How to Simplify and Improve Productivity

This article is featured in the second issue of Leaders and Thinkers Magazine.

Recently I wrote an article about success and three things people should be doing to achieve it. One of the things was to simplify. So today I want to provide a guide on how to simplify your life, daily tasks, or even thoughts.

Before going into Change Management consulting as a profession, I was the training and skills development lead for the Operational Excellence department for a global food manufacturing company. I absolutely loved this job, mainly because the principles of lean manufacturing that we were teaching were changing the lives of each operator as well as the organizational culture of the company.

For example, we introduced a set of five core lean principles, but I remember the last principle really resonating with the group. It was to “ Seek perfection”. Knowing that perfection was impossible, it introduced the idea of continuous improvement. It allowed the operators to accept mistakes but always thrive to do their best. That kind of attitude toward their work began to improve the quality of work and overall productivity.

Here are 5 lean-inspired steps to simplification.

Identify your Goal
What is it you want to achieve? This can be to start a business, to be a more hands-on supportive parent, to finish painting the basement. The point is to pick a goal. Yes, I know you have many, but pick one just for now to help us get started. This process I am sharing can be used to achieve the others as well, I promise.

Track your Time
What are you doing and how long are you taking to do it? Really, I want you to track your activities for a full 24-hours. But the day I want you to recall is yesterday. Download this time study template to help you track what tasks are taking the most time in your day. You can be as detailed as needed.

Connect the Dots
Circle the tasks in Step 2 that are critical for you to achieve your goal in Step 1. If your goal was to paint the basement, circle tasks you completed that aligned with that goal. This may be purchased paint and brushes, moved furniture, covered the floor, taped off baseboards, etc.

Be Honest with Yourself
I have often heard that the worst deception is self-deception. Now this next step may pinch a little but taking an inward look is healthy! Answer the following questions. Compared to the number of tasks, how many circles do you have? Are you truly actively taking steps towards your goal? If the answers to both of these questions is yes, then let’s celebrate! You may simply need to stay focused. I would still recommend that you go on to Step 5 along with those who answered no. It won’t hurt.

Eliminate Waste
Look at the tasks that are not circled and put a line through the ones that are not aligned to any of your top three goals. We call these non-value added tasks or waste. Harsh, I know. These tasks typically include binge watching, social media coma, driving, playing games, napping, etc. Now I would be the first to tell you that I get my best ideas from social media trends. If this was the case for you, this would have been circled. Step 5 helps you get real about the amount of time needed to get those “best ideas.”

That’s it! The rest is up to you. By completing this exercise, you now have clear information to help you simplify your life and become more productive. I encourage you to take a close look at the circles and lines and take action to get more circles. Are you willing? Do you intend to do it? If so, let’s start today!

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