What have you done today that either made you better, increased your efficiency, or put you in a better position to tackle the trials of tomorrow? Questions like these are true measures of how much you got done in a day, yet these types of questions are usually the the last things we ask when we are thinking about the productivity of our day. Ask almost anyone how there day at work was today and they will almost all tell you busy, yet how much time did they actually spend working versus the time they spent running around inefficiently trying to figure out what to do next?
There are two types of business that actually decrease our productivity and make us get less done: the first type of business is getting caught up in the “urgent” but not important tasks of day to day life, and the second is spending time doing only the most basic of tasks while neglecting spending time doing things like: planning, organizing, and brainstorming.
Too much time doing “urgent” but not important tasks.
When processing new tasks, there are basically four types of tasks that come up: not important and not urgent, important but not urgent, urgent but not important, and urgent and important. The majority of people spend their time doing things either not important and not urgent (checking facebook, surfing the web, playing video games), or urgent but not important (gossiping with co-workers about the new employee, listening to your friend complain about work for 30 minutes, checking the for new updates about the new Batman movie coming out) . We often have a strong urge to do these things right now, but they really offer little value to our daily productivity or long term progress.
How to make better use of your time: We should aim to spend more time of our life in the important but not urgent category: things like project planning, brainstorming new ideas, and problem solving are the types of things that get thrown to the wayside when we get busy, but often these are the things that create new idea, new passion, and increased work efficiency. Successful people (CEO types), often spend their time focusing on bigger picture/long term planning, and they let their secretary handle the smaller “urgent but not important tasks”.
Think about it this way:
Imagine yourself being given the task to move 6,000 lbs of rocks 1 block to another building. You can be “busy” by getting to work and moving as many stones, by hand, as you can carry for the rest of the day. Maybe you will get it done, and maybe you won’t, but you will definitely be busy and have sweat dripping off your brow when it’s all over.
Another person is given the same task, but this time they call up a friend with a big truck. They offer their friend a little bit of their pay for the job and together they load up the truck and in 4 separate 1 hour trips they are able to get the entire days work finished in about 4 hours. What could have taken you 16-24 hours to do manually on your own, someone else accomplished in just 4 hours with a teammate, the right equipment, and a little bit of planning.
Sure it took the other guy 30 minutes to call up his friend and wait for him to arrive, while you got started right away, but the time the other guy spent planning paid off exponentially as his capacity to get the work done was greatly increased with the plan he made up.
That is your work day in a nutshell, how much time are you spending grinding away at the manual labor, when a plan, a little help, and some brainstorming could save you even more time than you could imagine.
When we get “busy”, it’s hard to take a step back, look at the bigger picture, and make a plan, but not only will a good plan leave us feeling like we got more done than we could have without it, but it will save us time, energy, and help us get things done. So the next time you are running around like a chicken with its head cut off, stop and ask yourself this simple question: What can I do right now that will make be better equipped to do this work tomorrow and the day after?
It takes foresight to realize that keeping everything in working order, keeping things organized and primed for business will pay off exponentially in the future, but this trait is a necessity for successful leaders and businesses. So next time you are feeling “busy” get busy doing something that really matters, do something that will make the work easier and more productive next time, don’t just move for the sake of motion, move with a plan.