What if I told you there was a way to significantly increase your productivity and what you achieved in a day – a method that was based on working smarter, not harder – would you be interested?  Would you like to see even more output for the effort you’re putting in?  The sense of achievement at the end of the week when you look back and realise what you have achieved will be amazing.

You can – by using one very simple technique.  Don’t be deceived by its simplicity though – this technique is used by the world’s most successful business people on a daily basis and in fact, for many businesses it is an integral part of their culture – how they do things.

Here it is….

Set a deadline.

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” – Douglas Adams

It sounds blindingly obvious right? But how often do you set mini-deadlines for yourself throughout the day? – Or, do you just find one task morphing into another, mixing with a few more and becoming a big unproductive mess of several things being ‘on the go’ at once?

Try this, next time you have a task to complete – set yourself a deadline – no matter what the task is. For example, if you have an article to write, give yourself an hour to complete it.  You’ll be amazed at how powerful your focus becomes once you know you have a set time to complete something.  This one simple trick alone has the power to significantly improve your productivity and will do wonders for your efficiency and clarity of mind.

Then, when you’ve set your deadline, focus on your task 100%, close your email programs and take the phone off the hook while you commit wholeheartedly to meeting your deadline.


Limited time doesn’t mean limited capacity

Also, don’t think that just because you’ve limited the amount of time you’ve given yourself to finish the task you’ll be restricted in any other way (for example, diminished creativity). In fact, many artists and creative people believe they work better with a deadline looming, than when they have unlimited time up their sleeves.


A team exercise

Try this… next time you’ve got an operational challenge, put it to half of your team as a problem to solve and give them 15 to 25 minutes to come up with as many creative solutions as possible.

And for then for the rest of the team, just ask them to come back to you with ideas when they’re ready – suggest that they think about solutions as they’re working throughout the day and at the end of say, two weeks, compare the two problems’ responses.

You’ll most likely get far more creative solutions in the first instance when they had a deadline, than when they were able to get back to you at their leisure.

Giving yourself deadlines forces you to quit procrastinating, ditch your excuses and just jump right in and DO IT!  What could be more productive than that?

It is much easier to be focussed when you have someone to hold you accountable.  So share your deadline with someone who will keep you on task.  You could share what you intend to have done today with your team at a start up meeting – this way you are accountable to the entire team.

Consider having a lock down policy at your work place.  Have a sign – “In Lock Down” to be displayed when a team member is working to a deadline and needs to stay focussed and work uninterrupted.  Ensure the team are on board with this concept and understand when it should be used.

Developing productive behaviours and learning about tools to get the best return on the time invested each day is the focus of our PRODUCTIVITY by DESIGN workshops.


Millions have been spent by companies on training and developing their employees to increase skill levels, improve effectiveness and encourage innovation.  In order to achieve the very best return on the money and time invested in training, leaders must firstly, be clear on what the natural talents of their employees are… that is, they must know the strengths each team member brings to their role in the organisation.

And then consider… how to best build on those natural talents to further enhance the business performance?

Lifting an ability to perform a task from low to medium will increase productivity, but lifting an ability to perform a task from naturally good to great will have a far greater impact.  This is how the successful businesses go about maximising their return on investment in training and development.

Team performance assessments generally identify and highlight weaknesses and then the training and development programs are focused on those weaknesses.  Yes, the skills and abilities of team members may improve incrementally, however, not everyone will excel at a particular task, regardless of the training and effort invested.  Those people who achieve high levels of excellence in a given task do so because they are naturally inclined to perform the task at a high standard in the first place.

Businesses that want to boost productivity and innovation must help their employees apply their natural abilities on a day to day basis.

Leaders who have developed organisational cultures which support a strength-based approach to employee development have reaped the rewards.

How well are you leveraging off the strengths of your team…

Training and developing the right people for the right roles is far more productive than training the wrong people for the wrong job.

And what’s more… the passion index is so much higher when people are using their natural talents – they are more engaged and committed.  Very different to struggling daily with a task which they find difficult and unrewarding.

Change the focus – identify your individual team members’ natural strengths and build on those.  It is a different mindset which creates a more positive culture – a culture that celebrates natural talents rather than focusing on apparent weaknesses.

At Opening Gates, our TEAM COLLABORATIVE and PRODUCTIVITY by DESIGN workshops provide the training tools and concepts required to increase productivity and profitability by leveraging off the talent you already have in your team.

Delegation is a process that adds value at all levels – it is all about doing more by doing less!  Don’t wait and abrogate when tasks become super urgent and deadlines critical – it is incredibly counter productive.

In our “Delegate For Success” blog post we considered why we should delegate and looked at some of the excuses for not doing so.

The biggest block to effective delegation is less about the “how to” and more about the belief in the power of delegation.

In order to become an advocate of delegation – to be a skill builder – you must firstly let go of the mindset that:

How do we successfully delegate tasks?  

Here are our seven steps to delegating tasks to achieve success.  These tips can be used not only in your business for more success, but in every aspect of your life to accomplish more.

1. Understand the Task – Make sure you understand the task yourself so that you can clearly communicate the process, the resources, the authority levels and the time frames to the person you are delegating to.  Understand the risk if the task is not completed adequately and manage any risk appropriately.

2. Find the Right Person – Find the person who is motivated to take on the task and to learn new skills.  You cannot give responsibility, someone must take it.

3. Communicate the Task – Take the time to clearly and concisely communicate the task.  This includes the process and the expected outcome.  Make sure they understand how this particular task fits into the overall picture.  Create SMART tasks (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound).

4. Provide Resources to do the Job – Whether it is the time, people, or technology, it is your responsibility to ensure that the resources are available.  Communicate the parameters around time and dollars to be invested.

5. Agree on timelines – Communicate when the job must be finished, at what stage you want to review progress, when reports are due, when you need feedback and then set priorities.  Let them know that you have an open door should they have any questions concerning the task.

6. Confirm Understanding – Make sure that the person understands exactly what is expected. As the question…  “In your own words, talk through your understanding of what is expected”.

7. Encourage, Support, Feedback – Let the person delegated the task know that you have confidence in them to successfully complete the task.  Explain that you’re there to support them.  On completion of the task, perform a review and feedback on the results.  Say thank you!

Delegation, done well, is one of the best forms of on the job training.  We are often super keen to delegate just before we go on annual leave – all of a sudden there are team members who are capable of being delegated to.  Unfortunately, in the mad rush to get away these seven critical steps are not always followed.

Delegation is best done before the job becomes urgent… don’t sit on a task until it is both urgent and important before delegating.  The ultimate responsibility for ineffective delegation is with you.

The art of delegation, or doing more by doing less, can be mastered and adds value to you, your team and your business.

At Opening Gates we examine the art of delegation and so much more in our PRODUCTIVITY by DESIGN and our LEADERSHIP by DESIGN workshops.


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