In their book, A Bias for Action: How Effective Managers Harness Their Willpower, Achieve Results, and Stop Wasting Time (2004), authors Heike Bruch and Sumantra Ghoshal summarize 10 years of research into managerial behavior in a wide range of companies and industries. The principal conclusion is that only 10 percent of managers work purposefully to get important work done that moves the organization forward. The other 90 percent are involved in what the authors call “busy idleness” – procrastinating, detaching from their work, or spinning their wheels in a flurry of “active inaction.”
Amazing, but I find that 90 percent of people seem to believe that they are part of the 10 percent who work “on purpose”.
In all of the companies the authors studied, the leaders who knew how to take purposeful action shared two critical traits: energy and focus. Managers can harness the energy and focus to become fully engaged in their work through a potent combination of three strategies:
- Defining goals, which provide focus
- Mastering techniques to overcome negativity, which provide positive energy
- Learning ways to visualize that goal, which provide both focus and energy
I was at a national meeting where a friend and colleague showed me the best productivity or “time management” tool that I have ever seen, one that I have incorporated into my business. (In fact, each of my clients now receive one of these with their materials.) While I believe it is important to have some sort of planning or calendar system, that is not what he showed me.
This was a simple yet powerful tool, a plastic folder that fits in your pocket or purse and holds two index cards. The index cards have two headings: one says “I Am A Person Who” and the other says “My Goals Are”. Under each heading, there is space to fill in your own words and statements.
The power of the pocket folder and cards is unleashed when you look at and read the cards several times each day. They constantly remind you of the positive qualities you possess and the results and outcomes you want to achieve. Most feelings of being overwhelmed, overscheduled or “adrift” come from a combination of how we think and feel about ourselves, and not having a clear idea of what we are trying to accomplish. The cards provide a constant reminder of what our true priorities are – the promises we make to ourselves. They remind us of Purpose and provide the energy and focus to stay on Purpose.
“I Am A Person Who” can refer to affirmations that we constantly need to put positive, action-based thoughts in our mind that take us toward our desired goals. It can reinforce the quality of person we are striving to become. As William James, the pre-eminent psychologist, said, “People tend to become what they think about themselves.” If you think of yourself as able to do something, you probably will do it. If you think of yourself as incapable, you probably will not.
Much is said for developing your ‘marketable’ skills and knowledge through education and training. Lately, the practice of using affirmations to accomplish a “vision” has attracted great attention in our local business community. These messages are incomplete, watered down at best. Attitudes and affirmations are the ‘great multipliers’ of the skills and knowledge you already possess. Knowledge, skills and the right affirmations alone will not consistently produce desired results, however.
The missing element in these common messages is the focus of the “My Goals Are” card, which keeps our key priorities in our life in front of us all the time. Our goals put our attitudes, skills and knowledge, and our priorities into action.
Perhaps you have been taught to “prioritize your schedules”. My experience is that the most successful people “schedule their priorities”, giving energy and purpose to each day. Clearly written goals reviewed daily keep your priorities in focus and help you avoid distractions. Affirmations reviewed daily help you become the person who is energized to achieve your goals continuously.