Asking yourself the right questions, and getting all the help you can is key to productivity
Leading projects is a challenging but rewarding experience. But when you ask most project management professionals what the number one challenge is, they will, almost certainly, say time. This includes the lack of time allocated to work, conflicts on their time from many stakeholders and team members, and the increasing time demands throughout the project lifecycle.
“The key is in not spending time, but in investing it.”
— Stephen R. Covey
Productivity questions to ask yourself
In my book, The Lazy Winner1, I challenge the thinking of individuals when it comes to time management and the allocation of their busy work schedules. I suggest several questions that anyone should always ask themselves before committing to engaging with better time management solutions:
- Do I want to do this piece of work, job, or task? Even if I do want to do it, do I need to do it?
- Is the result or outcome worth my effort?
- Do I have to do it myself?
- If I must do it, then what is the shortest path to the point of success?
- What exactly is that point of success, and at what stage will I just be wasting my time?
Everyone should always challenge themselves with questions 1 and 2, at the very least. Is there a compelling reason for doing a task or not? If not, then don’t do it. If the answer formulates as a ‘yes,’ then move ahead.
After the ‘want’ and ‘need’ evaluation, the second stage is considering whether the expected outcome is worth the anticipated effort. If it is, then keep going. Consider now whether, even though you want to do something, you really are the right person to carry out the task. Is there someone better qualified who can and will do a better and perhaps faster job than you? If there is, why are you thinking about doing it?
Having allowed yourself some time to think about what it is that you should focus on and therefore also allowing yourself the benefit of doing some simple planning, you can focus on the important stuff, as opposed to worrying about the less important stuff.
After you have asked yourself the first three important questions, now the buck really does rest with you because you are committed and taking ownership of this one. But even now, the ‘less is more’ mantra should be ringing in your mind. When you get on to doing the things you should do, consider this:
- Can you automate it? Can you scale it? Can you make it reusable in a wider context? Use that creativity that all productively lazy people have, and make ‘it’ repeatable, suitable for a wider purpose, and easily available. Try to not act as a gatekeeper all the time (thereby giving you back more of your time).
- Can you simplify it? Can you shorten it? If there’s something that you do that is complicated, find ways to make it simpler. List the steps and see which can be eliminated or streamlined. Which parts can be done by someone else or dropped completely? What is absolutely the easiest way to do this?
- Can it wait? Is the task really needed by a certain date? Will it impact others if it waits? Sometimes, not rushing into something can turn out to be a productively good thing.
At every opportunity, you must think your actions through to the end, as best as possible, and aim to optimize your return on your personal time investments.
If all of this sounds rather cold and clinical, even cynical in some cases, it really isn’t. It should be second nature to all of us to consider each request, to promise only what we can realistically deliver, and to be honest with ourselves about what we want in life.
What time management solutions make productivity manageable?
Project management software like LiquidPlanner can make this easy for you. Its predictive scheduling engine shows you, based on your daily availability and current priorities, if you can realistically take on more work and by when so you don’t overcommit yourself.
This time management process is all about asking yourself the right questions. But then, once committed to something, it is important to take every piece of help that you can. Even if you have assumed ownership of something, it still doesn’t mean that you must go about delivering in the hardest way possible. Be a real Lazy Winner and work smarter and not harder.
Systems and tools such as LiquidPlanner not only help you decide what projects you can commit to, they serve to bring together diverse groups, so they are literally on the same page and, as such, insights are relevant, timely, and actionable. When time management solutions are a concern, a best-in-class software solution can swiftly solve these time management challenges. Employing a dynamic scheduling engine that is integrated with time management reduces your busy work by updating your project schedules in real-time as progress is logged. Notably, LiquidPlanner offers this functionality and enhanced planning intelligence. This enables teams to visualize where time has been spent and optimize future workload plans or forecasts. Ultimately the software reduces your risk of error and delay to ensure you do the work well and efficiently.
You can check out more about improving your own time management in our article, 7 Essential Time Management Strategies.
About the Author
Keynote speaker and coach, Peter Taylor is the author of the number 1 bestselling project management book ‘The Lazy Project Manager’, along with many other books on Project Management, PMO development, Executive Sponsorship, Transformation Leadership, and Speaking Skills. He has built and led some of the largest PMOs in the world with organizations such as Siemens, IBM, UKG, and now Ceridian, where he is the VP Global PMO. He has also delivered over 500 lectures around the world in over 25 countries and has been described as ‘perhaps the most entertaining and inspiring speaker in the project management world today’.
- The Lazy Winner: How to Do More with Less Effort and Succeed in Your Work and Personal Life without Rushing Around Like a Headless Chicken or Putting in 100 Hour Weeks Paperback – Infideas 2011