With all the attention given to boosting employee productivity, it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of the same urgency for business owners or CEOs and their executive teams.
The Alternative Board has worked with business owners on this very topic. Our Business Pulse Survey on Leaders & Productivity measured on how entrepreneurs spend their workday, including how they stay productive and where they’re losing time.
Ask yourself: are you’re doing all you can to be productive during your working day? Or are there times when, due to one thing or another, little of value actually gets done? You can place the blame on external circumstances, or you can look more closely at any bad habits you’ve acquired over time that stand between you and a genuine sense of productivity.
Here’s a look at common productivity-blocking issues with which CEOs and business leaders grapple:
Mistaking “urgent” for “important.”
Every executive faces the challenge of wasting their precious time putting out fires that, over the long haul, have little or no impact on their company’s strategic goals. Unfortunately, too many leaders assume that whatever they work on is “important,” just because they’re doing it.
An honest examination of such activities is likely to show that many of the tasks coming across your desk every day would be better addressed by others on your team. Truly important matters relate to the company’s long-range plans for growth, not the minor “crisis of the day” that can be delegated elsewhere. Knowing the difference between “urgent” and “important,” and acting on it, can save you a considerable amount of time.
Falling into the multi-tasking trap.
Once considered the only way to get things done, multi-tasking is now regarded as a mistaken approach to productivity. Common sense tells us that applying partial attention to several different tasks at the same time will likely result in less-than-optimum outcomes.
“Doing several things at once means doing nothing exceptionally.”
Anything worthy of your attention as a business leader is better addressed individually, with focus and minimal distraction.
Allowing distractions to ruin your day.
We live in an era of inescapable distractions (primarily, though not exclusively, digital). Every day, texts, email alerts and other online “noise” distract business leaders from more pressing responsibilities. In many cases, the answer is a simple fix. When you want to get something done, turn off your mobile device for a designated period of time and get to work.
In the overwhelming number of situations, whatever text or social media “bulletin” is pinging at your desk can wait until you’re done with a genuinely important task. Your sense of productivity will blossom when you cast aside these trifling distractions, even for a short time.
Wasting time on meetings.
Attending poorly organized meetings (or those with little reason for being) is another bad habit to break. To off-set a tendency to stop whatever you’re doing and attend a meeting, keep these time-saving tips in mind:
- Create a relevant meeting agenda and stick to it.
- Only invite people to a meeting who have a good reason to attend.
- Take an active leadership role to ensure the meeting stays “on point.”
- Eliminate unnecessary meetings wherever possible.
Getting stuck in your office.
It may seem like “productivity” automatically means remaining in your office all day, in order to get work done. But this approach is actually counter-productive. Not only does it result in feeling cut-off from the rest of the company, it reduces the likelihood that some valuable new idea or insight will crop up when you get around and just talk to others in the organization.
Productivity expert Matt Girvan recommends taking a walk around the office at least once every day “because it gives you the chance to bump into colleagues and have a conversation.” Or, if you need to speak with someone in particular, stroll up to them in person: “These impromptu conversations can be used instead of sending multiple emails and having meetings.”