Five Compelling Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Productivity

Wouldn’t it be great if we could wave a magic wand over our workplace and instantly achieve a 10% increase in productivity? Hallucination, you say? Perhaps. But for more than 20 years, I’ve been asking hundred of folks from hundreds of companies a couple simple questions, and their candid answers indicate that a 10% increase is quite reasonable. The two questions are:

1. Are you working to your full potential?

2. Is there something YOU (not someone else) can do that would enable you to become 10% more productive?

With few exceptions people answer the first question with a resounding “No,” implying a significant amount of untapped potential is just waiting to be utilized. From what I’ve seen working with a large variety of companies and people, that’s certainly true. I’m continually amazed at the above average talent that resides within “average” people.

Answers to the second question are also typically “No,” accompanied by a fair amount of finger pointing as to why someone else is the cause for their performance status. This answer, however, I don’t buy — for about 99% of the cases anyway. Even under the most difficult working conditions, you can always do something to be a little more productive; you just have to look for it and want to improve.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you become an efficiency expert or a time management guru to achieve a 10% increase. Simply doing more is not the answer. Rather, I’d like you to ask yourself three questions that will enable you to focus your efforts on getting the right things done at the right time. This will not only increase your productivity but also your overall effectiveness as well. Consider these questions on at least a monthly, preferably weekly, basis:

1. “What am I really good at and how do I do more of it?”

This is where you need to spend most of your time. The more time you spend on things you are good at, the more productive and effective you will be. (Warning: Make sure you’re brutally honest with yourself when determining where you excel.)

2. “What’s the most important thing I need to accomplish today or this week?”

Make it number one on your to-do list. Engage others in your efforts right away. Don’t stop until it’s done. (Warning: This should be generated from your plan, not from a neat idea that hit you at Starbucks this morning.)

3. “How can I identify and reduce the noise?”

Noise is distraction. Noise is something you feel obliged to do but really don’t need to be doing. Noise is something on your priority list that really should be on someone else’s. Noise is activity that doesn’t produce a result. Stop doing, listening, thinking about things that are just noise. (Warning: Reducing noise sometimes causes pain for others … you need to get used to that.)

More than just increasing productivity, these questions help provide focus and discipline to enable you to achieve more results and fulfillment. And isn’t that what it’s all about? So try making these three questions part of your weekly routine. I think you’ll like the results.