On Being Productive

I’m not sure when the “self help” industry started and I’m not sure why it started when it did.

Today it’s easy to see why. People are overrun with tasks, deadlines and responsibilities. Not all of which are useful. Many of which could be dropped and no-one would notice.

My productivity journey began in 1996.

I’d just been appointed Human Resources and Sales Manager for a newly developed business unit in a bank. It was termed Direct Banking, where people would call in to have their home loans assessed over the phone. All common place today but back then, major change.

It was very exciting as we worked long hours, changing systems and processes on the go to make sure we kept up with demand and expectations. The adrenalin and achievement was like a drug. We couldn’t wait to get back to it each day.

My manager, a very crusty Welshman who demanded a lot, noticed I was a little chaotic in the midst of all this. He suggested I stop in at McDonalds first thing every day and plan my day.

“What I was going to do? What I was going to achieve?” That was it, nothing more.

I agreed with the idea and so my affair with productivity (and coffee*) commenced.

This small activity made a lot of difference. We had our business plan so referencing that I could easily determine my next actions and explain why if asked.

Three things happened:

  1. The day became a lot clearer and therefore more enjoyable.
  2. My team were also better led because I could give them better guidance and they achieved more.
  3. We began to get ahead of our plans and be ready for the “next thing” – we looked forward to the “next thing”.

Obvious in hindsight perhaps.

But sometimes all we need a small nudge and the world falls into place.

What I was doing at McDonalds was listing my 3 – 5 MITs (Most Important Things). They would be my focus for the day.

They helped me make decisions and guide me throughout the day. If I got distracted, back to the list: “What do I need to accomplish today?”

I then coached others on developing their own MITs.

The term MIT (Most Important Thing/s) is now productivity lore. But it was there all along. The rate of change just gets us bent out of shape sometimes and we can neglect ways a small but powerful activity, either first thing in the morning or last thing at night, can prepare us for the next day.

Q: Do you follow something like this? Do you do something different that is just as effective or more effective?

Let me know.

*Coffee – I’ve transitioned off McDonalds coffee mostly but back then, when it was free re-fills all day, and being on one income, it was a bit of a lifesaver at times. 🙂

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