How to be more Productive?
At the core of the mental model, we have two challenges: what is that I should focus on; this is strategic, and then how to achieve that, this is tactical? yes, It really is just these two elements.
What is it that you would like to do? It’s always easier to get to a noun first. fortunately or unfortunately, we have been trained like this since childhood. Remember the question at school either by friends or teachers or parents at home, what do you want to be when you grow up? So let’s start with What. In our case, it could be doing an MBA, getting a finance internship, or a job in product management. Write this down.
Let’s peel the onion. Why do you want to do what you want to do? This question generally is not easy to answer. The answer generally starts with ‘because’. I will give some examples:
- A future doctor might say because I want to save lives
- A future product manager will say because I love solving customers’ real problems
- A future olympian might say because I want to bring a Gold home
This clarity of What and Why will help you to cut through Noise. There is so much noise in MBA schools and much more in real life post-MBA, having a clearer purpose will always bring confidence and put you at ease. For example, What courses/case comps I am okay to get a ‘B’; which projects I need to lead, and which project I am okay to support from the side. You will have a clear picture of which parts of your life you want to be a big whale leading and in which ones, one of the small fish among many following.
Now come back to ‘What’. Transitioning back from ‘Why’ to ‘What’ may take some time. Could be a few hours to a week, and that is okay. It all depends on what your goal is and the real ‘why’ behind it. In most cases, you end up tweaking your ‘what’ from the first step. And, Sometimes it completely changes. The key is to go from “What to Why and then tweaking the What”. Trust this process, and when you have your new goal, put this on your wall. Essentially be constantly aware of it. And you will see, the sub-decisions are made with much more purpose then.
This is the most important step, I believe. Look, I came into MBA thinking I will get into Management Consulting. I had all the right credentials for it but a few months into it I knew Products is better suited for me and is where my heart is. There is no perfect time period to re-evaluate. if you keep your ‘What’ and ‘Why’ in the back of your mind, you will know what is the time to re-evaluate.
1. Plan and Premortem
In my other article, I talked about how important it is to spend an hour with yourself first thing in the morning. If you follow the discipline of the morning hour, then plan your day in the morning. One effective way of planning is thinking of the desired outcome of each meeting/task/project, who will walk away with what action item, and the deadline for each of them. Premortem is thinking about why and how can each task may fail; then the mental model is how can this be avoided. Below is a real-life example from my projects:
2. Power of Calendar
Certain things in your work life and personal life will already be scheduled and WILL happen. For example, 6-month performance review, yearly strat-check, funding review, company quarterly results, etc. Unless there are some big disruptions, certain things WILL happen. And an organized mind will plan for it. Let your calendar dictate your schedule. What I mean is,
- If you have a meeting on your calendar, Respect it. In other words, be prepared.
- Don’t move or cancel meetings (as much as possible). People lose confidence in you if you cancel meetings too
3. 15 min Rule
This probably is one of the strongest rules I have for you. A lot can be achieved in 15 mins. As you grow in your career, you will see meetings are not an hour long, not even 30 mins, 15 mins (or even less actually) is enough. Whenever you have 15 mins, USE them. Things that I have effectively used 15 mins are emails, prep for presentations, debriefing meetings, meditation, creative thinking (it works), and the biggest is problem-solving.
4. Small Wins:
Try this. start your day with smaller wins. Get a couple of small Ws under your belt early on. This helps boost your confidence and gives you the motivation to carry on with the day. Remember when you have confidence and motivation, the optimism in your voice, and in your mannerism radiates. It radiates in your conversations, in your texts, and in your emails. And you will NOT go unnoticed.
5. Mercy of unimportant thingsI am using Stephen Covey’s terminology here. We more often than not feel that we have an unending list of things to cover. if you take a step back and look at it again, you will see certain tasks are important and certain ones are either ‘nice-to-have’ or actually just not important. And often these unimportant tasks are addicting. One more scroll on tiktok, one more episode on Netflix, and one more round Xbox. Important tasks should not be at the mercy of unimportant tasks.
This mental model of What needs to be done and how to get there is very simple and powerful to stay on top of the right things. I wish you all the best in your journey.
My suggestion would be to try the above model for two weeks. give it two weeks sincerely, and see the magic working. Should you have any questions, or suggestions, please do not hesitate to reach out.
Things for Future
- Reading the Tea Leaves
- Support structure
- Elephant’s Tusk
- Social Capital vs. Intellectual Capital