Having real impact is hard when you are drowning in the day-to-day drift.
The daily grind we face when spending time on the essential but largely unexciting work that must be done to move us forward. Answering emails, attending back to back meetings, or staying up late to finishing the report that you found out didn't get read because the Board meeting ran over time.
While this work may be important to maintain performance, it becomes counterproductive when it consumes too much of our time and attention.
So you need to learn from the habits of high performers who hack their productivity to prevent the wrong kind of busyness. This means seeing regular patterns and streamlining how your essential, but unexciting work, gets done. Doing this means you become efficient at managing the pointless and productive work to allocate a larger proportion of your time to more meaningful work.
Work that has an impact, moves things forward and makes results happen.
How do you do less mundane work and focus on the work that is meaningful and matters to you? You start by understanding the four forms of work you choose to do, review the work you are currently doing; and make some decisions on how to enhance your focus on the work that advance results or enhance your reputation.
The 4 forms of work
Doing hours of work that has little or no resemblance to what matters to you or motivates you destroys the soul. We've all been there at some point in our careers when someone at a social function asks: "What do you do?" And instead of lighting up, we wind up our internal PR agent and offer a pitch to convince a complete stranger we have a good job or are doing a good job.
When we are doing the work that matters this conversation changes. We revel in the opportunity to share the project we are working on, the challenge we are undertaking, the performance we are seeking or the people we are impacting. We naturally transition from PR agent to our passionate and authentic selves.
Making the shift
If you are looking at the four forms of work and realising there is some room for improvement, consider these five strategies to help you make a positive shift:
1. Cease and desist
Lawyers send a cease and desist letter when they want someone to stop doing something. Take a similar approach by committing to cease and desist any pointless work you are currently doing. You will soon find out if anyone cares. Including you.
2. Enhance efficiency
Many of the jobs we have to do every day are repetitive, mundane or set and forget tasks that don't deserve a lot of thought or attention. Find ways to make these tasks faster, easier or more efficient to free up your precious time to focus on more valuable work.
3. Work undercover
Rather than seek permission to do the work that matters to you, make a start. If you make a start and see it is working because people are interested, engaged or appreciative of what you are doing, you quickly become the catalyst for change.
4. Manage energy
The high performance people we admire aren't superhuman. They are just supremely astute at managing their food, fitness and focus to maintain high levels of performance during throughout the day. Here are five ideas to start:
- 1-2 Breaks every 90 minutes
- 2-3 Exercise sessions each week
- 4-5 Glasses of water during the day
- 6-7 Meals per day to maintain your energy
- 8-9 Hours of sleep every night for adequate rest
5. Understand currency
We all have an alternate currency for the work we do. The reasons we turn up to do what we do beyond the salary we receive. When we receive our foreign currency, we get into what we do because we are motivated by what we do. How could you build more alternate currency into the work you are doing?
These suggestions are not a panacea for every challenge you have in managing the daily demands that work demands. Rather, a reasonable diagnostic about what you could leverage if you find yourself overworked and overwhelmed.
Taking proactive steps to focus on doing more of the work that matters to you, and is meaningful for you, is magical for motivation.
Fatigue gets replaced with focus and drift gets replaced with drive. Productivity peaks, engagement increases and performance rapidly accelerates as you do the work that makes sense to you and motivates you.
Go. Make an impact.