Three Steps for Leaders to Get the Right Things Done

In today’s environment, the key to productivity is not to get more things done, but to get the right things done – the important things – with the highest quality you can achieve.  ~Kory Kogon, Adam Merrill, Leena Rinne, authors of The Five Choices

Participants walk into the training room, laptops are quickly opened, and they feverishly begin sifting through a barrage of emails until I instruct them to put their laptops away. This is a typical scene for me with one particular client. Unfortunately, I think it’s become a common scene as more jobs are dominated by electronic communication with the expectation of an instantaneous response.

We all face three major challenges in today’s workplace. 1) We make more decisions in one day than ever before. 2) Our attention is under attack by constant pings and dings from our electronic devices. 3) We’re exhausted by trying to manage the pace of communication.

It’s our natural tendency to simply react to all of the incoming communication, requests, and demands. In fact, that’s how we’re wired — to react. But there’s hope! We can rewire our brains to respond in a way that lessens the stress and increases our odds for higher productivity. FranklinCovey’s 5 Choices to Extraordinary Productivity suggests three steps to rewire our brains for increased productivity.

1) Pause    2) Clarify    3) Decide

Pause.  This may be the hardest of the three steps because we want to react. Before we say “yes” or “no” to that request, email, or voicemail, pause and then seek clarification.

Clarify.  Ask questions to clarify the real importance. What is really being asked for or requested? When does it really need to be done? What are the consequences if it’s not done by that time? Is it urgent or is it important? Are there other options for getting it done?

Decide.  Then, and only then, decide how to respond. Is it something that needs your immediate attention; and if so how will it fit into your other priorities? Decide how you will prioritize the task or request.

Sounds simple, right? Three easy steps: 1) Pause, 2) Clarify, and 3) Decide.

If you’re someone who’s been managing your time and productivity by reacting as opposed to clarifying and deciding, these simple steps may sound not only difficult but next to impossible. It may take more discipline for some, than others, to make the shift and rewire their brains from reacting to responding. The outcome of making the shift can be significant, if not transformative.

And leaders should be modeling the way. If leaders aren’t practicing the pause, clarify, decide process, neither will those they are trying to lead. Do you want to be more productive? Then pause, clarify, and decide.

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