Personal Productivity – Mindset over Matter

In Self-Management

By Maura Fay Learning

Over the past 30 years, the narrative on time management has stayed largely the same despite advances in the way we work; it’s all been about tools and techniques to save people time.

In the 1980’s it was about the physical diary, in the 90’s we went on a crusade to say “no” to anyone and everyone. In the 00’s we were obsessed with Covey’s 4-quadrants and not long after it was all about managing our email inbox.

For the people that worked through these decades, if they were honest they would all tell you that these tools and techniques didn’t really amount to much … and that was at a time when resources were more plentiful and the speed of the business seemed manageable.

Fast forward to today. People more than ever before are challenged to meet the demands of their employers and the expectations of the role. We’re now using terms like “BAU” and “band-width” in our language to describe the tension in our working days. People’s wellbeing is at risk; so is meeting performance targets.

So, how are organisations dealing with this conundrum, dilemma or crisis (you choose for your organisation)? The answers are wide and varied. Some organisations are …

  • Pushing back on the “we need more resources” with the “you need to be more resourceful”.
  • Focusing on leadership development to drive employee engagement and productivity.
  • Overhauling antiquated systems and processes.
  • Attacking the symptom, playing the wellbeing card and encouraging teams to be more resilient.
  • Reminding their people that they have access to an online catalogue of resources.
  • Or doing nothing.

And then there are those organisations that are doing something really radical; they’re providing meaningful education to their people about how to be personally productive. Who would have thought the answer could be so simple?

In all seriousness, why aren’t more organisations tackling the problem at the source? Whilst we fully recognise that Personal Productivity is multi-faceted, the idea of enabling people to navigate through the complexities at work to meet their personal goals and feel more fulfilled just makes a whole lot of sense. To that point, why wouldn’t Personal Productivity be in every organisations top 3 development needs for next year?

So, while the world of HR and L&D continue to strategise on the best professional development initiatives for the next 12-months, we thought we would share our IP framework around excellence in execution.

Earlier on we mentioned that for a long time the narrative on time management has been with tools and techniques to conquer the challenge of the ‘too little time, too much to do’ syndrome. We’re pleased to say that this one-dimensional narrative has changed in the 10’s decade and even more recently with a much greater focus on ‘mindset’ and a little less on ‘matter’. Traditional approaches such as to-do lists, dealing with interruptions and planning cycles have given way to the themes around productivity mindsets and the “disciplined pursuit of less”. A literary explosion from around 2014 to today has also helped to support this movement.

At Maura Fay Learning, we have created a three-part model to assist individual contributors through to senior leaders adopt this ‘excellence in execution’ way of thinking. It is built on the tenets that people need to …

  • Take control and own their personal productivity. Busy does not mean productive.
  • Have a deep understanding of their role and the things that will have the greatest impact on the health of their organisation.
  • Make the complex as simple as possible; less is more.
  • Be self-aware and know how to ‘course correct’ as they go.

This way of thinking can be described in our three-part model below. We have also added a bunch of thought provoking questions to help you understand each of these domains.
Maura Fay Learning - Personal Productivity Model

Nail the Basics
One of the dangers for ambitious individuals is the risk of over-reaching, trying to do too many things. The downside of this is that people work harder, typically becoming reactive and often achieving fewer results. The genius is trying to simplify things and this starts with demonstrating functional excellence against the primary purpose of the role.

  • What is the 20% of my role that contributes to 80% of the results?
  • Share a time when the harder I worked, the fewer results I achieved.
  • When I’m feeling that the burden of the job could be getting too big, what’s the first thing I should do?
  • How do I best embrace a world at work when things just seem to be getting more complex?
  • If the genius is in the simple, what’s the simplest thing I could do right now that would positively impact my work?

Stay the Course
Staying the Course is about having the confidence, discipline and resilience to stick to the plan rather than get side-tracked by distractions. It’s also about finding the right operational rhythm to maintain consistency for the long haul.

  • How do I keep up this pace for the long-term and avoid exhaustion?
  • How can I ensure that I don’t get lost in the detail?
  • What are the not-so obvious distractions that can push me off course?
  • Are my goals broken down into manageable chunks?
  • Resilience is key. Who is in my support structure when I need them?

Elevate 20%
Many individuals are so busy that their focus is on the week that they’re in and that’s just about it. They deliver great results, put out the necessary ‘spot fires’ and potentially enjoy the immediacy of working life. Then one day they realise that they haven’t grown enough personally or professionally and the growth and complexity of the business has passed them by. Elevate 20% is the idea that productive people continually reflect on themselves and whether their efforts support scale in the future … and then ‘carve’ out time to elevate themselves and their teams.

  • Is what I am doing and the way I am doing it supporting future scale and growth at work?
  • How do I see my job getting bigger in the next 12-months? What can I do now to prepare for this?
  • What do my team and I need to be working on now to stay ahead of the business?
  • How can I ‘carve’ out time at work to continue to elevate 20%?
  • Who is someone that I admire who I believe is already 20% ahead of me? What are they doing that I could learn from?

We trust that you’ve found this article thought provoking and insightful to a new way of thinking about Personal Productivity.

All the best in your pursuit for a simpler, more fulfilled and more sustainable way of life at work.

This blog is an extract for our upcoming eBook – The Personal Productivity Playbook. You can pre-register here and get your copy on launch day. 


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