Leadership Dilemmas: Productivity Versus Work Life Balance

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Who would be a leader in today’s frenetic economy? It appears many of us!

To help you handle the challenges many leaders now face daily, we are launching our series on leadership dilemmas that we will post every month.

If you would like a question answered by one of our trainers, then please fill out a contact form with your question.

shutterstock_342613217I want to kick off the series with a topic which is contentious in many organisations. That is, getting things completed exceptionally well and at speed, whilst you still maintain a work life balance.

The Holy Grail? Maybe.

Fast apparently is the new black. The ability to deliver everything from tissues to talent management at speed, is rewarded everywhere you turn.

I’m a culprit myself. Last week I ordered from a specific online retailer because my purchase had guaranteed delivery within 10 hours and amazingly within a 2-hour timeslot. Good news for me as an important task was completed before a scheduled breakfast meeting with a client.

The truth is that speed of completion is just as important in the B2B workplace. Let’s be honest, who isn’t impressed with a team member who delivers a project earlier than the due date. Or a supplier that goes above and beyond your current service level agreement with them?

Is this phenomenon at play in your organisation? I suspect so.


The facts

The need to deliver fast isn’t going away. It appears many of you have cottoned onto this too, as at last count Google uncovered nearly 38 million pages related to the search term, ‘how to be more productive at work’, a common question for many of us it seems.

While at the same time the latest data from the Health and Safety Executive confirmed that stress accounted for 37% of all work related ill health.

A warning shot, reminding us that though we want to perform well at work we also need to consider our overall well-being.

Ready to look at your options? Here are several strategies proven to deliver for today’s leader.


Your mantra

The Truth: You will never get it all done. No matter how many hours you work or weekends you sneak out your laptop. Warning: The to-do list will never end.

Remember the Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule or law of the vital few) was a ground breaking concept uncovered in 1896, that’s even more popular today and for a reason.

This principle plays out in all areas of our personal and business life.

In a work context, 20% of our activities will deliver 80% of our results.

20% of our sales team delivers 80% of the revenue… and the story goes on.

The first step is to take time to identify the 20% of what you do which delivers 80% of your results. Carrying out a time log of your activity over three days will reveal data about where your time is spent. You can then make decisions on where your time and focus could be better used.


Look after yourself

shutterstock_508881157We cover this briefly in our resilience post which you can read here. I would not want to be accused of patronising anyone so please forgive me in advance. Eat well, get enough sleep, hydrate your body, be sensible with your alcohol and sugar intake and exercise regularly. You know the benefits, don’t you?


Learn to unplug

A challenge for driven individuals I know and yet time away from your smartphone and desk will work wonders. We live in an ultra-connected world that is, thrilling, fascinating and distracting. Learn to recognise how it’s affecting you and switch off. Turning off from the outside world provides time to recover from the daily stress many of us experience as leaders of high growth organisations.


Do you need to do it?

This isn’t about passing the buck. Instead, it’s a review of what your role is and what it is not. If you are still carrying out ‘busy work’, what is that about? Control or lack of organisation and planning? Your time log will likely alert you to which it is. Then you can choose what to do next!


Rituals and daily routines

There are multiple resources online about the power of rituals and daily routines in our life.

The truth is we are all intelligent adults who intellectually know having a routine is a good thing. Unfortunately, we sometimes forget and put other things first.

Yet, counter intuitively, putting ourselves first frees up time and makes us even more productive.


What else works?

shutterstock_502434979Common themes you could choose to adopt start with rising early. Search the archives of Harvard Business review and you will notice a pattern of habits, many of which start with the time-honoured principle of, “early to bed early to rise”, which is then followed by a focus on mastering skills and a passion for learning. With a smattering of scheduling and focused planning being prevalent as a theme throughout.



Finally, it takes action

Forgive me for stating the obvious. No amount of online blogs or recommended books will help unless you take a stand to do something different and act on the strategies and research we have shared. The question then is; are you ready?

Excel Communications has a 30-year history as a global leadership and communication skills organisation, dedicated to exceeding the expectations of clients through the training and development of their business and people.