Productivity Lie #8: if it’s too easy it can’t be right

Reserve your 100% productivity for where it matters. For the rest, know deeply that 80% is enough.

While it makes no logical sense, I am again dumbfounded by the fact that at every training session, through every talk, with every company (regardless of the size or stature), everyone, (well, just about everyone), complains of not having enough time. Yet, when we dig just a little deeper in search of the culprit of the time-eating monster machine, we discover a human trait that leaves me with deeply etched frown lines and the tendency to shake my head in disbelief slowly from side to side.

You see, my clients feel that choosing the path of least resistance is seldom the right path for them to take. If something is, (or appears to be) too easy, it’s frowned upon as a cop-out and diminished in the light of a more complex alternative.

Why is it that we have to say we worked hard, late, long? What benefit is there to you, your company or your family by overcomplicating things? What about choosing the path of least resistance. The shortest step between points A and B. Why oh why oh why, does it have to be hard, to be right?

What productivity lies are you telling yourself?

PRODUCTIVITY LIE #8: If it’s too easy, it can’t be right

My son was 12 at the time that he challenged my misconception that effort in = reward out. He was writing exams but giving no attention to studying.  As an A student, enforcing sticking to a study timetable is a tough battle for a Mum to win, but I tried my best. His revolutionary retort: “I get high grades without studying; I don’t need to work hard to get it right”.

The 3 things you can do right now:

1. Play to your strengths

Marcus Buckingham in his book, “Go put your strengths to work”, introduced me to the concept of the strengths’ revolution. Doing what you both love and are good at, makes things easy. When you do what weakens you (i.e. what you don’t love and aren’t good at), you have to work really, really hard to get great, sometimes not even good, results.

Take some time to pinpoint what really makes you zing. Over a one-week period, jot down on a green piece of paper anything you do that you love; the stuff that makes you feel energised and alive. At the same time, it’s worthwhile noting on a red piece of paper, anything that weakens you; the stuff that you dread or that makes you feel tired.

Now look back over the green papers and pull out the ones you know/feel you are good at. These are your strengths. You want to spend more time doing these things, knowing that they’ll take less effort, but deliver higher reward.

2. Sometimes, 80% is enough

Giving anything less than 100% to anything that you do is a tough piece of advice to swallow, particularly if you are a perfectionist.  However, dedicating 100% of your resources to low value, low reward tasks could mean you compromise your time to the extent that you are now left with too few hours to dedicate to high value, high reward to-do’s. It’s basic maths.

Reserve your 100% for where it matters. For the rest, know deeply that 80% is enough.

3. Surround yourself with the right team mix

Now this is where things get exciting. In my experience I often see companies employing people with similar personalities to come together as a team. While it’s imperative to match skill set, or potential skill set, with the right job, a mix of personalities with different organisational styles will produce greater results.

You see, even though our Productivity Playground team are all really great at productivity and organisation, some of us are more detail orientated while others see a bigger picture. Some prefer working 1-2-1, while others perform best when standing in front of large audiences. Some are great at prescribed training, while others really shine when having to facilitate processes. And while we can all do each of these jobs well, it’s the ones we really love doing where we deliver the greatest results, with the least amount of effort.

Round up ‘your people’ and get them to do the strength’s exercise you completed in point number 1 too. Once you identify who performs better doing what, you can come together to pool resources. “I help you with this”, “You help me with that” and “Hey presto, we’re both happy”.

While you are at it, look over those red slips of paper too. From a leadership perspective, I sometimes find that this is where some real treasures lie. You see, if someone is naturally good at something, say running the month end report, you might automatically assume that they really enjoy it. As a result, you would assign them additional tasks of a similar nature, all the time getting them to do something that weakens them.

Do more of what you love and less of what you find hard work. Less effort in = More reward out.


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