Intention Setting

We identify goals and intentions to clarify what is truly important. If you aren’t clear, or if too many things matter, you end up spreading yourself so thin that you are on that proverbial treadmill and it is only with luck the right work gets done.

By taking the time to clarify and create your own strategic plan, you are laying the foundation for doing the work that improves your quality of work and your quality of life. 

Time Mapping  

A time map helps you create a vision of how you want to spend your time. Think of this like a vision board where you are creating a picture of something you aspire to, or a budget for how you want to use your time. 

  • It helps paint a vision of what you want your life to look like. 
  • It helps you take the time to think through, and plug in, the various priorities you’ve identified in your goal and intention setting exercise.
  • It helps you see if your expectations are realistic.

Essential Structures

Boundaries come to life as Essential Structures; what you need to say YES to and what you need to say NO to to be your best self. The Time Map gives us clues and from it we are able to create a concrete list of

  • Winning Conditions – the nonnegotiable choices you make that you want to become habits
  • Guardrails – the things you must say no to in order to do the kind of work you want to do and be the person you want to be.

Task Prioritization

This tool is more tactical and directly impacts your day-to-day work. The central concept to take away from this section is the importance of sequentially prioritizing your work based on your goals, intentions, and essential structures. Most to-do list tools organize tasks by day or date. This is different. Organizing tasks by priority ensures you are doing the right things at the right time.

Weekly and Daily Planning 

Weekly and Daily planning makes being productive much easier. You can function without planning; however, without a plan, you can’t maximize your time or be focused and strategic, and you won’t ever be sure you are successful. 

  • Planning helps you use your time for the things that have the greatest payoff — your high-value work.
  • Planning ensures you are set up to use your time to act on the things you’ve deemed most important.
  • Planning gives you benchmarks to reach so when you aren’t working you can actually relax. 

The Productivity Flow Framework helps you build a solid foundation. And with this foundation you can delve into the tactics that will help bring your current situation into alignment with your vision for work success and a better life. 

Think of the framework as you would a border of a puzzle, the frame that links everything together. Just like a puzzle, with perseverance, you’ll get the full picture. Taking responsibility for your productivity is something only you can do.


This is an excerpt from Chapter 6 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.

Have you ever wondered why that book on time management didn’t help?

What about that article espousing the top 5 things you must do each morning to have a productive day?

And how about that author who focuses on the one great thing you must do to be successful?

Have you thought “what’s wrong with me – that will never work?”

I have good news for you.  Productivity is not one size fits all.  These “experts” are talking about what works for them. They are sharing the secret to their success. They are not sharing the secrets to your success.  They are not considering your unique needs; your brain wiring based on your life experiences, your learning style, your body-clock, or your temperament.

How can they even imagine what will work for you?

The one thing I can tell you with absolute certainty, after spending the last 20 years helping clients get more organized and be more productive, is that what works for one person won’t necessarily work for another.  There are many right approaches.

The secret is in actually figuring out what the best “right approach” is for you.

We look for clues:

  • What has worked for you in the past?
  • What doesn’t work for you?
  • When have you felt most in control?

And then we create a strategy based on those clues. And we don’t stop there. We test the strategy.  I tell my clients to think of themselves as a science experiment.  We test and we tweak until we end up with a “best solution” that really fits.

Meet my client Margie (not her real name!) Margie has ADD and understands the value of exercise in keeping her brain functioning optimally.  She came to me wanting to create a structure so that she could get up each morning at 5 am and exercise before her work day began.  She had read that this was the one best thing she could do to manage her ADD; her doctor agreed.

However, Margie didn’t fit the norm. She worked from home, she liked to work at night, and often got her most important work done in the wee hours of the morning.  Margie hated mornings and hated exercise more.

I had this suspicion that exercising at 5 am wasn’t Margie’s best solution.

  • We discussed when she’d been successful exercising in the past (when her daughter was young and she’d drop her at preschool and exercised right after.)
  • We learned that having a time-driven deadline prior to exercising was helpful.
  • And we talked about how badly she felt about herself when she pressed the snooze button at 4:45 am and didn’t get out of bed, though she couldn’t really go back to sleep.

Alas, Margie wanted to try.  So, we did. However, I asked her to try 5 different times to exercise and to track her success.  This is what we learned:

Exercise Success   Time of Day  to Exercise # of workouts in one-week period  
Week 1  5 am  zero
Week 2  9 am 1
Week 3  Noon 1
Week 4  4 pm 3
Week 5  7 pm zero

Turns out 4 pm was Margie’s optimal workout time. She wanted to have dinner with her family at 6:30 pm.  Working out at 4 gave her time afterwards to shower and get dinner on the table. That time-driven deadline of a 6:30 pm dinner helped motivate Margie to get started exercising at 4 pm. She found the late-afternoon break refreshing and that she actually enjoyed her workout. And the extra couple of hours sleep in the morning was really helpful all around. When the system fit it was easy to implement and easy to stick with.

One-size did not fit Margie?  Does one-size fit you? Is there something you should rethink that might fit you better?  Try the following 5-step process to create your best solution:

  1. Look to the past for clues
  2. Create an experiment with different variables
  3. Test the variables
  4. Assess the results
  5. Pick your “best solution”

I’d love to hear what you learned.

improve efficiency

When I think of improving efficiency  I think of when I was in college and learned about the time and motion studies of the 1950’s.  I envision Lucy and Ethel wrapping chocolate on the production line.  And then I think that no one wants to live life with so much constraint that we are more machine than human.  However, so many of my clients tell me they want to be more efficient.

I am a big fan of putting rote tasks on autopilot so that our energy can be put towards creative process and enjoying life. I am embarrassed to tell you this, (but will because perhaps it might help,) but I’m always looking at how to do things in the fewest steps.

I will exemplify this with a task we all do – emptying the dishwasher. I’ve observed many people empty the dishwasher – I do it differently.  And I typically get it done in the time it takes to brew a couple cups of coffee.

  1. I work from the bottom up so that if water spills out of something it’s not going to get anything below it wet.
  2. I unload in groups –the silverware into my hand and then direct to the silverware drawer
  3. I place things on the counter at the location it will be put into
  4. I unload completely, then I put away. I’m only opening the drawer or cabinet once and I’m putting everything away at one time
  5. And I make it a game to see how fast I can do it. It’s fast and it’s done.

I waste not a moment on something as routine as unloading a dishwasher.

Now let’s apply that to our work.

  • How can I process my email as efficiently as possible?
  • How can I keep my to-do list as streamlined as possible?
  • How can I make my meetings as effective as possible?

I’ve blogged about all of this and I’ve linked the above questions to those posts.  What I’m addressing here however is how to create systems and processes to be most efficient, streamlined, and effective.

Creating efficient systems

  1. Notice it – recognize the opportunity. Don’t assume you can be efficient without thinking about how to be more efficient. Awareness is the first step!
  2. Analyze the steps. Is there a better, faster, more effective way to do something?  Can you eliminate, combine, or change the order of doing something.
  3. Do – Assess– Adjust. Try it out, practice, watch, question. Shift, try something else.  Keep modifying until you get it right.
  4. Practice and Repeat – use the system until it becomes routine and you don’t have to think about it. Watch your stopping and starting. Stick with a task until it’s done, or at least until there is a logical stopping point.

Sometimes having a productivity coach or organizing consultant helps. We work with our clients to help them develop the best ways to improve efficiency.

Welcome to the Productive Leader Blog 2.03 things productive leaders do

I’ve taken my own advice.  I set aside blogging and writing on personal productivity, and productively engaged in my volunteer leadership responsibilities. But I’m back.

Last week at the NAPO2019 National Conference, I was honored with the 2019 Founders’ Award – our industry’s top recognition for advancing our profession.  What a thrill. Gratifying and fulfilling, the Award acknowledged my 7-year service  on the NAPO Board(National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals) Board, including 2 years as their President.

And now it time to get back to the business of my business, and I’m excited to share my thoughts and ideas, with a clear focus, on supporting productive leaders.

Here’s what I know about being a productive leader – it is someone who:

  • Creates an engaging, positive, and psychologically safe environment so those they interact with can do their best work, …
  • and implements and supports practical systems so those they interact with can work most effectively, …
  • and exemplifies excellence by having and executing reasonable personal productivity habits.

Providing you with short, useful, and meaningful takeaways on leadership, team productivity, and personal productivity are my goals for the Productive Leader Blog.

So, stay tuned or unsubscribe as you see fit. As always, I welcome your questions, comments and thoughts.

Here’s to a thoughtful, fulfilling, and inspiring future.