Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things. – Peter Drucker
I recently wrote about the disappearing vacation and why it is important for leaders to get out of town – or at least out of the office so they could recharge and their team members could learn to step up in their absence. But what’s your plan for reentry? Do you show up and pretend to be glad you’re back and then hope you get a surge of productivity mojo that will carry the day, and the next week or two?
If you are like most people I know, we are all amazed at the productivity we demonstrate when getting ready to leave for vacation. We answer email, delegate things we had been meaning to deal with and make a flurry of follow-up calls. Often, the pressure of leaving can really elevate our decision making and energy. It’s usually quite a warm feeling we get when we walk out the door and look at the order on our desk and review the lengthy check list of things we can cross off as completed. You can describe this surge of productivity as ruthless, coldly efficient and in command. They all feel pretty good.
When we return from an absence, especially ones of a week or more, we often face a deluge of stuff coming at us – email, check ins with the boss and team, new meetings, employee needs, etc. All of this can be quite daunting. How often have you heard someone say “It seems like the vacation was so long ago”, when they have only been back for a couple of days? I would like to suggest two things you to:
1. Enhance Effectiveness
As Peter Drucker’s quote states, effectiveness is doing the right things. When we are constantly bombarded with the avalanche of information that comes our way, it can feel like we are drinking from a fire hose.
I suggest that to enhance your effectiveness you need to refocus on your priorities upon your return. What really needs to be done in the next 90 days? Write them down in large print and hang them on the walls of your office. Then, with those as your guideline, PURGE all the crap that’s accumulated in your office that is not relevant to those goals.
Get rid of all the magazines and reports you haven’t read but intended to. Go through all the files and folders that have piled up and be ruthless about getting rid of things and clearing your path to higher levels of effectiveness. Focus is the key to productivity!
A few things to keep in mind:
- Have extra receptacles to toss things. Get several.
- Get someone to partner with you on this. They can help to toss stuff or put post-it notes on the stuff you need to file or delegate.
- Don’t do this when you can be interrupted. Come in early or stay late or even do it on a weekend.
- Give yourself a few uninterrupted hours to do this. You will thank yourself.
- If this works well for you (and it should), use it as a model for the whole team to do at least twice a year.
2. Boost Productivity
The problem with the pre-vacation efficiency is that you probably don’t know exactly how you got so efficient and the positive time pressure of your departure is missing. You need a model and I think that David Allen, the personal productivity guru, whose work I have followed for years, has a great model for dealing with all the “stuff”. In his book, Getting Things Done, he has this excellent flow chart:
A few comments on how to use this simple model:
- The stuff can be documents that come to you or some important email. A lot of email is just CYA crap, but some of it is important.
- If it is not actionable, throw it away or put it on your to-do list or file it away. Ask yourself, especially if you don’t have an assistant, would anyone be able to decipher my system if I got hit by a bus?
- You will recognize that some information is part of a current project. Move emails into those electronic folders or file the paper in the current files.
- I can do it in 2 minutes or less – then DO IT and be done. Keep your responses brief.
- If it’s more complicated, Defer it or Delegate it. Fine tune your systems for keeping track of things and always be willing to improve and enhance as you go.
First, I do hope you have a great vacation this summer. I also hope that some of these ideas will be helpful in managing your reentry process.
I look forward to your thoughts. Make sure you leave a comment below to share what you learned and how you’re going to use it.