let's take the next 2 days off

It's been a crazy week. Nearly everyone I've crossed paths this week seemed up to their eyeballs in something.  It's times like these when we're both busy and suspect there are better things we could be doing (such as enjoying the summer) that we search for not-yet-tried productivity tips, hacks, and solutions.

Personal productivity is tricky. We all want to optimize our impact, but the goal seems elusive. Some days, I feel incredibly productive, while other days, I’m just busy. I know other people worry about their productivity, too: about 99 percent of the articles online for Fast Company alone have something to do with increasing our own impact for our time spent working. The message here is that if we’re just better at using our own time, things at work will get better. 

The demand for articles on productivity reveals a lot more about what we’re worried about at work—on a personal level—than it actually changes any of our distracting, counterproductive habits. The truth is we all have varying degrees of productivity and our own yardsticks to measure ourselves and others. There really is no absolute standard for knowledge worker productivity. 

And when it comes to productivity, no matter how much we’re doing, we all worry that it’s not enough. Will my boss think it’s enough? Will my clients be disappointed? Will my coworkers think that I’m not pulling my weight? All these are common concerns but are they worth the continuous retooling of your “to do” list?

The issue with focusing on this tough-to-quantify characteristic is that even if we were all off the charts in terms of our productivity, it doesn’t necessarily mean that our business is better or clients are happier because of it.

Solutions flash across our brains in a matter of seconds. With the right conditions lined up, we can effect change in the course of a day—or a week. And this could be the change the makes all the difference. Focus pushes us toward something big and meaningful. 

Contrast that with the slog we’re often more familiar with. We chip away at big, amorphous problems and settle for progress in the smallest possible increments. Worrying about our own productivity within that system seems really dejecting. Working harder or more diligently on a problem that will never or should never be solved is an unfulfilling way to live and work.

The other problem with worrying about productivity is the concern that someone senior to us isn’t going to think we’re sufficiently productive so we hold off asking for anything else. Until we’re feeling like we’re at the top of our game and are producing everything they’ve asked, plus a little more, these little worries around our worth and value linger.

Often times, the best way to generate ideas to is stop putting so much pressure on ourselves and our teams to produce them. Let them simply come to us whether it be a quiet moment or part of a team discussion, a highly productive day or simply a day when we’re busy. In the end, it’s the idea that may be of greatest importance, not the productivity that surrounded it.

three steps lead down a better path

So, you’ve hatched an idea. That’s great! Now what do you do with it?

The challenge now is figuring out how to share that idea in an interesting, intriguing, or compelling way and start the process of achieving buy-in. To start, you have to get ultra-clear on precisely what problem you’re solving, what the impact will be, who will need to be consulted, and whether it’s an idea even worthy of being said out loud to begin with.

To sort, shape, and validate the idea, ask yourself (or your team) the following questions:

  1. Sort the idea by problem solved: What issue does this idea solve? What pain does it eliminate? Is it a total or partial solution? How do you know that this is a problem? Include the supporting the data, trend, or feedback that not only speaks to the existence of the problem but its magnitude.
  2. Shape: To shape your idea, examine how known culture, attitudes, resources, spending sensitivities, and anything particularly polarizing should be considered. What about external conditions, such as the economy, public perception, customer/market surveys, industry trends and so on? Will they have an impact? Make adjustments or shape your solution to account for (or acknowledge) these factors.
  3. Validate: Do you have a confidante or trusted adviser whom you can safely bounce ideas off of? Ideally, this is someone who isn’t directly affected by the proposed outcome but who has some understanding of the organization and purpose. Someone like this can be invaluable and, such these relationships really blossom when they’re reciprocal. Touch base with a trusted adviser to float your concept and get a gut reaction. Based on their feedback, decide if tweaks are needed, additional people should be pulled in, or if you’re good to go.

Disciplining yourself to take these three early steps for each idea you’re passionate about pursuing helps lay the foundation for success in the future.

this is your career

Available on Amazon!

Available on Amazon!

This is your career. Whether you have your dream job or “just a job,” you owe it to yourself to bring your best ideas forward. If you’re doing work today in exchange for money, it all counts toward the body of work that is your experience, your contributions, your career.

Waiting to do your best work until a better role comes along is a lost opportunity regardless of whether you plan to stay in this line of work in the future.

Once you make the decision to fully participate in your career (and if you’re reading this, my guess is that you made that decision a long time ago), getting leadership buy-in and support for your ideas is essential. Not taking action because you can’t (or because you don’t want to try) to earn your boss’s buy-in is, ultimately, an excuse and one that completely impedes your ability to meaningfully contribute.

Don’t you owe it to yourself—and your ideas—to share them?

Today, I'm launching my first book, Flock: Getting Leaders to Follow. It's the why and how to gain leadership buy-in and support for your ideas so that you can have the kind of impact you want in your career.  Click here to download a copy and let me know what you think!