Who doesn’t want to manage their time better? Every busy executive at one point or another has been seduced by time-management tricks or tools that promise huge productivity gains. In the book, Work Simply: Embracing the Power of Your Personal Productivity Style, author Carson Tate shares more on how a personal productivity style works better for you.
The problem with these approaches is they’re often one-size-fits-all solutions – which means they’re not much of a solution at all. Such tools don’t take into account that each person uses her time differently, and therefore needs an individual solution to manage time more effectively.
Have you ever been told you’re a “left-brained” or “right-brained” thinker? If so, you already know what’s wrong with so many time management and productivity theories. These tools think that “one size fits all.” So just make more lists, they say, and you’ll improve.
Yet everyone has their own way of working, and what helps one person be more productive could be counterproductive to another. That’s why the most effective way to start working better is to examine yourself and approach your work in a fashion that fits your personality.
This is where the productivity style assessment can help. A productivity style assessment is a test that is based on the findings of General Electric’s long-time manager of management education, Ned Herrmann. It examines how the brain perceives, processes, comprehends, manages and communicates information. In other words, a productivity style assessment explains how people work!
While there are many different personalities, Hermann’s model offers four particular styles as a guide to start your assessment. Which style are you?
The first is the prioritizer. She’s efficient with her time and uses data, thoughtful analysis and logic to approach and solve problems. At work, she prioritizes the most important tasks and is annoyed when colleagues chatter while there’s work to be done.
The second is the planner. He loves making lists, organizing data and doing things in a particular order. When he gets to work, he reviews his schedule and shakes his head at some last-minute project his more unorganized colleagues are scrambling to finish.
The third is the arranger, who relies on his instinct to make decisions. He works well with others, and enjoys presenting information visually, as in a colorful flowchart. His main concern: “How will this decision make people feel?”
And last, there’s the visualizer, who can walk into a heated discussion and find a way to reorganize all the key points that solves everyone’s problems. When making decisions, she hates being dragged down by data, but will gather everyone’s input and synthesize it into something new – even if it’s contrary to “the way it’s always been done.”
Once you understand that you can control your present and your future, it’s time to act! The best way to do this is to think differently about how you approach time management.
The thing is, time is not actually manageable. We cannot make time bend to our rules. It is, however, our most important resource. This is what professor Randy Pausch emphasized in his famous 2007 talk and book, The Last Lecture. Pausch was suffering from terminal cancer and as part of his talk, told his students that while earning more money is often achievable, earning more time is not.
Consider, then, what your time budget might look like. To deal with the challenge of time, you should plan your activities daily, weekly and monthly, so you can spend your time in the most efficient way possible. It also helps to write a master task list.
A master task list contains all the things you need to do to accomplish your goals. When you have done this, organize these things into two categories: project actions and next actions. Project actions are overarching tasks that require smaller action steps, and can take days or months to finish, such as reorganizing your kitchen or planning an off-site workshop.
A next action is a single step, something that moves you forward. These should be listed starting with an action verb, for example: Call Adam. Or perhaps: Revise speech. The point of a master task list is to release you from the burden of keeping the innumerable amount of tasks you want to complete swimming in your head all at the same time. Noting everything you need to do – socially and professionally – gives you a chance to act and enables you to rethink and revise any future actions.
Ever feel as if you can’t make yourself pay proper attention? It’s vital that you harness this skill, as what you pay attention to has a significant impact on your productivity and your happiness.
Check out my related post: How to have disciplined pursuit of less?