The secret to better productivity is in making better choices. You can invest in fancy tools or buy better systems, but if you are not making wise decisions, it’s all for not. Productivity is so much more than just time management. Acknowledging this fact is both overwhelming and freeing.
Overwhelming because it is so much more…complicated. Maximizing productivity is about proactively choosing how to best use your limited resources day-in and day-out so that you achieve your vision for success. These limited resources include your time, money, focus, energy and attention. That is a lot to grapple with at once.
Freeing because acknowledging that productivity is about so much more than time management means you have a better grasp on reality. We have all tried little time management tricks that are supposed to change everything only to feel utterly disappointed. This is a more comprehensive approach for the misfit entrepreneur to maximize your productivity.
What are your strategies for managing yourself?
What do you know about your workflow habits?
What do you need to know to better maximize your productivity?
Productivity is About Making Better Choices
There have been a lot of poor choices I have made that negatively impacted my productivity over the years. In addition to having a totally flawed system for deciding how to spend my time in a given moment, I also made choices out of fear and desperation.
I call it my I have to invest in my business phase. A few years in, I was starting to save some money in my business account. After operating on a shoe-string budget, I was excited to have something to work with. Maybe a little overly excited.
There were a number of instances where I convinced myself that the success of my business depended on investing in a particular opportunity. I was scared of what might happen if I didn’t sign up for the program or join the club or start the awards. I framed those decisions in my mind as do or die. Then I rationalized my decision. I thought I was doing the business smart thing, you have to spend money to make money. But in the end I was making more work for myself and it did not necessarily align with any strategic priorities.
That’s the challenge, making decisions that align your day-to-day actions with your long-term vision. Sometimes that means eliminating or reducing the amount of choices you make in a given day. I no longer have to hem and haw about what I am having for breakfast, because my power smoothie is a part of my morning routine. I don’t sit in front of my computer agonizing what to do next because I have a habit of consulting my weekly plan worksheet before I even turn my laptop on. Choosing to implement these kinds of habits and routines help to ensure I am advancing my long-term goals daily!
Understand How You Make Decisions
Every misfit entrepreneur is different, we each have our own unique relationship with decision making. There are certain decisions that just stress me out, like choosing a movie to watch. Seems simple and small, but it stresses me out so much I will elect not to make the decision, leaving some entertainment choices up to those whose company I keep.
What types of decisions are difficult for you to make and why? What kind of decision maker are you? Are you decisive? What decisions do you procrastinate? When does a decision feel stressful? When do you let other people make decisions for you? Do you leave it up to fate? Do you sweat the small stuff? Are you impulsive or deliberate?
If you are having trouble gaining clarity on your own decision making practices try reflecting on the process you engaged in to make a decision in the past. For example, how did you decide to start pursuing this business idea you have? What has influenced your career choices? What kinds of information do you seek to help you make difficult decisions?
We all experience different rational decision making traps. Looking for confirming evidence is a common one. It is when we have blinders on, searching only for information that confirms the decision you already know you want to make. The internet is definitely reinforcing this decision making bias!
In addition to better understanding how you make big decisions, it is equally important to evaluate your smaller, day-to-day choices. How do you prioritize what you will do at any given time?
One of the reasons that habits and routines are so important is that they help to eliminate or reduce the multitude of decisions you have to make any given day. First thing I do before I start working is to finalize my Big 5 tasks for the day. These are the things I need to check off the proverbial list in order to fall asleep knowing I got the important stuff done. Striving for work-life integration, I include personal care activities as well as work related tasks in my Big 5.
How to Make Better Choices
There are a lot of decision making tools, tips and tricks out there. Some decision making tactics are overwhelmingly complicated, assigning weights to different criteria and calculating risk factors. Whereas others’ are elementary and simplistic, think pros/cons list. It is impossible to find a simple decision making trick that is appropriate for every kind of situation you may experience. Chip and Dan Heath outline a simple four step process called W.R.A.P.
Widen your options
Sometimes you have to take a step back and widen your options. We often paint situations as black and white. Either or thinking naturally limits your options and if you stay confined by such parameters you will probably not like either option, reducing your chances for a happy ending. So, widen your options.
I did not give myself many options when I was choosing what business investments to make. Had I widened my options I would have seen that I could make other choices to advance my success. I may have realized sooner that I did not need to make these traditionally smart business investments.
Reality test your assumptions
The best way to nip confirmation bias in the bud is to look for evidence that counters your desired outcome. Chip and Dan Heath call this asking dis-confirming questions. This whole notion nicely supports lean startup thinking as well. Part of the reason people look for confirming evidence is because they assume a positive impact as a result of choosing x.
Taking a step back is so important when making big decisions. Not only is it wise to give yourself time to think on big decisions before making a choice. It is also imperative that you give yourself distance from the day-to-day stuff so that you can look at your life and your business from a big picture perspective. Getting some distance before making a decision helps you leverage your clarity around the big picture.
Prepare to be wrong
Play the decision out as though a variety of different scenarios occurred as a result. Imagine your decision was an utter failure, conduct a postmortem and determine the cause of your problem. In most situations that the misfit entrepreneur experiences, unknowns arise that force plans to change. Foresight helps you be prepared for the unexpected, whether what happens is good or bad.
Chip and Dan Heath synthesize their extensive research on decision making into a memorable moniker that will help you overcome the most common biases experienced. They arm readers with the W.R.A.P. Process, empowering them to overcome those pitfalls in a manner that feels more natural than the typical, formulaic approach. Consciously practice these in your day-to-day and you’ll confidentially make wiser choices with more ease.