From Busy To Effective
If you are a success-driven person, you are continually striving to improve your results and effectiveness in your profession. One measure of that success is usually to see an increase in your productivity over time. Last year’s quota was great, but this year I want to increase it by a certain amount.
If your results are the sum of a team’s efforts, it may be that you simply add more people to your crew. But if your results are mostly dependent on you and your efforts, then the real question comes into play. How will you produce more? There are a limited number of hours and days you can work in the year, and you are likely already pushing the limit of both those. So, clearly the solution to higher productivity is not working longer, but in working more effectively.
Keep in mind that working more effectively is not the same as working more efficiently. Efficiency is about taking less time to do a particular task so that you can at the end of the day do more tasks. And while improving your efficiency can be a part of higher productivity, just like the limited hours in a day and days in a year, you can only get so efficient and you are probably already there.
Being more effective on the other hand opens up a huge opportunity. Improving your effectiveness means you become more and more potent at doing your work. Being effective translates into you being able to get greater productivity from the same amount of work.
And most importantly, never confuse being busy with being effective. Anyone can fill every second of the day by doing something. But it has to be the right kind of something if you are going to go from being busy to being truly effective. Here are five keys to help you do just that.
Commit To The Inglorious
Regardless of the industry or the job, excellence is built on a vast foundation of quite mundane simple work done over and over and over. As an example, in my years training for triathlons, I had to be good at swimming (along with cycling and running). So, right after the New Year, I’d start back into my routine of being in the pool five days a week. In the very first workout of the year, I’d swim up one side of the lane, do a flip turn then swim back on the other side of the black line on the bottom. In about 35-seconds I had seen the entire swim course I was going to do about another 50,000 times by the end of the season.
That mundane task can be seen as torture, or as something empowering. I chose empowering because I knew that each and every one of those laps was adding to my foundation of fitness needed to eventually be fast enough to have a great race at the Ironman World Championship in October. There were no fans cheering or press cameras rolling during those mundane sessions. I didn’t get paid each time I completed a lap. The only tangible reward was when I saw my times start to get faster as my fitness built. But even that didn’t happen very often. I could go weeks and weeks at the exact same pace. For many that was disheartening. But I knew at some point a critical mass of fitness would hit and from one day to the next I’d see a noticeable improvement in my pace.
Yes, this is the inglorious work that eventually leads to great successes. What is your endless lap-upon-lap-in-the-pool kind of work? It may be so obvious that you rarely think about it. But it’s important to never shortchange the foundational work. Never exchange the exceptional strength of the day today for a promise of an extra add on option. The extras cannot make up for a weak foundation that lacks the work of the inglorious. It’s like how we eat. The foundation is a well-balanced diet. The extras are the supplements of vitamins and minerals that many people take. But a bottle of pills cannot make up for a lousy foundation of the basics. And it is just like this with your work.
Know What You Are Avoiding, Then Do It
Is there something you know is essential to your success that you are avoiding doing like the plague? Maybe it’s a part of your work that is not natural for you or that you know at first you won’t be proficient at implementing it. But if it is essential to your success, today is the time to make the commitment to putting it in place. This is a very powerful way to go from being busy to being effective.
I learned this halfway through my career as a triathlete. I had raced the Ironman World Championships in Kona six times from 1982-1988. None of those resulted in victory. I had finished 2nd, 3rd, and 5th a number of times, but never 1st. I was strong up through the first six-hours of a day that usually took about eight and half hours to complete. Why was I falling apart at that point year after year?
I looked at my training log. I saw that on Saturdays I was doing a long ride of about 5-6 hours. Then I’d follow that up with a long run on Sundays of 2-2.5hrs. That was a solid 8-hours of training in two days. And on top of that throughout the year I was logging closer to 15,000 miles of swimming, cycling and running. But I was still coming up short.
Then the lightbulb went on. I was doing 8-hours of training in two days, but the Ironman is not a two-day event. It’s a one-day race. So, in 1989 I designed five Ironman training days where I would swim 30-minutes, bike 7-hours and then run 30-minutes. That was an 8-hour training day. That was the type of training that would truly make me effective in the race by building the real endurance I needed.
I did five of those days throughout the year. Each one took me weeks to get ready mentally. I didn’t want to do them, but I knew they were essential to my success as a triathlete. And those five days only added 10-extra hours of training onto my entire year. That’s less than 2-minutes a day! Would you be willing to work an extra 2-minutes a day to achieve the greatest dream you have for yourself? Of course! But it has to be done in the right way. So whatever that one thing is for you that you need to implement, now is the time to do it!
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