The Path to Boost Workplace Productivity in 2015

By Kory Kogon co-author, The 5 Choices: The Path to Extraordinary Productivity (FranklinCovey, 2014)

FranklinCovey has been studying human productivity for more than 30 years surveying thousands of people, educating over 25 million people in the area of time management and productivity with over 100 million using our tools to enable the learning.

As we saw people becoming more and more overwhelmed in this fast changing digital, knowledge worker age, we conducted a six-year FranklinCovey study that included more than 350,000 respondents from all over the world.

Respondents indicated they are spending over 40 percent of their time on unimportant or irrelevant things, which results in their feeling overwhelmed, disillusioned, and demoralized.

Based upon our research, we do know that advances in technology have made it both easier and harder than ever to achieve extraordinary productivity. Technology has enabled wonderful things and it has also unleashed three key problems that are burying us:

  • We are making more decisions than ever before.
  • Our attention is under unprecedented attack.
  • We suffer from personal energy crises.

These are issues that leaders cannot ignore. The 5 Choices: The Path to Extraordinary Productivity solves the 21st century problems of decision, attention and energy management. It allows leaders to:

  • Create a company culture where their employees can self-orient around the highest priorities;
  • Self-select the activities that will generate the highest return against those priorities;
  • Self-deploy their finest attention around those activities, with people bringing their best selves to work.

Choice 1: Act On the Important, Don’t React to the Urgent

Our brain is wired to react to what feels “urgent” and it actually gives us a dopamine high when we react immediately to the urgent. We feel busy and productive in the moment, but then realize at the end of the day that we didn’t achieve anything that’s important.

The latest brain science shows that we can overcome “urgency addiction” by getting out of our “Reactive Brain” long enough to use our “Thinking Brain.” We can rewire our brains to “Pause, Clarify and Decide” what’s actually important, before acting on it. Then, we can make a conscious and intentional decision, as to whether or not it is worth our time and energy.

As a leader, encourage your team to create a “time matrix” of that which is urgent and important:

  • Ask yourself if something is urgent (phone ringing) and important (serious consequences if not handled).
  • If it is both urgent and important, act on it.
  • If it is urgent but not important — a distraction — set it aside.
  • If it is not urgent and not important — a waste of time — set it aside.
  • If it is not urgent and important, plan vigilantly to accomplish it before it becomes urgent.

Examine if your organization currently has a culture of “urgency” which leads to burnout versus true contribution. When everyone in your organization discerns and makes decisions based on the “time matrix,” your organization is well on its way to a culture of importance — a culture of productivity.

Choice 2: Go for Extraordinary, Don’t Settle for Ordinary.

Think about your few, most important roles in life today, not in the future, not in the past, but today.  Determine what success looks like and feels like in your roles by crafting “Role Statements” that articulate the outcomes and the essential activities or methods that would help you achieve the same.

As in the following example, finding the passion and purpose in your few, most important roles provides your brain with the framework and energy to make the highest-value decisions every day:

Role Statement:
(Role Title) As:
A leader
(Extraordinary Outcomes) I will: Build a team that pushes the boundaries of what is possible
(Activities) By: Ensuring clear processes that unleash not hinder the creativity of the team

Set the pace so that your workforce creates their role statements. This will provide measurable visions of success about which they  are excited, are important and not urgent, and that when accomplished personally and professionally, creates high engagement, work life balance and increased worker productivity.

Choice 3: Schedule the Big Rocks, Don’t Sort Gravel.

Honing decision-management skills is not enough. You must enable focused attention by following the 30/10 Promise. Take 30 minutes at the beginning of each week to utilize your “Thinking Brain.”

Review your role statements and decide what the most important tasks are to accomplish within your most important roles that week, and put them into your calendar. Take 10 minutes at the end of every day to mark things complete, move unfinished tasks to a new day and time, capture new tasks, and put new appointments into your calendar.

Studies show the more specific you are, the higher the probabilities of accomplishment. Organizational weekly/daily planning will create a discipline of methodical execution on that which is most important.

Choice 4: Rule Your Technology, Don’t Let It Rule You

Get into your Thinking Brain to break the patterns of technology addiction.  Technology addiction can be the backbone of employee dis-engagement. Become highly conscious of your own behavior around email and texting, and always ask yourself if you are enabling the workforce or drowning them with technology.

Begin to rule your technology by creating an “email manifesto” by which everyone in the organization abides; such as using “eom” (end of message) or “nrn” (no reply needed) in the subject lines; guidelines for “cc’ing” or  “reply all,” or guidelines for appropriate response times.

Create similar manifestos for social media and texting as well. Help your workforce embrace information, not dread it and their productivity will soar.

Choice 5: Fuel Your Fire, Don’t Burn Out

Research has shed new light on gaps in energy management. Sitting is the new smoking. Lack of sleep affects the ability to learn. Too much sugar makes you crash. Cortisol from stress is damaging. Human connection is a neurological need for survival and thriving.

The “5 Energy Drivers — Move (exercise), Eat (brain healthy food), Sleep (sufficient sleep), Relax (balance), and Connect (relationships)” — can be the organizational guidelines for great mental energy.

Assess how you are doing in each driver and pick one in which to improve.  Encourage your workforce to do the same. Create a culture of renewal — a culture of productivity.

If you, as a leader, think and act differently by modeling the 5 Choices, you will energize your workforce. They will feel excited, supported, and will be more willing to offer their best efforts to achieve the top priorities of their team or organization.

The 5 Choices: The Path to Extraordinary Productivity by Kory Kogon, Adam Merrill and Leena Rinne Kory Kogon, co-author of The 5 Choices: The Path to Extraordinary Productivity

Author Bio:
Kory Kogon
is co-author with Adam Merrill and Leena Rinne of The 5 Choices: The Path to Extraordinary Productivity (Franklin Covey, 2014.)  Kogan is FranklinCovey’s Global Practice Leader for Productivity, focusing her research and content development around time management, project management and communication skills. In additiona co-authoring The 5 Choices, Kory is one of the authors of Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager and Presentation Advantage.