The Value of Being in Control
The benefits of productivity might seem obvious, even to those relatively new to what some might call “the movement.” There’s:
- Increased output
- Reduced time-wasting
- Improved efficiency
- Better organization
But the stand-out benefit for me, and the thing that has taken me by complete surprise, is the feeling of control that comes with having a working system in place.
Let me explain.
Maintaining Grace Under Pressure
I have a confession to make. I thrive under pressure.
So much so that I crave it.
So much so that I know when I’m at my worst, I cultivate a high-pressure environment.
There are several problems with this approach: firstly, it’s stressful. Not only for you but for others around you. And it’s tiring to maintain. Secondly (and more importantly) you’re constantly flirting with disaster. When you do your best work at the eleventh hour, when everything is riding on that “all-nighter”, there will be inevitable failures to cloud the heroics of your other successes.
One of the things I wanted to do when I sought to improve my productivity was to get better at anticipating, and delivering, the desired outcomes of my customers ahead of the required schedule. I have had some success in this. With my improved prioritisation approach and ruthless capture of stuff that needs doing, I have a much more effective pipeline that ensures that most (but not all) of the important and urgent tasks get done ahead of time and before the less important/less urgent tasks.
It also gives me a mechanism to quickly assess and incorporate new tasks and new information. Curve balls thrown at me by my boss are much easier to quantify now that I have my open tasks written down and easily to hand.
One unexpected benefit of this is it’s much easier to say no to new work, since you can articulate clearly what other important/urgent tasks you’re working on and the implications of re-prioritizing them.
All this leads to a more composed, more structured approach that I’ve found significantly less stressful than my old approach.
It’s much easier to say NO to new work if you can articulate clearly what other important or urgent tasks you’re working on and the implications of re-prioritizing them.Atul Kumar Pandey
When it All Goes to Hell
The thing that I found really surprising though, was how my system has helped me during those (thankfully) rare but unavoidable crisis moments when everything seems to be Urgent and Important and you have neither the resources nor the skill to deliver the task to Time, Cost and/or Quality.
Did my system give me the resources and the skills I needed? Of course not. Did it help to move back deadlines or reprioritise urgent tasks from senior stakeholders? Hell no.
What my system did was allow me to identify exactly what I had on my pad and what was going to blow up at any given time. This information allowed me prioritise my efforts, accept minor failures in order to avert absolute disaster and manage the expectations of my customers at the same time.
Having a trusted system also enabled me to continue to capture any new “business as usual” tasks without having to do any actual work on them, safe in the knowledge that I would get to them when the crisis was over.
To put it another way, my system gave me the clarity of thought to fight the fires that were most severe; the fires themselves were still unwelcome and damaging, but they were prevented from being all-consuming. I suffered smoke damage, but at least the building didn’t burn down.
This left me feeling, bizarrely, in control where I would previously have felt the complete opposite.
I can’t begin to describe how much of an epiphany this feeling of control is to me. It’s almost as if someone has given me a magic box into which I can throw my crappiest, most challenging tasks and retrieve them later minus the stress, panic and more general neuroses that would normal accompany them.
I don’t know if this makes me a more productive person.
But it certainly makes me a happier one.
Has your productivity system yielded any unexpected benefits? Or do you think it’s just mind tricks? Join the conversation and comment below!