Whatever the size of your company I’d make a pretty safe bet that you are busy. That ‘busy-ness’ could take a number of forms such as working on direct deliverables, projects, planning and strategizing, research and others. Whatever is occupying your time, I’ll make another bet that there are several things you could be doing and probably each of them is getting some of your attention.
I’ve certainly been in this position though many periods and executives in companies I’ve worked with have this challenge too. There are always many potential things we could work on but here’s the snag, trying to work on more than one is a mistake.
In years gone by, I’ve had to push various friends’ cars – and my own – when they’ve broken down or run out of fuel…I would consider myself to be reasonably fit but there’s no way I could push two!
I immediately divide my strength by 50%. That’s what we do in trying to accomplish two important projects. Either they both take twice as long or they get done 50% less effectively or some mixture of both. Furthermore if you aspire to be a real “multi-tasker” you might think twice in the face of research, which says we lose an average of an hour per day in cumulative wasted time while switching between tasks. That’s one working month each year!
In focusing only on the most important priority it seems like we’re missing other opportunities but in reality humans vastly underestimate what we’re capable of over a long period, one major project at a time. On the flip side we frequently over commit in the short-term and then suffer great stress while trying to meet our own deadlines!
Here are three principles to help you achieve more:
1) Choose your priority carefully. Eli Goldrat wrote a great book called The Goal in which he proposed that efforts at improvement were only useful if they focused on the single biggest chokepoint in the enterprise. There is always one weakest link in a chain and efforts focused on a strong link are a waste of precious resources. So chose your priority carefully and focus on the chokepoint
(Former Apple CEO the late Steve Jobs learned the power of radical focus not at Apple but at Pixar. The entire company was focused around one single priority: Toy Story. And the rest, as they say, is history).
2) Give your priority focused effort each day. Research has shown that top musicians and athletes practice their key skill for about three hours per day. Not five or six, three. Jobs was also known for dedicating that amount of time to his most pressing priority whether it was the Apple retail store or the agreement with record labels to allow the purchase of single songs through iTunes (the chokepoint in the proliferation of the iPod).
3) Keep Score at least weekly where your team can see it. There’s a magical thing that happens when a team can see their score regularly (imagine sport without a score board). By the way changing the score on a monthly basis doesn’t have nearly the same effect as weekly.
There’s a truly magical word that will help you in your business, a word that will de-stress, excite, create momentum, enhance belief and so much more…the word is…done! Just say it to yourself, now and I bet it feels good! Contrast this to the familiar…nearly there, in progress, should be ready soon…!
So, chose the priority (singular), dedicate focused regular attention, get it done and move to the next. It’s amazing how much you’ll achieve.