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Five steps to extraordinary productivity - Guest comment

Stuck on step 5 (Photo credit: thirstycactus)

Almost however you look at it, employees of investment banks are going to have to do more with less in future. There is going to be less money to go around and there are going to be fewer employees.  There may also be less business, but if this is the case you will need to do more work to get it.

We have formulated five evidenced-based choices that you will need to make if you want to increase your productivity – and to succeed in the new climate of financial services.

1. Act on the important, don’t react to the urgent

In modern life, there are a number of highly complex decisions to be made on a daily basis.  Discerning what’s truly important can be difficult and we tend to get distracted.

Think of your time and the tasks you need to complete in terms of a four quadrant matrix.

Quadrant one is full of high urgency, high importance tasks. These are the most important and most urgent things, which you have to act upon.

Quadrant three is full of high urgency but low importance tasks. These are the things that crop up on a daily basis and which tend to distract us. They’re the excessive emails, the meetings with no agenda, the interruptions and minor issues.

Quadrant four is full of non-urgent and non-important things. These are the things that – when we’re bouncing around between quadrants one and three, we tend to use as an escape. Excessive internet surfing, gaming and gossip will all fall into these categories.

Quadrant two is full of high importance, low urgency items. This is the quadrant of renewal.  It contains things like taking exercise, downtime, learning and development, relationship building.

We find that people in modern workplaces don’t spend enough time in quadrant two. They bounce around between quadrants one and three and go to four for relaxation. There’s an urgency addiction and no proper renewal.

If you want to improve your productivity, spend more time in one and more time in two. Reduce the amount of time you spend in quadrants three and four.

2. Go for extraordinary, don’t settle for ordinary

This may sound  unreasonable, but it’s all about the context of your life. What are the most important things for you? It’s all about defining what extraordinary would like in the context of those values.

Extraordinary doesn’t have to be something huge. It just has to be something that creates an extraordinary outcome for your life. For example, my parents aren’t very technically astute and live too far away to see their grandchildren. Last time I visited them, I set up Skype on their computer. It has made a huge difference and they now speak to their grandchildren for an hour a week.

3. Schedule the big rocks. Don’t sort the gravel

‘Gravel’ is the term we use to refer to the stuff that gets in the way. The big rocks are the things that are important. Having identified what’s important, make time for it in your schedule so that you can achieve your goals.

4. Rule your technology, don’t let your technology rule you

Used in the right way, technology allows us to deal with people around the world at any time and to manage our schedules. But technology is also a tremendous distraction and many of us are technology addicts.

Emails are another key example here – create rules that determine how quickly you respond to emails from particular people according to their importance. Classify your emails as rubbish, as a meeting or a note and as a contract or a task. Deal with them according to their classification.

5. Fuel your fire – don’t burn out

This is about attention and energy management. If you are going to come to the workplace with extraordinary levels of productivity, you will need extraordinary levels of energy. And for this, you will need to: eat, sleep, relax, connect, and move.

Ensure you have the right diet: drink enough water, don’t eat empty calories. Ensure you have a minimum of 7 hours good quality sleep. Take proper downtime. Connect with the important people in your life. And exercise: my team and I ensure that we have two fifteen minute walks during the working day.

Simon McGlone is FranklinCovey's UK Productivity Practice Leader.

AUTHORSimon McGlone Insider Comment
  • ff
    12 December 2012

    I think these days a lot of people have the attitude of 'we're not going to get paid for it so why put in extra effort'.

  • St
    12 December 2012

    7 hours of sleep a day? Has this guy ever seen what a typical IBD lifestyle looks like? 2 $1bn+ executions and a marketing meeting a week - you will probably get 3-4 hours sleep max a day, and close to deliverables being due, less...

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