It doesn’t matter if you have got too much business to cope with at the moment or if you are working hard to bring more in; the ruthless reality for most people right now is that it takes an awful lot more work to achieve the results we were used to pre crunch. Most of us are under pressure.

Control is critical to success

Control requires clarity. Clarity of purpose. Clarity around expectations and delivery on deadlines. Clarity on priorities. Clarity under pressure. As one CEO client said to me the other week when he booked our support for his Board and his Senior management Team ‘I have a good business model and a good team, it’s just that they are all operating on a ‘Just In Time’ model – and when you work with people as opposed to a production line ……………

 ‘Just in time is Just Too Late’.

It is my experience that most good people know what they need to achieve within a business, the difficulty lies in how they go about achieving it.

It is also my experience that many so called ‘Technological  Solutions’ to managing competing priorities only provide a partial, complex compromise on what you and I would know as working smarter not harder. Here I am thinking of all the high tech tools, either installed on our computers or accessed from the cloud that claim to be THE solution to individual and team productivity and effectiveness. Many, in my experience, only add another ‘To-Do List’ for us to interrogate.

So, technology itself is not the answer. The answer lies in welding time honoured principles and processes to the lightest use of technology so that people will use it well.

How many To-Do lists do you use?

It is not a trick question. It is serious. How many lists do you check physically or mentally in order to evaluate current priorities against incoming fire, whether in the guise of opportunities or threats?

Here’s a list. How many of these do you use?

  1. Board Minutes
  2. Management Team Action Points,
  3. Business Plans, Project Tasks etc, usually written in other software programmes
  4. Conference Call action points
  5. Lists in other workflow management programmes and technologies you may use
  6. Business Email Inbox and personal email account inbox(es)
  7. Commitments from various internal and external meetings in a day-book.
  8. Notes of promises and commitments from phone calls
  9. Saved Voicemail messages that require action
  10. Instant Messenger / Communicator / Social Media streams
  11. Notes to self, written in a variety of places (even on the back of other available papers? – Surely not!)
  12. MEMORY (Usually when you are trying to focus on some other work)
  13. MEMORY (Usually on the way home).
  14. MEMORY (Usually at 3 o’clock in the morning – accompanied by a cold sweat).

Here’s a second question:

How well do your To-Do lists integrate with each other?

How easy is it for you to see clearly the business impact of making one priority decision over another? To see, in front of your eyes – rather than in the back of your mind – the consequence of saying ‘Yes’ to one thing? To see how a delay in a scheduled activity will affect not only your delivery deadline but the time available for your colleague to do what they have to do before the work is finally delivered to the customer?

So, here’s 3 Productivity Pointers on To-Do Lists

  1. Use fewer tools and integrate them better.
  2. Think about your processes before you add another tool to your toolbox
  3. As much as possible bring all your priorities into one place so you can evaluate and execute them with greater clarity and control.

This is why I think it is so much better to leverage the power of existing tools like Microsoft Outlook, Lotus Notes and the other programmes you are already invested in, rather than buy add-ons or new packages.

A final thought:

Working smarter is all about clarity of purpose and simplicity of process, lets not overcomplicate it with too many tools.

If you would like to know how we help people to improve their productivity and effectiveness, both personally and as a team, why not call me or complete this request form so I can get back to you with some ideas. As always, if you have any views on this or want to contribute to the debate I’d love to hear from you below….