Mark had it all. He had an executive suite with a beautiful view in a Fortune 500 company. He was leading a first-class team on a product that was in the news and key to the success or the organization. So when he brought me in to help him be more productive, I was a bit confused. On the surface all appeared to be running smoothly.
Picture a duck, he explained, a duck floating peacefully on a calm lake with barely a ripple in the water. That’s me, Mark said, but you can’t see that just below the surface I am frantically paddling as fast as I can and not moving very far.
There are a lot of Mark’s. To get meaningful work done in today’s business climate requires two primary skills, the ability to work fast and to work focused. The problem lies in believing we can be both at the same time. The sweet spot lies in the skillful pivot between the two, or WorkAgility™.
Daniel Kahneman, the only psychologist to ever win the Nobel Prize in Economics, called it “Thinking fast and Slow” and wrote a book by that name. Others think of it as the difference between a deep-dive and a scan of a large surface area. I think of it as fast v. focused.
Fast keeps you connected, interacting, exchanging smaller bits of information. You are plugged in and responsive. Focused is the meaningful, thoughtful work that will impact your profitability and promotability. It requires your undivided attention.
The most effective use of our brain is to clearly delineate between the two. Carving out “focus time” can be difficult, but essential to your success. Even small blocks of focused concentration can make a huge difference in your productivity. Aim for about 90 minutes before a break and resist the lure of your smartphone-world when it’s time to be focused.
Ideally, get your team on the same page and agree to work uninterrupted for a consistent period of time of the day. Internal interruptions are much more common than external pulls for your attention. Yes, this is a culture shift and yes, there will be emergencies that can’t wait for an hour. But you will be amazed at the productivity shift of a team that will leave each other alone for part of each day.
Developing the pivot between fast and focused is an essential building block to WorkAgility™ and a key component of finding more time for life by getting more done.