“Being busy is a form of laziness - lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.” ― Tim Ferriss
We’re always trying to be more productive at work.
Maybe we join the 4 am club. Declutter and organize our workstation. Try the Pomodoro technique. Use time blocking and to-do lists. Take frequent breaks, and a whole stream of productivity tips, hacks, and tools. Yet somehow, it seems like there’s so much to do and never enough time to do it.
What are we doing wrong?
To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with these productivity tactics and tools. These are all helpful for improving work performance. But we’re putting the cart before the horse. We’re prioritizing efficiency over effectiveness.
Become effective first. Then, work on being efficient.
Let’s explore how to be more effective at work.
Effectiveness Vs. Efficiency
“There is nothing quite so useless, as doing with great efficiency, something that should not be done at all.” - Peter Drucker
What does it mean to be effective? The answer lies in understanding its counterpart: efficiency.
The goal of efficiency is to maximize your output with the least amount of wasted effort. Do more, and do it fast. We know someone is focused on efficiency when they're "hustling."
Using a metaphor from Stephen Covey, this is like climbing up a ladder as fast as humanly possible. There’s just one problem: if the ladder isn’t leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.
Being effective doesn’t mean doing more things or doing them quicker. Effectiveness means doing important, high-impact work. Lean the ladder against the right wall.
So how do you determine which tasks are most important?
Three Steps For Being Effective At Work
In order to figure out what really matters, it’s crucial to think about value.
Whenever you take action towards your goals, you're voting for the type of person you want to be and what you care about. Eating nutritious food, for instance, reinforces your value for health and well-being.
So it’s important to have a clear picture of what we want, and why we want it. Your goals and values serve as a compass to help you make better decisions.
For us to be effective at work, we need to audit, design, and focus on what matters most. Here are three steps to accomplish this.
Step 1: Audit where you're spending your time
How are you spending your time every week? Each day?
Awareness is the first step towards being effective. Your personal and organizational values are reflected in how you spend your time. Spend a week monitoring the things you do. Keep a record of it. And stay curious as you observe.
As you're reviewing your time audit, notice if you can connect your weekly and day-to-day work tasks with your long-term organizational goals. Ask yourself:
- Am I clear on the long-term vision of my organization?
- Is it clear how my daily and weekly tasks serve this vision?
- Will these tasks help me achieve my organizational goals?
If you're not saying "yes" to all of these, we need to create a stronger vision.
Step 2: Create a clear organizational vision
You can only run your business on one operating system.
This is the philosophy Gino Wickman explains in his book Traction. One operating system, which he calls the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), establishes a bold vision, creates alignment, sets priorities, nurtures a positive culture, and empowers everyone to be productive.
One of the key components of EOS is creating a vision. In Wickman’s words, the envisioning process involves “getting everyone in the organization 100% on the same page with where your company is going and how you’re going to get there.”
This envisioning process will help you be more effective at work. Ideally, your entire organization embodies this vision, starting with your leadership team.
Here are 6 key facets of the EOS envisioning process. I’ve left out a few sections for clarity and brevity. For a more comprehensive breakdown, check out the book Traction.
Fill out the following information:
Core Values: 3-7 guiding principles that clarify the organizational culture. These are expected behaviors from your team and leadership. It defines what’s acceptable behavior, and what’s unacceptable.
Core Focus: Why does your organization exist? This is your niche, and reflects your company’s purpose and passions.
10-Year Target: Where do you see your organization in the next 10 years? This is “a long-range, energizing goal for the organization, ranging from five years to twenty years out.”
Three-Year Picture: This is a “definition of what your company will look like, feel like, and be like in three years.” Based on your 10 year vision, narrow it down to three years.
One-Year Plan: Narrow it down further, but let’s get more specific on organizational metrics. “Define your objectives for the year by identifying and crystallizing your revenue target, profit target, and measurables, along with your top three to seven goals for the year.”
Rocks: These are your quarterly goals. You’ll want to identify “the 3 to 7 most important things you must get done in the next 90 days.”
Once you’re clear on the above information, it’s much easier to be effective and manage your time.
Step 3: Make time for what’s most important
You’ve identified what actually matters. Whenever planning for your day and week, you’ll be much more empowered to make an good decision.
Review step #1 where you audited your time. What percentage of your weekly and daily tasks serve your vision?
You’ll likely see missed opportunities. List the tasks you should do—or not do—to fulfill the organization’s vision.
Now, the next step is to make time for these important activities.
As a busy professional, you’re likely bogged down by urgent tasks, endless meetings, and distractions. If you don’t create clear calendar boundaries, then your calendar will be untenable and full of people demanding your time.
So how do you solve this?
Block your availability in your calendar and use those time slots to work on tasks that will help you achieve your goals.
Undock is the control center where you can “undock” yourself from the busyness of the day.
Here’s how you can use our platform to proactively block your availability and free up time:
Step 1: Join Undock.com
Step 2: Visit your Settings > Preferences to list general availability
Step 3: Visit your Settings > Schedules to customize availability
Step 4: Select your preferred meeting availability
Block off time for a full today, or for a few hours. Set clear calendar boundaries and invest your time more meaningfully.
We can all be more effective by auditing our work habits and taking the time to think about what matters most.