With the passing of each month, each season, each fiscal period, we have an opportunity to review, assess, plan, and improve. I’m writing this post on the last day of the third quarter. All we have left is the fourth quarter within which to reach our professional and personal goals for the year. Now, more than ever, our productivity matters.
If you have been at the game of life for any reasonable amount of time, you probably have developed some heuristics (rules of thumb) for success. Now is the time to put those proven rules into effect. If, however, you have not developed reliable productivity rules, may I offer you the following:
- Look back to move forward. They say you cannot get to where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been. In practical terms, if you do not understand the path you have taken, the choices you have made, the decisions that brought you to this place and time, then you are not in a good position to chart your course forward. Without this critical knowledge, you run the risk of repeating past mistakes and disappointments. You know that you have just one quarter left to accomplish your goal. So take the time for some strategic reflection and look at your trajectory thus far. What have you done this year to move closer to your goal? What has put you further back? What worked? What didn’t? What patterns emerge? What do you need to do about them? Your honest answers to these questions will point the best way forward for a successful fourth quarter.
- Focus on the 20 Percent. This close to your year-end deadline, you really do not have any time to pursue options and angles that are fundamentally less productive. So it’s a great time to remind yourself of the Pareto Principle, which states that “roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.” Then test the principle against your project list for the year. What is the actual return on investment thus far of each of your projects? According to the Pareto Principle, roughly 20% of your projects will be generating roughly 80% of your returns. And, roughly 80% of your projects will be generating only 20% of your returns. So find and fire your underperforming projects. Then focus on your hyper-performing 20% of projects that will yield 80% returns. Remember, to achieve a fourth-quarter win you must maximize the returns on your effort for the year. This is how you claim true productivity. After all, success is not measured by how much you did but by how much value you added.
- Create habits for success. While we love the notion of the overnight success, most truly successful people attribute their good fortune to good habits, focus, and diligence. To understand better where you need good habits, follow the advice of Vince Lombardi: “Don’t succumb to excuses. Go back to the job of making the corrections and forming the habits that will make your goal possible.” Spend the time now to create the systems and practices that enable you and your team to operate more efficiently and effectively. And, while you’re at it, eliminate the systems and practices that make you less efficient or less effective. Taken together, this will maximize your chances of success this year AND set you up for success in 2018. It is never too early or too late to create habits for success.
Over the course of this week, I’ll be taking my own advice. I hope you do too. Let’s check in with each other at year-end to see how close we all came to a fourth-quarter win.