‘Tag you’re it’ and other sounds of passive productivity

I left him a message.

I’m waiting for a call back.

She never returned my call so I couldn’t get it done.

These are the sounds of passive productivity.  The optimist might say this is an opportunity for improvement.  Those leaning more towards pessimism might say these are words most often spoken by persons not taking responsibility.  Either way you look at it – if you are the recipient of phrases like these someone has just played their get-out-of-jail-free card without moving an assigned task to completion.

Beating the passive productivity game 

There is a way to work more successfully with the “tag – you’re it” crowd.  Try using a coaching technique called reframing.   Instead of assigning a task give them a clear picture of the ultimate outcome.  This will help them see how their piece fits into the bigger puzzle and contributes to overall success.

Change from this: Would you please ask client X how long the project is expected to run?

To this: You and I are scheduled to meet tomorrow at 3:00.  I’d like us to finalize the work schedule and staff list.  To do this we will need the project timeline from client X.  Can you get that and bring it to the meeting?

Yes, we should all know that leaving a message does not absolve us from responsibility but not everyone is able to take a step back to look at the whole picture – especially if they do not have access to the same amount of information you do.  A little coaching can go a long way toward revealing passive productivity for what it is and helping our teams make more intentional decisions.

Tired of moving undone items from one to-do list to the next? 

How about your own productivity habits?  I hear many people complain that their to-do lists never seem to change.  Some even copy items from one daily calendar page to the next.  If you’re not seeing the kind of progress you deserve, take a look at the items on  your list. 

  • An effective to-do list contains nothing but next actions – those are doable little steps that move you forward – like phone Jane to book appointment.
  • Keep a separate project list and ensure you have one action item for each active project on your to-do list.  Projects are things like buy new tires or hire another sales person.  You can’t do a project – that’s why they have to stay off your to-do list.
  • Add context to your to-do list where possible.  Group all errands together, make a separate section for phone calls, perhaps another to capture action items you can only do at home.  This will help maximize the time available when you’re in the right spot to get things done.

The to-do list tips are from David Allen’s productivity philosophy called “Getting Things Done” (GTD to his followers).  Directly below you will find a link to Productive Living, David Allen’s GTD newsletter.

Productive Living.

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