For many of us, productivity may bring up images of apps, workshops, and color-coded systems, all designed to make us do more and do it more quickly. In fact, you may have already spent some time putting together a system to streamline your professional life, only to have it fall by the wayside due to complexity, frustration, or boredom.
Instead, why not look at some of the most renowned philosophies behind productivity and time management so that you can develop a rationale that allows you to design your own system? By studying the productivity strategies of corporate, political, military, and creative leaders, you can develop your own methods to get a handle on all the items competing for your attention.
Once you have decided on a productivity method that works for you, you can go back to your apps, bullet journal, or calendar and match practical time and information management to your chosen method. This will give you a system that works best for you because it is aligned with your own work style and management philosophy.
The Japanese word kaizen translates to “continuous, incremental improvement.” As a productivity strategy, kaizen has helped to make companies like Toyota and Canon industry leaders long after they might have been expected to rest on their laurels.
For real estate agents, kaizen can help improve your business on a large scale through a variety of small changes that accumulate over time. For example, if you know that your marketing needs to be improved, kaizen suggests that you commit to improving just one thing each day or even each week or month.
Maybe you’ll begin posting to one of your social media accounts or making one phone call or coffee date each day. Once you have reliably integrated this change, you’ll move on to another small, incremental improvement.
The effect over time of a number of small improvements can be game-changing, allowing you to make big improvements without a noticeable increase in effort or time expenditure. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the big changes you need to implement, you can commit to small, manageable ones that are sustainable.
Developed by the United Kingdom’s wartime leader Winston Churchill, the Churchill method is based on the prime minister’s strategy for managing the often overwhelming number of priorities competing for his attention during his years as a military and political leader. Instead of looking at the big picture of what needs to be done, the Churchill method prescribes limiting your focus to the two or three most imperative priorities.
You can choose the way that you decide which item on your to-do list are most important, but consider any or all of the following:
- Which task is the most urgent in terms of timeline?
- Which task is the most profit-generating?
- Which task does my client think is most important?
- Which task do I personally think is most important?
- Which task will get me closer to my long-term goals?
- Which task will best balance long-term and short-term goals?
Once you’ve developed your criteria for comparison, you can implement it, putting focused effort into the completion of each of the tasks you have deemed the priority for the day. If it is impossible to complete a given task in one day, divide it up into manageable subtasks that you can continue to add to your list each day.
Another advantage of the Churchill method is that it can help you identify tasks that you’re never going to do well or that you’re never going to want to do. This may help you find places in your business to outsource or turn over to a more qualified colleague or support staff member.
Like Churchill, American President Dwight D. Eisenhower was both a wartime military leader and a peacetime political figure. His method for managing multiple competing priorities has been dubbed the Eisenhower Box.
Instead of a to-do list, draw a box, and divide it into four columns or boxes. Label these as follows:
- Urgent and important (DO)
- Important, but not urgent (DELAY)
- Urgent, but not important (DELEGATE)
- Neither urgent nor important (DELETE)
Now instead of a long list where every item appears to have the same level of urgency and importance, you can evaluate each factor and determine what should be done, when it should be done, or whether it should be done at all.
As you can see, this helps to further refine the thinking that goes into prioritizing tasks, providing you with a method for determining which ones you should tackle and which ones you can put aside, perhaps permanently. It also places a premium on delegation which is useful for those who feel that they always have to do everything themselves.
Tend Your Garden
Based on the writing of 18th-century French philosopher and author Voltaire, tend your garden is more of a philosophy than a strategy. Here, you prioritize only those tasks that are important without evaluating them emotionally or examining their purposes.
For example, if a client suddenly decides to pull out of a deal, you could spend many hours wondering why, discussing their decision with friends, and stewing over the effect that their decision will have on you. Alternatively, you can identify actions to take instead, ranging from having a conversation with your client to understand his or her new goals to identifying properties for your client to review.
By orienting yourself toward action instead of motives or feelings, you’ll save yourself a great deal of time and turmoil and keep your professional life grounded in reality. In addition, you’ll prevent yourself from acting or reacting emotionally when facing a problem or setback.