When you’ve been researching productivity and how to work smarter for more than 30 years as productivity expert Brian Tracy has done, you’ve learned a thing or two about how to get the best out of others – and yourself – on the job.
That’s why in his latest book, “Get Smart!: How to Think and Act Like the Most Successful and Highest-Paid People in Every Field,” Tracy, Chairman and CEO of Brian Tracy International, stresses that employees and leaders have more control over their productivity than they may believe. While they may complain that they’re overloaded with work, the truth is that they’re responsible for overloading themselves.
For example, while technology came along as a tool to help workers, instead it has become the thing that workers use to distract themselves. Instead of doing important tasks, they’re entertaining themselves with videos and chatting with colleagues for hours. Instead of completing a project, they’re focused on answering emails that could wait or checking out social media sites, he says,
“Research has shown that every time a worker checks email or goes online, he or she gets a rush of dopamine,” he says. “They become addicted to the rush and cannot stop. That’s the tragedy of technology.”
Tracy advises your brain will perform much better if you avoid going online except to check email about twice a day. “Turn. It. Off,” he stresses. “And break the habit of checking it first thing in the morning or you’ll never turn it off and won’t be aware it’s even happening.”
Another way to pump up your brain power is to simply sit quietly, he says.
“Shut off your phone and your computer. You can’t think when you’re running around. But when you sit quietly, you can start to think of the important things,” he says.
Of course, there are times it’s important to interact with colleagues such as when working on a project together, but most teams would benefit if members focused on their most critical tasks and engaged in more “slow thinking,” he says.
Tracy explains that many decisions are made on incomplete information or wrong assumptions. But the teams who challenge information with “How do we know this to be true?” will find it leads to better decisions and outcomes.
Some other ways Tracy recommends getting better results from individuals and teams:
- Write it down. Research finds that students who write out their notes by hand learn more than those who type on laptops. Those who write by hand not only remember more facts and details, but have better conceptual comprehension. Tracy recommends that when you’re trying to think through a decision, you should write down every detail of the problem or decision. “Often, as you write fact after fact, it becomes clearer and clearer to you what you should do,” he says. “The longer you think, the better the decision.”
- Start with one thing. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all you feel you have to do, make a list of everything on your plate. Then, ask yourself: “If I could do only one thing, what would it be?” That’s where you start. Then you organize your work around the second, third and fourth tasks you would do next. Do them in order and continually recheck to make sure you’re on track. “This helps you start to control your whole life,” he says.
- Categorize your tasks. To categorize your tasks in terms of importance, use an “A” for “must do;” “B” for “should do;” “C” for “nice to do;” “D” for delegate;” and “E” for eliminate. The rule is that you shouldn’t do a “B” task, for example, if you have an “A” task that is undone. If anyone can do a task at least 70% as well as you can, then delegate it.
- Develop flexible thinking. If a team gets frustrated or encounters resistance while trying to achieve its goals, they can ask: “What are we trying to do? How are we trying to do it? Could there be a better way?” As Tracy notes: “You open your mind to an infinite number of possibilities, because there is almost always another way.”
For example, to jumpstart new thinking, write a question down (“How can we improve delivery times?”) and then ask the team to come up with 20 different answers.
- Ask them to think like entrepreneurs. If companies want to be successful today, they must behave more like entrepreneurs and focus on better serving the customers they have, attracting new ones and selling more effectively. That means teams must focus on knowing everything they can about their customers, making sure a product provides the best value and challenging themselves to attract better customers through their marketing efforts. “Entrepreneurs are more concerned with what’s right rather than with who’s right. They keep their egos out of the equation,” he says.
Tracy also reminds managers to remember that while times are getting better after the Great Recession, that doesn’t mean that another economic hiccup isn’t around the corner. The best strategy, he advises, is to stay focused on priorities so that your energies are focused on things that will bring you long-term gains.
“As Paul Harvey always said, ‘In times like these, it helps to recall that there have always been times like these,’” Tracy says.Posted in Team & Project Management, Team Productivity | Tagged brain, brian tracy, email, organization, overwork, tasks, technology