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Be a Productivity Role Model
by Laura Stack

Have you ever taken an honest look at how you are perceived around the office? Your behavior, attitude, and reputation play a huge role in how you interact with coworkers and subordinates. Others may listen to you because of your job title, but if that's the only reason, you have a serious problem on your hands.

I’m not talking about superficial issues like dressing well or keeping a tidy office. It goes deeper than that—to your attitude towards work and your attitude towards personal productivity.

Do you have a reputation of exceptional organization, follow-up, and time management?

Or do people dread sending you an e-mail, because they know there’s a slim chance that they’ll ever hear back?

Is your desk a black hole, where papers and requests go in, but never come out?

Does it take you thirty minutes to find something that you would expect someone else to find in thirty seconds?

The bottom line is that to be an effective leader and coworker, you need to be a good role model that others will choose to emulate. Your employees and coworkers might pay attention to what you say, but they’ll ALWAYS pay attention to what you do. You’re a role model—good or bad—through your image.

Take a personal inventory of how others see you in the workplace. Your goal is to identify—and correct—your own personal productivity demons. Need help getting started? Begin by asking yourself these questions:

Are you the bottleneck? The only thing worse than the person at the office who seems to do nothing is the person who tries to do everything.

Say it with me: “I can’t do it all.”

The sooner you come to terms with that troublesome fact, the better off you’ll be. In pursuit of being the undisputed office superstar, you may in fact be buried. The more you try to do everything, the less able you are to do anything.

Sure, the business world can be demanding, but nine times out of ten, helplessly buried office workers put themselves in the overworked situation they’re in. As a leader (and as a human being) you need to understand how to prioritize, which means understanding how to say “no.”

If you constantly accept additional responsibilities, without being able to keep up with what you’ve already committed, you will eventually be unable to devote proper attention to any one of your many duties.

If you think that being overextended and perpetually frazzled sounds bad, imagine reporting to someone in that situation. Being spread too thin generally leads to missed deadlines, poor response times, and a constant source of unnecessary stress.

Do your subordinates, coworkers—and yourself—a favor. Keep your priorities focused and your schedule realistic. You need to be able to work as hard for your people as they do for you.

If it takes you days to respond to a voicemail or weeks to review a proposal, you aren’t setting others up for success. Don’t be the bottleneck!

Do you micromanage? You have a staff at your disposal…so why are you still doing everything yourself? The best thing you can do as a manager is to put people in place whom you can trust—and then trust them.

Always remember, however, that your way isn’t the only way and that sometimes “good enough” is, well, good enough. Does that mean that you keep slack standards and let people get away with sub-par work? Of course not! It just means that you pick your battles and allow your team to do their jobs without having to constantly worry about your “helpful” interventions.

There will always be some things that absolutely need to be done a certain way and kept to a certain standard. These are the tasks and priorities that you should keep a close watch on to ensure that they are completed properly.

But what about the others? Just ask yourself what would happen if a given task was completed adequately, instead of perfectly. Or if a project was done correctly, although perhaps not in exactly the same way you would go about it if you were to do it yourself. Most of the time, you’ll find that it really isn’t that big a deal. In these cases, it is important to step back, let go, and focus your energies on more important initiatives.

Is your schedule realistic? Take a look at your schedule for this week. Are you booked solid, running from one meeting to the next all day every day?

If you’re overbooked, not only will you leave yourself no time to accomplish important, high-priority tasks, you’ll also make yourself unavailable to your team. It doesn’t do any good if a project is completed on deadline if it takes three days for you to have a moment to take a look at it.

Besides, what does it say about the value of your time if you are booking yourself silly day in and day out? By accepting every invitation you receive, you are letting others control you time and determine your priorities. That isn’t what leadership is about!

Don’t attend any meeting where the organizer can’t clearly articulate the objective. And make sure that when you do attend a meeting, others understand why you are there and know what they can expect in terms of your involvement. If you regularly find yourself in meetings “just in case” you’re needed, you aren’t placing much of a premium on your time.

What are your other productivity demons? Everyone has their downfalls, and the ones discussed above are just a starting point. Take a good, hard look at yourself and come up with a fair assessment of the impression you give others at the office. This is no time to tell little white lies or shy away from the truth. The only way to fix the problem is to tackle the issue head on.

Whatever your demons are—too much socializing, excessive email surfing, time management problems, over scheduling your time, responding slowly to e-mail, dealing with personal issues on work hours, or procrastination—identify them and then work to put them to rest.

That’s the beauty of it. You really can fix many of these problems right away. If you’re honest with yourself, you know the right things to do. You just need to listen to that nagging voice in the back of your mind and make it happen.

Make it a productive day! (TM)

(C) Copyright 2008 Laura Stack. All rights reserved.

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