It’s very satisfying to know that we aren’t wasting our time and that our work is progressing smoothly. All humans are wired to grow, progress and to move forward. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say that they felt great about procrastinating and completing work later than planned. Maybe that’s why so many of us are interested in time management tips and productivity blogs.
Personally I enjoy writing as well as reading about productivity and I try to implement as many of the tips as possible. I frequently update my to-do lists, I begin my day with the most difficult tasks whilst my mind is alert, I do my best to avoid multitasking and I resist the temptation of checking email too frequently – although this last one is an ongoing challenge for me. There was even a time when I had two of Timothy Ferriss’s questions from his best-selling book The 4-Hour Work Week pop up on my phone several times a day: ”Am I inventing things to do to avoid the important?” and “Am I being productive or just active?”
The upside of these productivity tips is that they enable us to get more work done and to increase our focus on the most important tasks. And it works! Surely, that’s a win-win situation. We’ve all become so terribly busy and oversubscribed with work, that anything we can do to get our tasks completed faster and better is welcome.
The downside to the productivity race
But as with everything, there is a downside of being too productive. As we work faster, we sometimes compromise on quality and we skip over some of the detail that could otherwise serve our project. But worst of all, as we seek to cope with our workload, we compromise on personal relationships in order to get our work done quicker. I see it all the time, either in myself or in others. We will send an email instead of picking up the phone, or we’ll have a brief phone call instead of meeting face to face.
Basic time management may teach us that taking time out for lunch with our colleagues is unproductive, or that chit chatting with our peers in the office is time waste. But these small conversations bind us together. Not only do they provide us with valuable information, broaden our horizon, and enable us to learn from others. They also benefit us in a deeper psychological way. When we spend time with others understanding their situation, we are better able to open up, trust and empathize – something, which is crucial when working on projects. Completing a successful project is so much more than getting a bunch of tasks done on time. It’s about working well together as a team, understanding how to use each person’s strengths and appreciating what each stakeholder would like to gain from the project.
We forget the importance of relationship building
It happens that project professionals are so preoccupied with the completion of tasks that they forget the importance of relationship building. They don't take time out to socialize and engage in one-2-one conversations, and when someone turns up at their desk, they continue to write their email and only fleetingly look at their colleague. This is the downside of productivity. This is when we become effective taskmasters at the expense of relationship building, and when the quest for productivity has forced us to become more transactional than transformational.
When we get caught up in the productivity race, we are addicted to a short-term productivity gain. Unfortunately we are often unconscious about the medium and long-term side effects. We jeopardize relationships, make assumptions and poorly thought through decisions because we move too quickly. It can be devastating to treat a project simply as a set of tasks that need to be completed as quickly as possible. Too many projects fail because we’ve overlooked the human element. If our projects are to add value, we need to deeply engage with everyone, from team member and stakeholder to end-user.
Now over to you! Have you made sure that relationship building activities feature on your to-do-lists and that your activities will help you to gain results not only in the short term, but also several months down the line?
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