If you are familiar with VitalSmarts‘ Influencer then you know what “vital behaviors” are. Vital behaviors are high leverage, critical behaviors that drive change by directly affecting outcomes. So, a few specific behaviors act as pivot points in your decision making, affecting your behavior (and therefore character) overall.
(This video will explain what vital behaviors are and how they affect our ability to change.)
It is all too easy to get caught up in our efforts to change by focusing on non-vital behaviors, which burns us out and prevents us from developing the thought structure needed for ongoing efficiency.
The Big Idea: Efficiency is about how you do, not what you do.
Just like there is a difference between changing your lifestyle and changing your life, there is a difference between using all the best productivity tools and functioning more efficiently. Your goals cannot be facilitated by tools; the tools are only support accessories to the mindset that drives the progress.
Your mindset does not come from tools, which means tools will not change your behavior.
And your behavior is the problem.
So, we have to adopt a mentality that causes us to function more efficiently based on a perspective designed to increase productivity and decrease loss. But we don’t want to become worker drones in the process so our creative side looks for smart solutions to common problems. This is a natural desire for efficiency that our decisions must facilitate.
Research suggests we can produce the efficient outcomes we desire by focusing on specific behaviors, adding structure and intention to our thinking so that our actions become deliberate and precise. There are three behaviors in particular that I have come to believe through experience and research are vital for achieving success in increasing efficiency in your workflow and in your life:
The way you lay out plans for project completion will determine your success or failure. No one builds a house without a blueprint, right? Well, what is your blueprint to completion for the projects on your desk right now? What is the next step in each process? Is it documented so that you can keep track of progress and hold yourself accountable for production outcomes? If you are weak in the area of mapping out your production processes, you will work inefficiently, guaranteed.
Do you create and maintain an environment that encourages creativity and productivity? Do you prepare the night before to minimize obstacles to productivity the next day? Do you think ahead about future needs and supply them to avert unnecessary need or crisis? A driving force behind efficiency is the practice of preparation in one’s lifestyle. Those who are determined to fly by the seat of their pants and call it ‘creativity’ are doomed to live an inefficient, unstable life. So you know, do the opposite.
This one is actually the most important of the three because it monitors the other two. What is your evaluation process? How do you come to the conclusion that something is not working, and when? Are you monitoring your progress (or the lack thereof) and analyzing it to determine what you can do to improve and grow? How often do you evaluate your own performance in a day? Do you do so systematically? Can you let go of something or stop and change directions when things aren’t working, or do you have to go down with the ship every time you commit to something? Your ability to evaluate progress while in process is what develops efficiency in execution.
I’ve learned to use productivity tools as accessories in the process of approaching work differently, not sources of motivation to approach work differently. That’s backwards; my thinking drives my doing, my doing does not drive my thinking. However, our doing does feed our thinking, so in order to get a different outcome we have to change our entire work process, not just our lifestyle.
It’s like that show, Kitchen Nightmares. These restaurant owners call Gordon Ramsay and ask him to come help them save their dying businesses. He comes and tells them they’re failing because they totally suck. They get mad and argue, steeped in denial and indignation. And they are the ones who are out here bad! Why???
The reason is they figured that they were generally righteous restaurateurs who just needed Chef Ramsay to tell them how to improve upon what they are already doing or how to make a few moderate changes to improve revenue. They never seem to expect him to tell them that they are failing because they don’t know what they’re doing and need to restructure everything immediately or shut down. They actually get offended, despite their consistent lack of positive results.
We do the same thing when we evaluate ourselves. If the way you naturally think was working for you, there would be perpetual positive results, despite obstacles or setbacks. So, when we commit to changing the way we think and therefore execute, we can address specific behaviors by rerouting energies in those focused areas knowing that changing those things affects everything else.
Using tools to increase focus doesn’t help if you don’t focus on the right things.