How can you help your employees beat the potential for procrastination?
The leader of every organization has more than likely wondered at some point how to beat procrastination — not just within their organizations, but personally as well. In "Eat That Frog: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time," author and motivational speaker Brian Tracy explores the importance of leaders taking a hard look at their own performance to get the most return for their investment of work. In many cases, this starts with scheduling self-check-ins, where leaders can evaluate their own performance vis-a-vis the firm's goals and find areas to make improvements.
Here are five strategies from Tracy's book that can help improve your performance and better align your day-to-day productivity with your organization's most critical objectives.
1. Create a Baseline Around Your Role's Most Important Objectives
Each role and department has a critical part to play in helping the organization reach its biggest goals. Your finance team manages everything from processing expense reports to forecasting the complex financial implications of an M&A deal. Each role within the department has areas it absolutely must oversee. Start by clarifying what those are for yourself at the intersection of department and role.
Tracy recommends defining your key results areas: "Identify those results that you absolutely, positively have to get done to do your job well and work on them all day long." When you're clear on the most important contributions you can make to your business's goals and growth, it's easy to ensure that you're spending most or even all of your time on these tasks.
2. Establish Balance in Your Life
It might seem strange to veer into the topic of work-life balance in a book about productivity. Yet staying focused, keeping pace with busy executive life and avoiding burnout requires a strategy that maximizes output at work and minimizes work spillover into family life, hobbies, self-care and other priorities. Gallup research has found that more than half of Americans say that work-life balance is "very important" to them. In the finance field specifically, one Kronos study found that respondents felt they had given up work-life balance (36 percent) and flexibility (23 percent) in order to grow their careers.
To find balance, Tracy recommends applying the "80/20 rule": Determine the 20 percent of your work that brings the 80 percent of value to your career and then emphasize that as your most important focus each day. When the most significant issues on your plate are solved, it's easier to leave work behind at the end of the day.
3. Define Your Unique Contributions
Another lens to check in through is whether you're making the contributions you're uniquely positioned to make. In other words, are you doing what only you can do best? How is that reflected in the ways you spend your time? Tracy recommends asking yourself and those around you three key questions:
-What one skill, if I developed it and did it in excellent fashion, would have the greatest positive impact on my career?
-What three tasks or areas of responsibility that I focus on every day create the most value to my organization?
-What one thing am I — and I alone — uniquely able to contribute that will improve my life, career and business?
The answers to these questions can help productively shape the way you invest your time to get maximum returns and achieve your organization's most important objectives.
4. Evaluate Your Organization and Time Management Skills
Once you've achieved clarity on your most important goals, it's important to look at the nuts and bolts of how you approach your work. Some areas to explore include:
-Are you planning your days in advance and defining your priorities for what to accomplish every day?
-Are you breaking projects down into smaller steps?
-Are you managing your relationship with technology to stay focused and minimize distractions?
-Do you take time to prepare for tasks before you begin them?
-Is your mindset where it needs to be, focused on staying positive, finding the good in every situation and moving forward?
-Could you more effectively leverage time management tools, for example, scheduling large blocks of time for deep work or keeping a detailed schedule for each day?
Taking the time to ask critical questions about the foundation of your performance creates opportunities to fine-tune specific areas of your day-to-day workflow and further optimize your results.
5. Teach Your Team How to Beat Procrastination
Executive self-check-ins are critical for helping finance leaders and other members of the C-suite set the course. But it's also a useful technique that can help your direct reports — and anyone in the organization — accomplish more. There are several strategies that can help you effectively communicate this to your team, including:
-Model this behavior and discuss how and why these check-ins are important to your growth.
-Schedule regular check-ins with employees to explore what they're spending time on and how that aligns with the business's goals.
-Ensure that you're regularly communicating the organization's top priorities in one-on-one meetings.
-Invest in helping your workforce learn and master a system for productivity that helps them prioritize, focus and make the most of their time.
-Create a culture where it's expected that people will take time to plan their day, get organized before they begin projects and regularly check in to make sure they're focused on the right things.
The C-suite sets the tone for performance across the organization. Finance leaders can help take an active role in promoting productivity, beating procrastination and developing deeper alignment between employees' day-to-day activities and the organization's overarching objectives. With a solid organizational foundation, clarity and regular directional check-ins, your leadership and workforce alike will be pouring their energy into tasks that generate maximum return for the business and foster growth, profits and positive cultural returns.
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