Productivity at work is a big thing these days and most of the people who ask for business coaching end up using the word sooner than later. Days are too short, time passes too quickly, and people typically struggle with never-ending to-do lists which drive them crazy on top of being largely unproductive. So, what can we do?
In our experience, business coaching is a method rather than a solution, so when dealing with productivity crises we rapidly know what is the tip of the iceberg and what’s not.
In most cases, as a matter of fact, the problem that people face when they struggle with productivity is not the right one. They look for a quick fix, but in reality, the roots of the problem are so deep that the only way for them to become more productive is to completely review the way they approach things. Whether that’s the work they do, their methods, and their goals.
5 Business Coaching Tips for Productivity at Work.
Productivity at work can be a matter of process, but there’s more.
What we mean here is rather simple: the point with productivity is not just to try and do more. Like it or not, but productivity at work is not just a matter of optimizing social media and email marketing with automation tools and processes. And productivity at work is not a matter of achieving more with less time and work either.
We go against the flow here, and what we’re about to write goes against what many business experts say out there. But the reality is that things don’t just work like that.
Now, of course, automation can help with being more productive, don’t get us wrong. But the point is not just to do more. When it comes to productivity, the point is to reconsider how things work, why they work the way they work, and whether the whole thing (the time and the energy you put into what you do) delivers the right type of results.
Now, if you’re reading this article chances are that you are looking for practical tips as to what you could do, so let’s dig into the topic with five tips borrowed from business coaching methodologies.
Business Coaching Tip 1: Set goals.
A key exercise when it comes to business coaching is to help people realize that to obtain better results the starting point is always to set very clear goals. The point sounds silly to you? Well, some people see the interest of setting goals much faster than others, so please bear with us and think about it anyway. Things will make sense as you read along, we promise.
But let us ask you a couple of questions, to start with. Think about it. When was the last time you took a moment to set (i.e. define and write) some specific goals for yourself? A while ago? And when was the last time you took some time to do the same for your business? Ahem, right?
In our experience, most people never think about setting goals for themselves. They go with the flow, they “get shit done” and they move on to their next task, but they don’t care about goals. Yet, everybody talks about results and KPIs, right?
Long-term goals give you a direction.
Skeptic or not, the point is that setting goals – especially long-term goals – is a key tool in business coaching because it gives you a good opportunity to start thinking ahead.
Those who set long-term goals for themselves have a direction they can follow as time goes. The goals act like a GPS, if you will, and they give you a strong perspective as to what you need to focus on as time passes by.
Long-term goals help with defining short-term priorities.
The good news is, defining long-term goals also help with clarifying short-term priorities.
For instance, knowing what you want to achieve in three years gives you a good framework for putting in place your goals for this year. And, in turn, knowing what you want to achieve by the end of the year gives you a robust framework to put in place your agenda for the next quarter, the one after that, so forth and so on.
Of course, the difficulty becomes to define the quarter goals and to implement – business coaching clearly helps with that, among other things – but the basis is there.
Business Coaching Tip 2: Reconsider the way you use time.
The second business coaching tip when it comes to productivity improvement is to reconsider the way you use time.
When people talk about being more productive, their idea is often that they want to do more things in less time, as if quantity mattered most. But here is the thing: what if the point of being productive was to produce quality?
Quantity vs quality.
If being productive is a challenge for you, start with the idea that maybe quantity is not the same as quality. Think about it for a minute… If you’ve read the previous paragraph on the importance of setting goals for yourself and your business, what do you think matches your would-be annual goals best? Quality, indeed.
Why? because the point with productivity improvement is to adapt your working style to obtain qualitative results (doing this or that, with a clearly defined result in the end) rather than starting many fires which won’t be manageable down the road.
In line with this, business coaching sessions often lead to challenging people on their perception of what is urgent and what is important. Oftentimes, in our experience, people live by their to-do list and they accumulate tasks.
This needs to be done, and that needs to be done. But I also need to answer that email and, oh, damn, my phone is ringing… Does that ring a bell? Of course, it does, because everybody has experienced that type of situation in their life.
Now, it doesn’t mean that you should stop everything until a project is finished. In fact, some suggest that shifting from one occupation to another every once in a while can help with focus and creativity. Yet, being interrupted all the time and managing multiple tasks at the same time is usually a good way to achieve very little. Yet the point here is to increase your productivity at work.
The point is far more significant than it seems. It can save you a lot of time, energy and resources. So think about it!
Stop being available all the time.
We just mentioned the difficulty of managing everything at once, including emails and phone calls when you are actually trying to finish that very difficult thing you’re doing right now. You see our point here, right?
Well, in our business coaching experience, a good way to achieve more qualitative results can be to stop making yourself available for everyone.
Decide to turn off your phone, decide to close Facebook while you’re working, decide to check your emails later (twice a day is usually more than enough), and you will see how focused you can become.
And yes. We know what you’re probably thinking right now – all our clients have the same reaction so you are totally normal. But the truth is that once you try making time for yourself instead of solving everyone’s problems first, you will notice a major change. Things will get done faster, and the important will be done more easily than if you just keep focusing on the urgent.
Business Coaching Tip 3: Ditch the to-do list.
The third big idea here is very simple: your to-do lists are bad for what you have. So? Ditch them!
To-do lists are a major topic in our business coaching sessions for two reasons. One, everybody uses them. Two, in our experience those who focus on making their to-do lists happy end-up focusing on the wrong things.
To-do lists make you focus on the wrong things.
Every business coach will tell you the same – to-do lists make you focus on the wrong things. When your attention is set on finishing a report and then another one and then another one, what happens is that you play firefighters. You manage one project after another and you keep focusing on the urgent when in reality your job as an entrepreneur is to think in terms of long-term development, vision, priorities, and implementation.
So? Well, we can’t make it easier than that: focusing on to-dos is getting you into a wall that you won’t see coming. Period.
Business Coaching Tip 4: Organize your time.
The next step is to organize your time. To do that, here come three typical exercises: set your priorities, allocate time, and design a typical week you can stick to.
Set your priorities.
The only alternative to to-do lists is to set your priorities right and to build a smart strategic priority list. Priority lists are not to-do lists, however, because in contrast with the later they don’t focus on the urgent but on the important.
Said differently, priority lists are supposed to be short – three-four items a week tops! – because their purpose is to help you focus on those major tasks which absolutely need to be done from a strategic perspective if your quarterly and yearly goals are to be met. Can you see the difference?
Another point that we have in mind when it comes to this article on business coaching for productivity at work is that you should learn to allocate time for yourself. In your diary, we mean.
Think about it. When was the last time you booked a slot with yourself in your diary? Do you have a business partner? Very well. When was the last time the two of you actually had time to talk about the strategic developments of your business? Either way, was that special and strategic moment recurrent? Probably not, and that’s where you reach a glass ceiling.
Design your typical week (seriously).
The best way to allocate time is to design your typical week. For real. No kidding!
Take a basic calendar and use colors to mark down the type of tasks that have kept you busy last week. Some commuting, some accountancy, some admin, some R&D, some sales, some marketing. Blocks of color everywhere, red lines to mark phone calls and email breaks, not to forget the coffee one. What you see is what you get.
The next step is simple: regroup, re-arrange, and design the week you want to have. Then, put the blocks on your agenda and stick to it!
The logic is simple here. Productivity is a matter of organizing yourself to reach qualitative benchmarks and milestones, beyond just quantity. Hence, your ability to allocate some time to figure out what works and what doesn’t work from a strategic perspective is key.
Business Coaching Tip 5: Decide to decide.
In our experience, business coaching sessions are always limited by one major thing, i.e. the willingness of the client to realize – and most importantly accept – that things are the way they are for a reason, and that making a decision is the first thing. Without a decision to change and without a decision to act, now, for good, nothing happens.
Let’s be honest here. Deciding to change is the most difficult part of the process, especially for the client. In reality, though, the difference does not depend on the business coach, it only depends on whether the client is willing and ready.
When the client is ready to change, the next difficulty is to accept that things will take a little bit of time. We use business coaching methods with all our clients, and all of them – yes, all of them – react the same way. At first, they smile. As if not answering emails as they come could make a difference, and as if drawing a silly typical week could help.
Except that these points touch the core of your business organization. They help with rationalizing what you do, why you do it and when you do it, and the only thing it takes to improve is a decision from you to decide. Really.
Bottom Line: realize that productivity at work isn’t about quantity.
The bottom line of this article is very straightforward: a basic rule of business coaching is that you should realize (and decide to accept) that productivity at work isn’t about quantity.
Said differently? Well, trying to solve productivity issues with just automated processes and time-savers is illusory and totally ill-suited. Ultimately, there is much more to productivity than processes and diary-stuffing. But unlocking the potential requires a lot of work, a strong dose of decision-making, and a willingness to revise how things work – starting from the roots.
At the end of the day, Business Karma will decide what happens to your business. That’s for sure. But whatever happens two years from now is conditioned by something which was provoked in the past, and by all the things we fail to put into place. Hence the decision to change and make things work for you is totally yours. Between you and us, most people never make that decision because, well, they never thought about it. But now that you know, you have no excuse. If you need help, though, get in touch!