s
s
Sections
Sections
Subscribe

"Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of."-- Benjamin Franklin"I'm swamped." "I'm buried." "I'm getting killed."Sound familiar? It's a common refrain everywhere I go these days. CEOs and business leaders are feeling overrun with a myriad of operational details exacerbated by the constant struggle to stay ahead of this sputtering economy.

In my work with CEOs across all industries, everyone's swamped. In many cases, they're barely hanging on, and in all cases, they're stressed by the fear that they're missing a lot they should be doing and things might be getting worse. In an era when we're all being asked to do more than ever, and with fewer resources than ever, getting control of your personal workflow can provide a significant boost in personal productivity that can make a big difference in your executive and personal performance.

As I've said here before, I strongly believe that the feeling of being overwhelmed is really a matter of being out of control. The solution is to focus on regaining control. While all of us have various tools we use to manage our personal productivity, many of those tools are dull and inadequate to the task.

The relentless flood of e-mail is often cited as the principal villain. In our eagerness to stay on top of things, we've accepted, if not encouraged, more of this communication, and as a result, we get copied on way too many e-mails just to keep us informed, even when they don't require any action on our part. We respond by sending increasingly cryptic messages in return.

I think it's a good time to step back for a moment, take a more strategic look at our personal workflow and implement some changes that can make a lasting difference. I'm certain that you will find that gaining full control of your workflow, including those things that you're not going to do, is the shortest path to stress-free productivity. Let me suggest a few tools to try out.

David Allen's landmark book, "Getting Things Done," is a good place to start. In short, the "GTD" system is a comprehensive process designed to help you gain full control of everything on which you have your attention ... and there's a lot on our minds. Business. Customers. Employees. Spouses. Children. Siblings. Parents. Friends. Church. Community ... and the list goes on.

For me, the principal advantage of the GTD process is that you gain control of current reality and learn to keep track of the total inventory of your commitments. How many times have you caught yourself forgetting to check in on a parent or sibling as often as you like ... or regularly following up with a sick friend or struggling colleague ... or missing something that you promised would be done by now?

We all get buried, get down in the bunker and the next time we look up, it's Friday afternoon. A complete and systematic approach to everything that has your attention will allow you to control the myriad details that make up your professional and personal life.

You'll be amazed at the relief you'll feel by managing all of the things you're not going to do, which by definition allows you to make choices about what you are going to do, and, wondrously, allows you to reassert some control in your life. If you can implement a trusted system that will help you track everything that has your attention, you'll find that the GTD system has a lot of value and is a good place to start.

Another tool I've been using is mind mapping. In essence, mind mapping is a graphic technique that helps to create an organized display of related items. This has become an increasingly popular form of software, too, with products like Mindjet, The Brain and others, providing easily accessible tools.

I find it helpful to keep a one-page mind map in front of me at all times. A mind map - an Executive Dashboard as I call it - allows you to easily diagram an organized display of your most important projects and initiatives. It can help you stay focused on the major people and activities in your life and assure that when the next flood overruns the levee, you'll be able to focus on the most important elements of your life. (I have provided a sample version of an Executive Dashboard on the Exkalibur Web site.)

All of this requires some work, and many executives, while eager to improve their productivity, are unwilling to invest in the process. It will take a commitment on your part to get there as you initially capture all of the assorted and scattered details of your life, but I promise you it is worth the effort. If you can stick with it during the initial surge, the rewards will be abundant.

Lary Kirchenbauer is the president of Exkalibur Advisors Inc., providing practical business strategies for family and other privately owned businesses in the middle market. He works closely with senior executives and their businesses to accelerate their growth and improve personal and professional performance and hosts a CEO Round Table for middle market companies in the North Bay. Please visit www.exkalibur.com for additional information.