In Change, Focus, Leaders

“Productivity is being able to do things you were never able to do before.” – Franz Kafka

Advance apology – the title of this post is misleading. I don’t think there really is one key to productivity. If there really was just one, and I knew it, I’d have already written my book, sold millions of copies, and I’d be writing this from my private island in the Caribbean.

Regardless of the potential solutions, productivity is a huge issue facing all of us. I have yet to meet anyone anywhere who doesn’t wish they could be more productive. Leaders of organizations not only try to make themselves more productive, they also are trying to get groups (sometimes very large groups) of other people to be more productive as a team, in concert with one another.

I know a lot of people who spend time working on to-do lists, or Must-Should-Could lists, or lock themselves in their offices for some quiet time, or any other number of ‘time management’ techniques. All of them in the name of being more productive. And all of those things have some value.

But think about something a little different than the traditional ideas. Think about clarity. These days we have what feels like a million things coming at us. Somehow we (and the people who work for us) have to figure out what to spend our time and energy on. For that, you need clarity.

What’s the most important role you play? Notice I didn’t ask what your most important task was. But what’s your most important role? Getting the right people in the rights seats on the bus? Strategy development? Keeping everyone focused on the vision? There are any number of things it could be. Whatever it is, make sure you use it as a filter for your day.

When you have 50 emails and a desk piled high with things that are all supposedly urgent, ask yourself: What’s my key role in this organization? What is the most important thing I bring? Then focus on that. You’d be surprised what you spend time on that probably doesn’t need to be done at all.

As a leader, you have to ask yourself this question: Do my people know what their most important role is? They’re struggling to prioritize and focus just like you are. How can they possibly get it together if they don’t know what’s most valued from them? Tell them what you need most of all, and tell them early and often.

This isn’t a magic bullet, and even if you have clarity about your role you still have to execute. But so often we get bogged down in things that don’t matter and we forget what our real purpose is. Don’t lose sight of why you’re in your role. That clarity can make all the difference.

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