Most of those I know who are owners and managers of A/E firms will admit they would like to get more done. So many feel they are being pulled in so many directions that oftentimes, at the end of a day or week, it is hard to see what was accomplished. That doesn’t lead to high job satisfaction (or life satisfaction, for that matter!).
I have worked with so many high achievers in this business over the years. Here are some the things I see them doing:
- Getting up early. You can get so much more done when you get up early. There are three hours between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m. Those might be the very most productive hours of the day. You have to use your time wisely when the interruptions are at a minimum.
- Allocating time. You have to allocate blocks of time to your most important activities. Dedicating these blocks where you shut the door and don’t do anything else is a tactic productive people often use. Those blocks are used for matters such as making client calls to find more work, or spending time mentoring your successor. Creating these blocks of time for critical activities is one way to be sure the distractions of the day don’t pull you too far off course.
- Working off a “do” list. There is nothing that can take the place of a simple list of tasks to accomplish that you can check off when done. I keep mine in “notes” in my phone. Those who get a lot done use a “do” list as one of several tools in their “productivity toolboxes.” It may sound old-fashioned to use one but they work.
- Setting priorities. It’s one thing to block out your time and have a “do” list, but it’s another to constantly remind yourself of your greatest priorities so those get the time and attention they deserve. The most productive people know that they have to spend time on the most important things that they do each day. They may not be the easiest, or the most fun, but they have to get done. This takes a lot of vigilance to make happen.
- Staying organized. I never bought into that notion that a messy desk says anything about how creative or how busy you are. My experience is that most people who are at the top of their fields are highly organized at home and at work. It’s rare you will go into a CEO’s office that isn’t very neat – even those who have a ton of stuff in there.
- Saying “no.” You will never be able to accomplish your priorities if you say “yes” to everyone who wants you to do something. Knowing it’s OK to say “no” sometimes and when you can do it is something that the most productive people in this business really understand and practice on a daily basis.
- Delegating everything they can. I’m not going to say that you shouldn’t ever do tasks that are “beneath” your station, because at times you have to, if for no other reason than to boost morale. That said, a steady diet of working below your highest and best use is not a good use of your time. I have seen this way too often with owners and managers in the A/E business. Learning to be an effective delegator has to be part of your productivity formula. It takes trust in other people and really good communication skills to work. The most productive people in this business are good at it.
- Tuning into themselves. Knowing yourself – when you are at your sharpest, what your typical distractions are so you can avoid them, what you do best and what you aren’t so good at – is essential to be the most productive person you can be. Not everyone is as introspective and tuned into themselves as they probably should be.
I could go on and build a list three times as long as this. But, I, too, have to move on to my next priority task this morning!
Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.