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Mark Ellwood's Brainy Blog of Fascinating Facts and Timely Tips

Please Interrupt Me


by Mark Ellwood  | 

Interruption

A day without any interruptions would be a very strange day indeed.

Would you really want to eliminate all the interruptions that you get? Imagine arriving at your work space early in the morning. You write out a to-do list, and then launch into your first task, preparing next year’s budget. After that, there are no interruptions. No one comes to ask you a question. Your boss doesn’t show up to assign any tasks. You check your email – no new messages. Your telephone never rings. No chats about your sports team. No meetings to attend. No requests No calls, no voice mail, no texts. No interruptions.

Everyone around you is busy. But no one interrupts you.

This would be a strange day. You’d certainly have plenty of time to concentrate. Chances are you’d also feel lonely and unappreciated.

The fact is, interruptions are necessary at work.  Organizations rely on collaboration, delegation, and teamwork to succeed. As an employee, you can’t do it alone. You need to respond, to be available, to act as both a knowledge source and someone who directs action. This is true whether you’re the president or an entry level intern.

In our corporate time studies, we’ve discovered a curious irony about productivity and interruptions Many sales and service people tell us that their most important task is to provide customer service. Yet when we ask them what gets in the way of their productivity, interruptions and customer requests outnumber other productivity issues. They seem to be saying, “I could help this customer if I just wasn’t being interrupted by that customer!”

Another irony is that we interrupt ourselves. Responding to low priority emails is the top interrupter, based on actual data from our TimeCorder studies.

Face it. Interruptions are inevitable. The hassle is that they come when you’d rather be working on something else – usually a high priority task. To manage your time better, manage your interruptions so that you are in control of them, rather than them controlling you.

Some employees put up a “Do Not Disturb” sign, fending off co-workers. Unfortunately, what works for you does not work well for them. Your productivity comes at the expense of others’ productivity.

Some people put on headphones to ward off interruptions. They say they can concentrate more on work. But there is evidence that headphones don’t help concentration. If you’re writing a report or doing data entry while you’re listening to music, then your brain has to deal with two inputs at once. The research shows that this confuses the mind.

Here is a piece from CBC Radio on privacy and headphones, including some of my thoughts.

→Dealing with noise in open offices – CBC Radio workplace column

Worker with headphones

Face it, interruptions are inevitable. Instead of running away from them, plan your day in advance. Block off time for your most important priorities. Aim to finish tasks, not just work on them. And in the middle of everything, when someone comes by for that pesky question, accept your interruptions. Then handle them quickly. Your time is worth it.


Mark EllwoodMark Ellwood is president of Pace Productivity, an international consulting firm that specializes in improving corporate productivity. His passionate mission is to improve people and processes through consulting and training. 
  

Seeking Executive Women For A Time Study

We are looking for time-stressed executive women to participate in an innovative time study.

Ideally, participants would be in senior executive roles, working for large companies, earn over $150,000, and have children living at home.

Women in this group face unique work-life pressures every day. We’re on a quest to find out how their time is spent at work, and how they might gain an extra hour per day for the things that matter most to them; be it work, personal time or time with loved ones.

The study is being sponsored by Mark Ellwood from Pace Productivity Inc. He has conducted time studies for corporate clients since 1990 and often presents his findings at time-use conferences.

Check out the innovative TimeCorder device under the "TimeCorder" tab. Participants in the study would use this easy-to-use time tracker (it’s better than an app!) for two weeks to record their time on a variety of activities. At the end, each participant will receive a report showing her time allocation, and more importantly how she compares to her peers.

There are four different activity lists to choose from. The "Senior Executive" list is all encompassing and would work for most positions. In addition, there are lists for CEOs, Financial Directors and Sales Managers.

Choose from one of these activity lists. Each includes 27 activities:

  • Senior executive – Project management, staff supervision, crises, administration, daily operations, etc.
  • CEO – Board relations, oversight of management team, external relations
  • Financial VP / Director – Financial management, budgeting, cash management, oversight
  • Sales VP/ Director – Business development, key accounts, sales management, service issues


If you are a coach working with executive women, presenting this idea to your clients will give you more data in your work with them. If you are an executive, we’d love for you to participate. And if you know someone who fits the bill, she’ll appreciate your referral. There is no charge to participate in this study.

To get started, pick a list and send your name, address, title, and best phone number to Mark Ellwood at mark@getmoredone.com . We’ll confirm your interest and ship you a TimeCorder device. Then with a quick telephone orientation you're all set to go. Your time is worth it!


Mark EllwoodMark Ellwood is president of Pace Productivity, an international consulting firm that specializes in improving corporate productivity. His passionate mission is to improve people and processes through consulting and training. 
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Cut The Glut of Email


by Mark Ellwood  | 

Our time study research indicates that employees spend 3.3 hours per week on miscellaneous email messages that are not connected with any of their main projects. That’s a massive amount of time that could easily be reduced. Here are some tips for handling email better.

PLANNING TO WRITE EMAIL

  • If you are concerned about the volume of email you receive, remember, it’s not them, it’s all of us who are guilty. If you send out 2 emails, and copy 20 people on each, you have contributed to the glut of email by sending out 40 emails yourself!
  • Do not copy people needlessly. Ask yourself why you are copying everyone – if it is to make you look good, it probably is not necessary.
  • Ask employees who report to you not to cc you, unless they include a short note explaining why they are copying you.
  • Hire someone to go through your email when you are on vacation and eliminate what is obviously unnecessary.
  • Use the phone instead of sending an email. If you find yourself typing a lot and telling a “story”, then it is better to call.
  • It is very difficult to convince others through email, especially when you know that they already have entrenched positions. Find another way.
  • The best use of email is for short transactions: “Here is the document you requested,” “When is the meeting?”, “Can you provide an answer to a question”, etc.
  • Just say no. If you’re on a mailing list for which you have no interest, reply by unsubscribing.
  • Unsubscribe from newsletters. If you want to learn something, take a course. If you are hoping that occasionally some useful tidbit will come through on a newsletter, then you are wasting your time. Unsubscribe.

WRITING EMAIL

  • Check the spelling of your email before sending it. Spelling errors seem generally accepted in email. But go beyond acceptable. Aim for excellence.
  • DON’T TYPE IN ALL CAPS. This is perceived as shouting.
  • Re-read your email before sending it. Writing quickly often results in awkward grammar.
  • Consider carefully what you write; it’s a permanent record and can be easily forwarded to others. Never accuse people, call them names, suggest they aren’t being smart or criticize their spelling. Assume their intentions are genuine and that they are good people. Be polite and assertive if necessary (i.e. to spammers) but not vindictive.
  • Write succinctly.
  • Write descriptive subject lines. Many busy people will only open messages with captivating subject lines. Think creatively.
  • If you must forward a message, put your comments at the top.
  • Do not keep all of your messages in your mail box folder. Create new mail folders with names that categorize your mail and move messages into them. Thus, new mail is quicker to find.
  • Create folders for : Things to do, Upcoming Events, Manager Issues, Subordinate Issues, Reading, Family, and folders for each of your major customers.
  • Be careful with punctuation. A lot of periods can separate thoughts….. but use a lot of exclamation marks and it looks like you’re angry!!!!!!!!!! How does a line of question marks look ??????? You might not intend strong emotion, but the other person might think you do.
  • Avoid cyber-speak. Not everyone is familiar with the cute acronyms used in Email correspondence, such as IMHO (in my humble opinion) or FWIW (for what it’s worth).  Performing a mental translation each time slows down the reader. Do not make reading difficult for them.


Mark EllwoodMark Ellwood is president of Pace Productivity, an international consulting firm that specializes in improving corporate productivity. His passionate mission is to improve people and processes through consulting and training. 
  

Top Reasons Why People Hate Meetings

Boring meeting

Here’s why people hate meetings.

  • Boss tells you the meeting is urgent, then is always the last to show up
  • Difficult to conceal the fact that you really have to take a nap
  • “Let’s vote on whether to take a vote”
  • Tray of squishy pastry things filled with weird flavored goop
  • Agenda? What agenda?
  • Usual signal for the end of the meeting is arrival of cleaning staff
  • During your presentation, everyone’s watching cat videos on their phones
  • Person next to you conducting personal hygiene keeps flicking stuff your way
  • Discussion is so far off topic, no one remembers the original point
  • Most important thing you get to do is answer the role call
  • When there’s a motion to repeal the amendment to the previous motion to disallow, no one knows what they’re voting for
  • Woman whose name you can’t remember keeps getting your name wrong
  • Two words: long winded
  • Guy on the speaker phone sounds like he’s in a coal mine
  • Group rushes through a bad proposal so they can beat the traffic to the cottage
  • After four hours, place smells like a locker room

And the top reason why people hate meetings is:

  • Scheduling yet another meeting to finish everything off


Mark EllwoodMark Ellwood is president of Pace Productivity, an international consulting firm that specializes in improving corporate productivity. His passionate mission is to improve people and processes through consulting and training. 
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How Do Sales Reps Spend Their Time?

What  differentiates top performing sales reps from the rest of the pack? The best sales reps focus their efforts on their most important priorities. This means a) finding qualified prospects, b) determining potential needs, c) closing sales and d) taking responsibility for customer service. But transcending proficiency in these areas is the issue of time. What key priorities should sales reps focus on? How do they spend their time compared to others? Are they maximizing productive time and minimizing time wasters?

Sales pie chart

So what makes up each of these categories?

Our company, Pace Productivity, has been conducting time studies of knowledge workers since 1990.

We examined productivity measurement data from outside sales reps – those whose daily activities take them out of their offices to customers’ locations. The pie chart above  these activities grouped into broad categories. Typically, they add up to about 48 hours per week, including 3 hours of breaks.

The selling category consists of activities designed to prospect for new business. Sales reps need to find, cultivate and maintain relationships with new prospects and existing clients. By keeping their funnel full of prospects, they can maintain a steady stream of business. This category includes such activities as marketing, cold calls, calls to existing customers, sales visits, presentations and writing columns.

On average, these add up to 10.8 hours per week or just 22% of the work week. This is quite surprising to sales managers who often expect their reps to be actively selling for at least 50% of the time. The reality though, is that all kinds of other activities need to be done, and they infringe on selling time.

The good news is that there are superstar reps who excel in selling time. For instance, financial planners as a group spend 27% on this category. Within this group, some individuals achieve over 40% of their time selling. They do this by hiring assistants to handle their administrative and order processing activities.

Typically, sales reps engage in sales activities on 39 different occasions per week. These are direct contacts with customers and prospects, primarily phone calls and meetings with both current customers and prospects. 

The duration of sales calls to current customers are longer than those with prospects. Specifically, sales calls with customers typically take 11 minutes each, while those with prospects are only 7 minutes. The prospect calls may be shorter because some of them are just voice mail messages that are left.

When sales reps engage in face-to-face meetings, they spend an average of 29 minutes per meeting with current customers. Meetings with prospects are longer, at 51 minutes. Thus, telephone conversations tend to be short, but once meetings occur, there is a greater opportunity for in-depth discussions.

Understand how your time is spent, and then strive to allocate your efforts to the highest priority activities. Your time is worth it.

 


Mark EllwoodMark Ellwood is president of Pace Productivity, an international consulting firm that specializes in improving corporate productivity. His passionate mission is to improve people and processes through consulting and training. 
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Procrastination Definitions

Procrastination proverb

 

Here are a number of defiintions of procrastination. Do any of them fit?

  • To voluntarily delay an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse off for the delay – Piers Steel
  • The intentional and habitual postponement of an important task that should be done now. – Harold Taylor
  • To put off doing something, especially out of habitual carelessness or laziness.  – The free dictionary
  • The act of replacing high-priority or important actions with tasks of lower priority, or doing something from which one brings enjoyment, and thus putting off important tasks to a later time. – Wikipedia
  • An automatic problem habit of putting off an important and timely activity until another time. It’s s a process that has probable consequences. – William Knaus
  • The starting point of becoming excellent in time management is desire. Almost everyone feels that their time management skills could be vastly better than they are. People resolve, over and over again, to get serious about time management by focusing, setting better priorities and overcoming procrastination. They intend to get serious about time management sometime, but unfortunately, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” The key to motivation is “motive.” For you to develop sufficient desire to develop time management and organizational skills, you must be intensely motivated by the benefits you feel you will enjoy. You must want the results badly enough to overcome the natural inertia that keeps you doing things the same old way.  - Brian Tracy
  • Procrastination is one of the most common and deadliest of diseases and its toll on success and happiness is heavy. ~Wayne Dyer
  • Procrastination usually results in sorrowful regret. Today’s duties put off tomorrow give us a double burden to bear; the best way is to do them in their proper time.    - Ida Scott Taylor
  • Procrastination is the biggest enemy of a successfully planned day. When you get a late start, it can make one activity spill over into the time allotted for the next activity, causing a domino effect that leaves many items on your to-do list undone. – Julie Morgenstern
  • Procrastination is, hands down, our favorite form of self-sabotage. ~Alyce P. Cornyn-Selby
  • If we wait for the moment when everything, absolutely everything is ready, we shall never begin. ~Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev
  • Procrastination is opportunity’s natural assassin. -Victor Kiam
  • Procrastination is a tough time robber to overcome. It is a real test of our commitment to apply sound management principles to a problem area…we must analyze what we procrastinate about, what interruptions and excuses we find to get out of doing that difficult or unpleasant task. – Jack D. Ferner
  • Procrastination is the bad habit of putting of until the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday. – Napoleon Hill
  • When procrastination becomes a persistent habit, it is a serious threat to professional and personal success.  – T. Bittel
  • Proximity to temptation is one of the deadliest determinants of procrastination. – Piers Steel


Mark EllwoodMark Ellwood is president of Pace Productivity, an international consulting firm that specializes in improving corporate productivity. His passionate mission is to improve people and processes through consulting and training. 
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Putting A Priority On Your Time

Priority stamp

Where does all the time go? Long hours. Late nights. Snatched lunches. Some people boast about their overwhelming work schedule as if it’s a badge of honor: “I start work at 7:00 a.m. and work right though until 8:00 p.m.” Often their Herculean claims border on the absurd. “Last night I went to bed at three a.m. and had to get up two hours earlier to finish a report.”  Or, “I used to eat lunch at my desk. But I need to save more time, so I’m giving up eating…”

The problem is NOT that there isn’t enough time. Time doesn’t expand. The problem is that people burden themselves with too many activities. The key to success is how you allocate your time to the important ones. In time study research we’ve conducted for clients, average employees spend about 50% of their time on A and B priorities. But among the top performers, time spent on A and B priorities approaches 60%. That’s an increase of 5 hours per week that can make all the difference.

Here’s how to think about setting priorities. “A” activities are those that influence long term results. Ask yourself, if you had nothing else to do tomorrow, what would you do to affect your results one month from now? Those are your “A” activities. For sales people, this means selling, which usually only amounts to 23% of their time. For managers this means supervising people, (18% of their time) and planning (7%). What should you be doing? Your top priority items should take up 15-30% of your time.

When you think of your high priority activities, don’t just say, “I’ll work on the budget” or “I’ll work on my recruiting plan.” Be specific by listing activities you can complete today. You can’t do the entire budget, but you can set up a spreadsheet for salaries. You can’t recruit a new hire today, but you can review and update the job profile.

“B” priorities are the activities in your job description that must get done today. These are the things that keep you busy. Depending on your job, they might include providing customer service, running monthly meetings, preparing reports, designing products, inputting data, supervising staff or shipping products. For most people, “B” priorities represent 30-50% of their time. These are the activities most people do well in their job. But they’re also the things that prevent them from getting to the “A’s”. That’s why you need to plan the “A’s” first.

“C” priorities are those unplanned or unwritten aspects of your job that have to be done. Whereas “A” activities are planned by you, “C” activities are often planned for you. They include department meetings, routine requests from your subordinates and inquiries from other departments. They also include administrative activities such as filling out expense reports, reading reports, filing and sorting through e-mail. Our research indicates that administrative tasks take up 20-25% of the time. Within this, paperwork alone can take 5 hours per week. If you’re spending more than that, the system is bogging you down.

Travel is also a “C” priority. It has to be done, but isn’t a key factor in the success of your job. And, let’s not forget lunches and breaks. It’s ironic how people will plan a lunch meeting or coffee break to the minute. Yet they never get around to planning their major projects. Breaks are necessary, and incubation time away from work can help you solve problems better. But breaks are still just “C” priorities.

Finally there are “D” activities. This means delete, delay, delegate or drop. Get rid of them. They include reading the paper, handling tasks that should be delegated, and excessive Internet surfing. Some of them are technological time hogs; fixing a photocopier paper jam, waiting for a computer to boot up or recording a new voice mail message every day. Beware of them. Miscellaneous time can be as much as 5% of the week.

So how do you spend more time on for your high priorities? First, take the time to plan for them. Set aside the same time every day to plan your daily activities. Choose a quiet time when you can review past accomplishments, as well as future things to do. Then write down a list of A, B, and C activities that relate to your goals.  Write your list in your time planner, on an app or even on a Post-It note. Include specific activities, such as “Prepare exhibits for monthly report,” rather than vague tasks such as “Work on report.” Later, when you’ve completed an item, check it off. Doing this gives you a sense of accomplishment, even for small tasks.

Block your time. Schedule time for your “A” activities first. Plan to do them when you’re at your peak and when interruptions are least likely to occur. Make an appointment in your planner, and allocate that time for high priority activities. Then, if someone asks you to meet during that time, say “Sorry, I have an appointment.” No one will ask whom it’s with. It’s an appointment with yourself.

Then it’s time to start by working on your A items. They should always come first. Don’t work on a C just because it’s easy to do. And if you find your A tasks are overwhelming, or if you don’t think you have enough time to do anything on an A priority, the activity is too broad. Break your A priorities into small manageable chunks, so they’re easy to accomplish. Even with just five minutes left before lunch or before an appointment, you should be able to make some progress on an A priority. Your time is worth it.


Mark EllwoodMark Ellwood is president of Pace Productivity, an international consulting firm that specializes in improving corporate productivity. His passionate mission is to improve people and processes through consulting and training. 
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Productivity Hurdles

Hurdle

What really bugs people about productivity?

We conduct time and motion studies using our proprietary electronic TimeCorder device, gathering thousands of hours of real-time data from employees.

We like to complement the time study results with additional data, so we often provide employees with a brief questionnaire prior to beginning a study. One of the questions asks: “What things, outside of your control, get in the way of your productivity?”

The idea of this question is that some productivity inhibitors such as procrastination are within employees’ control. Some are outside their control. Or apparently so. It’s our contention that many of these hindrances can in fact be managed by employees through better time management training. Nonetheless, employees often believe productivity is spinning out of control through no fault of their own.

The most popular responses to the question are listed below.

RESPONSE

%

Paperwork / administrative tasks

19%

Customer requests – service / problems / complaints

17%

Computer / system / equipment problems

16%

Phone calls / phone interruptions / inquiries

15%

Other departments inefficient / make mistakes

10%

Interruptions

8%

Meetings – too many / too long / unnecessary

7%

Staffing / HR issues / changes / people absent

6%

Changing priorities / ad hoc / unplanned projects

5%

Customers without appointments / walk-ins

5%

Volume of work / not enough time

4%

Requests from peers / other departments

4%

Volume of E-Mail

3%

No response / nothing

3%

Traffic / Travel

3%

Fire fighting / emergencies

3%

Doing other people’s jobs

3%

Environnent – noise, cold, location, privacy

2%

Communication difficulties – internal

2%

Difficulty reaching customer, getting information

2%

Procedures / policies / compliance

2%

Questions from staff

2%

Lack of information / missing information

2%

The top-rated item deals with paperwork and general administrative tasks. Interestingly, respondents are rarely very specific about this. It isn’t monthly reports, or weekly expense accounts that fluster them – just general administrative tasks, of which there are many.

The second response, dealing with customer issues is ironic because many of the people who respond to this question provide customer service as part of their job. The same customers that employees serve are also perceived as getting in the way of their productivity.

Computer systems and equipment problems are third highest on the list. Despite massive investments in technology over the last twenty years, technology gone wrong continues to be an issue for many employees. Connections are slow, software is buggy, equipment doesn’t work, and user-interfaces are clunky. Indeed, this issue is clearly outside of employee’s control, and many organizations have little sense of the negative impact of technology.

Item number four deals with phone calls. Interruptions by phone are perceived as much more of an issue than email interruptions. It seems emails can wait, but phone calls cannot.

Rounding out the top five, problems originating from other departments are a perennial concern. After all, it’s easy to blame someone else. So it would not be surprising to go to the other departments and find that they have issues with this department. Put in a room together, the two departments might find common ground and develop simple productivity initiatives. With time diagnostics pointing out where the opportunities are, companies can impact knowledge worker productivity without massive investments in infrastructure. Sometimes the little things add up.


Mark EllwoodMark Ellwood is president of Pace Productivity, an international consulting firm that specializes in improving corporate productivity. His passionate mission is to improve people and processes through consulting and training. 
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Hours Worked By Job

Man with clock for head

Who works the longest hours? The sales rep trying to firm up a deal? The president who has to solve a delicate legal issue? Not surprisingly, there are a range of work hours, based on results from a number of time studies we have conducted using our proprietary TimeCorder device.

While participants in our studies typically track their time for two weeks, our results are reported on a weekly basis. The chart below shows total work hours, including work done at the office, at clients’ locations and at home. Business travel and breaks during the day are included, though commuting time is not. Overtime is done in the morning, at night, and on the weekends.

The average for all full-time employees is 46.7 hours per week. Within this group, municipal workers generally work 42.5 hours. Many of these are unionized employees with contracts that specify their maximum number of hours. Once negotiated, they generally stick to this The other jobs that are lower than the average do not have a travel component. Employees stay at one location.

Those who are above average have greater responsibilities, more travel, and more people management as part of their  jobs.

The chart below shows work hours per week (blue bars). Those who supervise employees have longer work hours and occasions than those who do not. Independent consultants are an exception. Unlike most other employees, their income is directly related to hours worked – they have a different incentive from employees to work long hours.

Weekly hours by job

The scale for the red bars is in minutes. The bars represent typical durations, showing how long each event lasts.

Both scales increase at the same time, however there is not a causal relationship between hours worked and length of duration. Rather, durations increase with added responsibilities. Inside sales reps and receptionists for instance receive a high number of short phone calls or customer visits. Hence their durations are short. Middle managers and presidents on the other hand are more involved with long term planning through meetings. Meanwhile field supervisors show a long duration because their time spent in the field is usually long.

Generally, employees work longer hours than they would like. However, salaried workers do not receive extra compensation for overtime hours. They work more hours than the norm to:

  • Achieve a level of results beyond expectations in order to obtain a promotion
  • Reach bonus status, whereby compensation is tied to results
  • Comply with requests by senior management
  • Conform with peer pressure
  • Be consistent with external schedules (e.g. train schedules, car pooling, or night time courses)
  • Avoid stresses elsewhere. (For some, the attraction of work occurs when work becomes like home and home is too much work)


Mark EllwoodMark Ellwood is president of Pace Productivity, an international consulting firm that specializes in improving corporate productivity. His passionate mission is to improve people and processes through consulting and training. 
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How To Set Goals Using The SMART Formula

Human rocket

Have you ever heard of the SMART formula?

When time begins to rush at you quickly, do you know where you are headed? The goals you set for tomorrow are your pictures of success. By setting them today, you aim your activities in the right direction. But a goal should not be just, “I want to lose weight,” or “I hope to be rich someday.” Those goals are too vague. They’re like New Year’s resolutions—well-intentioned wishes that are short on substance. So use a handy acronym known as the SMART formula to clarify your goals. There are different variations on this formula. I have looked at them all and made a subtle change to the acronym that I think works better. The acronym of the SMART formula stands for Specific, Measurable, Appropriate, Realistic and Timely.

Specific

Goals such as being happy, getting rich or having a good time lack specificity. But when they focus on more concrete aims such as getting married, reducing accounts receivable or taking regular vacations, they take on more definition. Being specific also means being focused. Many people find themselves frustrated because “there are just too many things to do and not enough time.” They can’t get more time, but they can specify fewer goals.

The s in “specificity” also stands for “substantial.” It means a goal is concrete and worthy of pursuit. You might decide that cleaning up your desk is a goal. But it’s not the sort of lifetime accomplishment you would want to be praised for in your epitaph. If cleanliness is an issue, then certainly establish a goal to improve. But put it in context with more important pursuits. What will you be proud of five years from now? If you had to write a resume right now, what would you want to put in it? Your accomplishments would be based on goals that are specific and substantial.

Measurable

The second criterion a goal should meet is measurability. State your goal in a way that an outside observer could measure it objectively. For instance, “We will reduce delinquent accounts by one third,” or “I will take two vacations this year,” or “I will stop smoking in two months.”

Something that is important can be measured with more than one goal. For instance, a sales rep might aim for specific sales dollars, profit for the territory, introductions of new products and an increase in distribution channels. It’s possible that she would be successful in one criterion, but not in another. Multiple goals provide greater perspective.

Appropriate

An appropriate goal is within your area of power or responsibility. Don’t try to work on someone else’s goals. Appropriate goals are also consistent with your organization’s aims, culture or standards. For instance, it’s difficult to have a goal of increasing customer satisfaction levels while simultaneously introducing discount pricing.

Appropriate goals also relate to your personal style. What are you capable of accomplishing, given your background, your skills, your training or your physical limitations? People who are only five feet tall have little chance of making the Olympic basketball team.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t extend yourself. It is possible to go beyond anything you’ve done before, and to push yourself past the limits you thought were unsurpassable. It ispossible to stretch your imagination to conquer heights you thought were unreachable. Allow your dreams to flourish. But make sure you have the appropriate resources, time and makeup to turn your dreams into reality.

Goals should also be appropriate to each other. For some businesses, a goal to increase sales by 20% by the end of the quarter may be inappropriate with simultaneously reducing bad debt accounts. In many cases, one or the other can happen, but not both.

Realistic

Goals should be a bit of a stretch, but not so much as to be out of reach. A goal might be achievable within the next three months, but this deadline may be unrealistic, given the other constraints you’re facing. In your business, don’t aim for a market share that is simply not going to happen. Often new businesses will make claims that seem to be very modest; a very conservative 1% share would satisfy them. In reality, that’s a huge amount!

How do you know what is realistic? Look for relevant comparisons. Examine historical trends. What has been done in the past? Or look at economic indicators. What are the trends for the future? Or industry trends. What has the competition been able to achieve? Has someone else embarked on a similar journey whose results might indicate what is possible?

A dose of good old gut feeling also helps. Tripling your salary in your current job by the end of this year is a specific and measurable goal. But it’s not very realistic if you’re earning minimum wage by washing dishes at the local greasy spoon. In that case, perhaps your goal should be to find a higher-paying job or to start your own business.

Timely

Put a deadline on your goals—this Saturday, the end of the month, the end of the year, your fiftieth birthday, whatever. Start with the end in mind. What will the final picture of success look like and when do you want it to happen? By determining the end time, you can then work your way back to see what you need to do on the way. The challenge you might face is that your goal seems overwhelming. You just don’t know where to begin. If that’s the case, break your larger goal into smaller ones.

One extra letter for the SMART formula…

Perhaps the SMART formula should have one extra letter, and that is “p” for “passion.” Pursue your goals with passion! Don’t become complacent about not meeting them. For example, saying, “We didn’t meet our goal last month, but that’s all right, we’ll make up for it,” should never be good enough. Rework your goals if necessary, but pursue them with a renewed vigour and with a sincere desire to succeed.  Always give it your best, and then some. InWho’s Running Your Career, Caela Farren says, “Passion and purpose go hand in hand. Passion is the fire in the belly, the willpower, the courage you harness to achieve your mission despite all the obstacles and reversals.” Go for it!

Your time is worth it.


Mark EllwoodMark Ellwood is president of Pace Productivity, an international consulting firm that specializes in improving corporate productivity. His passionate mission is to improve people and processes through consulting and training. 
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mark@getmoredone.com

Pace Productivity Inc.
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