The Big Productivity Dilemma: Think 1st or Do Right Now?

You've got a big productivity dilemma. Should you think or do? Use the WNDYR Thinking Framework to think more, do less, and be super productive.

Future of Work

If our aim is to be super productive, how much time should we spend doing instead of thinking?

Have you ever considered what the perfect ratio would be? The struggle is often between two conflicting tensions; “doing enough work” versus “thinking through, in order to do the best work.”

Most people agree that without doing, we won’t achieve much. However, if we act first, with little thought beforehand, the outcome can be less then desirable. As a result, most people intuitively devise an individual thinking/doing ratio that allows them to be productive in a meaningful way.

Now, the world offers plenty of tech options in terms of organizing, tracking and staying on top of work — to help solve the problem of doing. Where many of us still need visionary help is with our planning and thinking.

Productivity is more than doing

Most of us are quite familiar with the “busyness mindset” — the idea that we should constantly be doing something in order to show how productive we are. This mindset can even bias us as to whether remote work is a good idea.

One way to undo the “busyness mindset” is to explore a successful example of someone who thinks first: Warren Buffet.

Buffett is a famous example of a thinker. A successful investor, he’s renowned for the amount of time he spends reading and thinking every day. Only a decade away from his 100th birthday, Buffett still devotes about 80% of each day to reading newspapers, magazines, annual reports, and books.

Few of us could get away with this much thinking every day — too many observers: this could look like inactivity!

You need a framework. (Try the Thinking Framework!)

While software can help us with all the work we need to do, we’re often left on our own when it comes to figuring out a successful approach to thinking and planning our work.

Here at WNDYR, we pride ourselves on our Thinking Framework which allows us to dissect both simple and complex decisions, projects and situations, to ensure that we consider options and solutions across multiple layers.  We strive to think before we do.

Our Thinking Framework consists of 4 lenses through which to make informed decisions, in order to unpack a problem and create a way forward. Projects need to be addressed across these layers to find success — any layer used without the others can easily result in a failed outcome or, at best, a short-lived one.

Lens 1: Individual

Oftentimes, and retrospectively, we find ourselves thinking about what we could have done differently in a situation. Instead of just reviewing learnings post-problem, the Individual Lens offers agency.

It asks us to think about what we can do at the moment of encountering a challenge. It turns the lens on us, compelling us to take personal responsibility. We might consider, for instance, how we are hindering a colleague and what we might do to remove that hindrance. Or, we might consider what others could use from us, which could move us to action.

Lens 2: Leadership

Within an organization, there tends to be a “chain of command” and we need our leaders to make final decisions or guide us. With the leadership lens, we can ask ourselves what we need from our leaders to effectively move forward.

Getting leadership to sign off on our requirements is often made simpler once we show that we’ve considered a solution from multiple angles.

A personal sign of leadership is to ask ourselves how we can be better leaders for our colleagues, build trust with clients or, if we’re in a leadership position already, how we can improve our direction and set an example for our team.   

Lens 3: Process

This, along with the 4th lens below, is possibly thought about the least. We generally have technology in place to “solve” this for us we can be tempted to place blame on either colleagues or leadership when things don’t work out.

But what if we think about how and why we have certain systems and processes in place? If we stop to think about the “how” and “why” of any process inside our businesses, we’ll often find that it’s difficult to answer.

Frequently we find processes that are complicated or outdated. Helpful questions to ask are; “does this person/teams/stakeholder need to be involved?” Or, “is there a smarter way to do this?”

The ultimate aim of reviewing processes is to streamline the ways projects are executed and remove hindrances to doing work more efficiently.

Lens 4: Systems

It’s all well and good to have a streamlined process in place, but if that process is not implemented through a proficient system, it can curb success.

For instance, is email the best way to communicate and task within a team? Is the time tracking software we’re using really giving us the necessary data? Is it a good idea for a colleague to keep the latest copy of a report on their hard drive? The answer to all of these is probably “no,” but we do them anyway.

Many systems blockages stem from thinking that the way it has always been done is the best way.  Usually, it can be as simple as not being aware of better solutions.

From project management software like Workfront or Workato, to digital asset management tools like MediaValet and Widen, there are outstanding solutions to ensure that our teams can get their work done from one centralized and efficient system.

By thinking about and researching what’s required from a system we can ensure better implementation of our processes.

Through systematically applying the Thinking Framework to planning projects—in a situation or with difficulties we are facing—we’re able to break it apart and truly see what the hurdle is, then find productive ways forward. This enables us to effectively embrace thinking as part of the “busyness” of the contemporary workplace and makes for a more successful future.


Watch The Thinking Framework Video: Designing a New Vision

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