Are You Too Busy to Be Productive?
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Let's be frank - if you own or even work for a company,
then your primary goal is to make money. Period. You may have secondary
goals to serve the interests of your customers, employees, and be
a good corporate citizen, but your number one priority is strictly
return on investment. Profit.
When I speak at conventions and meetings on how to
boost profits through customer retention, I often find that business
owners and managers don't have their priorities straight. The result
is they lose customer loyalty, face increasing operating costs, scramble
to replace staff turnover, and struggle just to keep up to the competition.
They may work hard and think positively, but their impact is marginal.
On the other hand, by simply realigning their priorities
owners and managers can lead their company or department in a way
that builds customer and staff loyalty, reduces operating costs, makes
more money, and serves as a model corporate citizen. You won't have
to work any harder; just smarter. To find out how, answer the following
questions according to your current practices. Then read the accompanying
suggestion for the best way to optimize your time and effectiveness.
What is normally your first task
of the day?
a) returning phone calls
b) administrative paperwork
c) work on strategic projects
d) dealing with customers
e) responding to employee requests
Your first priority of the day should be c) working
on strategic projects designed to prevent problems and increase profits.
Typically however, managers put off strategic work to do other work
that has a deadline. They confuse urgency with importance.
It's always easy to put off work that's strategic in
nature because the deadline is usually non-existent or not urgent,
and strategic work requires something many of us prefer to avoid -
thinking. The problem is that if you continually put off projects
designed to increase profits or reduce problems, then you end up having
more crises to deal with. So you get caught in the vicious cycle of
Doing strategic projects for the first hour or 90 minutes
of your day puts you in proactive mindset. Even though crises may
spring up during the day, at least you have the comfort of knowing
you're doing something to prevent these problems from reoccurring.
In other words, doing strategic project work gives you a sense of
control and a feeling that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
When I speak at seminars about the hour and a half
of uninterrupted strategic project work, I often hear a chorus of
protests from the audience. People talk about the emergencies that
require their attention. The truth is, unless you work in emergency
services, there is almost no problem or "crisis" or customer
request that can't be handled by someone else in the organization,
or wait a mere hour and a half for your personal attention. Realistically,
you'll accomplish more in that hour and a half of strategic project
work than the other seven hours of crisis management combined.
Of your major project work, which
do you typically work on first?
a) the one with the most pressing deadline
b) the one that's the easiest to do quickly
c) the one that will generate the most profits over the long term
Obviously, you should work on c) the project that will
generate the most profits over the long term. That's what you're in
business for. Ironically, most owners and managers don't do it. They
react to deadlines - submitting to the tyranny of the urgent. It's
fine to work on projects with urgent deadlines, but at least spend
the first hour on the long term profit project, then work on the other
projects with the urgent deadlines.
Administrative activities are
some of the most important tasks as a manager
Answer: b) false. Adminis-trivia is the day-to-day
organizing of money (cash flow) manpower (scheduling) and machinery
(inventory). It's the tedious, mindless reporting and paperwork that
simply has to be done. And it's the lowest form of work for any manager.
It should be automated, delegated or outsourced. If you are doing
this work yourself, you are a clerk - not a leader.
The path of least resistance
The problem is that adminis-trivia is seductive because
it's easy to do and it usually has a deadline. Ditto for dealing with
customer requests that should be handled by your employees. They are
paths of least resistance. Long term strategic project work, on the
other hand, requires concentration, vision, and rarely has an immediate
deadline. A classic example is developing an ongoing staff-training
program. You can put it off indefinitely and still look busy doing
paperwork. The consequences are that the rest of your day is spent
in crises management because your front line staff isn't properly
The bottom line is that to be an effective manager,
you don't have to be the most intelligent, the most enthusiastic,
or even the hardest worker. You simple need to learn how to organize
your working day so that you're less busy and more productive.
Editor's Note: From Influence with Ease®, copyright
by syndicated columnist, business owner, and international speaker,
Jeff Mowatt. For more information, visit www.jeffmowatt.com or call
(800) JMowatt (566-9288).
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