If you want to bridge the gap between goal setting and how you achieve your goal, examine and improve how you and your people are managing workload.
According to a survey conducted in 2013 by The Economist Intelligence Unit, “61% of respondents acknowledge that their firms often struggle to bridge the gap between strategy formulation and its day-to-day implementation.”
The report goes on to say that “top executives should pay special attention to the key initiatives and projects that are most important to corporate strategy” as well as prioritize those strategies and allocate resources to them.
Sounds good, but what if a company’s inability to “bridge the gap” isn’t about project selection or resources? What if projects and initiatives are properly identified as being connected to the overall strategy, but goals are STILL not met?
Then it’s time for leaders to examine individual performance. Individual performance builds company performance, so if individual execution is hampered by disorganization, interruptions, distractions, missing systems, lack of processes, or trouble prioritizing, the issue isn’t one of strategy, project planning, or lack of resources. It’s one of individual performance.
How workers work is an essential building block for both individual and company success, but if progress is still too slow and goal achievement is delayed, it means time, energy and effort are lost or wasted during the day. Inefficiencies exist, but need to be addressed.
Being asked to simply “get results” is not enough and being micro-managed is too much, but there’s a more productive middle ground to occupy. It’s to learn how to better manage daily responsibilities, information, time, and email; how to make smart decisions; and how to establish workday systems and processes.
In total, it’s about workload management, and individuals must be given the tools, training, learning, and development to understand how to work more efficiently and effectively every day.
Work without Worry to Achieve Your Goal
Strengthening individual performance depends on how well you can learn to master your workload and your workday. If you’re not in total control of what happens from day to day, you’ll wind up working reactively and you won’t be able to deliver great results. And “winging it” in your workday will always come back to haunt you. It’s like trying to build a house without the architectural drawings or putting together a bookshelf without the instructions or going to the grocery store without a list. You get the idea.
Ideally, you want to enjoy a workday where you’re maximizing time, finding things when you need them, keeping your focus, getting important tasks accomplished, and making plenty of progress. But if you feel like your days are slipping away from you and you’re not getting the right things done at the right time, it’s time to add some certainty to your day.
The most important areas in which to gain certainty include how you use and protect your time, what priorities to pursue, and what to do with every email you receive in your Inbox. When you have these under control, you can spend your time more productively, instead of worrying about what you’ve missed, lost or forgotten. You can also improve your speed of execution and bridge the gap between goal setting and achievement.
“A man with one watch knows what time it is;
a man with two watches is never quite sure.”
Certainty of Priorities
“The only way to get it done is to do it.”
That’s what my grandfather used to tell my Mom when she was young and she passed it on to me. It’s incredibly simple, yes, but unfortunately the challenge for many people is that they aren’t clear about which thing to do first. Competing priorities can be confusing and stressful if you don’t have a way to sort them out.
But there’s always an answer to the question of what ONE thing is more important than all the others. To get to the bottom of it, start with the projects you’ve identified as important to your goals. No matter how or where you created your big goals – with visualization, white boards, lists, vision boards, etc… – you need a granular approach for managing what to do and exactly how you’ll do it. That means you must identify small tasks – specific action steps – to get projects started or keep them moving forward if you’ve already begun.
After that, it’s important to prioritize. Not everything can happen at once and this is when competing priorities can be overwhelming. The only way to manage this well is to decide when you’ll take action on each and every task or action step you’ve identified. Once you make these decisions about timing, your priorities will automatically be clear and you’ll have a plan you can really use from day to day.
The more you plan and prioritize next action steps, the more effective and productive you will be.
Certainty of Time
Everyone has time, but not everyone knows how to protect it. And it’s essential to learn.
In your workday, you may receive or allow too many interruptions. You may be permitting distractions that eat up your focus. You may suffer from over-commitment or saying “yes” too many times. Being on too many committees or volunteering so much of your time that you can’t keep up at work is a problem that won’t go away unless something gives. If you’re trying to “do it all,” you may end up getting nothing done.
I realize saying “no” can be an uncomfortable response. But taking charge of your time by turning down certain invitations, projects, or meetings is ESSENTIAL to working your plan and moving forward toward your goals.
Don’t waste energy worrying about how to get time, keep time, or find time. You HAVE time. You just need to block it on your calendar, protect it, and use it wisely on the things that matter most to your project completion and goal achievement.
Certainty of Email
With hundreds or thousands of emails accumulating in your email Inbox, you’ll never feel on top of things. The incessant pull to look at new emails and review old ones will nag you and kill your productivity, creativity, motivation, and progress.
To eliminate the uncertainty about what’s going on in your Inbox, first commit to a few important basics. Manage only ONE email Inbox and be sure it synchronizes with your tablet and your phone. If you delete in one place, it should delete in all places.
Turn OFF email alerts, because those alerts constantly break your concentration. How are you going to get anything done when you’re pelted with notifications all day?
Establish locations – if you don’t already have them – for the many types of information you receive in email. You need a place to store contact information, a reliable calendar (only one, please), a digital task list, email folders, and folders in your e-file system, whether that’s in your hard drive or in the cloud.
Next, you need a process to follow throughout the day so you know where to put emails after they’ve landed in the Inbox. You have only two main categories to think about – reference, where information goes into one of the places listed above, or action, which means a task goes on your digital task list. Outside of these, you can archive, delete and unsubscribe.
Throughout the day, spend short stretches of time processing email. Make decisions about what to keep and where to move information. File things you want to keep, but don’t require action. Reply and forward to emails if you can do it in less than two minutes. If an email contains a task that will take longer than two minutes – requiring more effort – it goes on the task list.
Once you’ve gotten to zero, your processing time may only take 10 minutes to get back to zero, or it may be longer. You can process a few times in the morning and a few times in the afternoon. If you haven’t gotten to zero yet, you’ll have to put more time in to get there.
Either way, toggle throughout your day between working on tasks and processing email. Once you hit zero, your awareness will be 100% about what you have and where it is, and you’ll never have to wonder what you’re missing ever again.
Bridging the Gap to Achieve Your Goal
Inconsistency in the individual systems and processes people use in their day will cause inconsistent results for both individuals and the companies they work for – and it can be costly. Unfortunately, many leaders allow “average is good enough” in their companies and their results are therefore just average.
The online learning platform, Udemy, summed it up well in one of their articles: “Remember, the team with the best skills wins. Developing and nurturing a strong learning culture driven by on-demand skills training keeps your workforce engaged, improves their productivity and creativity, and can give you a solid ROI in ways you probably never considered.”
Invest in learning and development and be more efficient, effective and productive. Then you can depend on meeting deadlines, getting results, and bridging the gap between goal setting and goal achievement.