How To Operate Like A Machine

“You are a machine!” That is one of my favorite compliments. I hear it often because of my energetic nature and drive to finish what I start. I do most things fast: walk, type, run, make decisions, commit, etc. The compliment comes when I share things I did in the day. I realized that if people are truly impressed by it, they may not know the secret to operating like a machine themselves.

I don’t consider myself to have special talents that enable me to be productive. That means if I can do it, so can you. What I have gotten good at is some base competencies that can be used in any situation. The secret to productivity is the awareness to adjust. All production is is input and output, and when you find the right input, you maximize the output. That’s where you want to stay until the time comes to shift. More than talent alone, your productivity depends on your ability to adjust your input in the right place, at the right time.

Think about your productivity like turning machine dials, even something simple like a baby sound machine. If it’s too quiet, you have to turn it up for the desired output. If it’s too loud, turn it down for the desired output. When we apply this to our own work, we are reminded that if we aren’t reaching the desired output, we need to adjust something.

Did you know skills can be overused? It’s true. You can over problem solve, you can over organize, you can over prioritize. They say “if everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.” These are perfect examples of everyday skills that you may have the dial turned up too high for. A mentee of mine came to me last week just frustrated and exhausted. She was overwhelmed by an ongoing, criss-crossing project with multiple priorities. As we talked more, I realized the root of her irritation was that she was giving her all for this with no result. She was correcting procedures, gathering contacts, communicating to teams, coaching individuals. She was doing everything right. The problem? It was a bigger issue than what she alone could accomplish. Her problem solving input was turned all the way up but her output was unfruitful. This is the root of productivity frustration: imbalance. We have to find the right input, in the right place, at the right time. In this situation, sharing her findings with the project manager and recommended changes would have turned down her input and achieved more output since that would have gotten her findings to the right place. In this phase of the project, a pilot was being run to determine root cause areas to proceed to a “fixing” phase. It all starts with the goal. What are you trying to accomplish? The above input was too high and the timing was too soon, so their goal wasn’t attainable.

Remember the S.M.A.R.T. acronym for goals? You can use it in anything:

S-Specific

M-Measurable

A-Attainable (this was the problem with the goal above. Not because she wasn’t capable, but the timing was wrong)

R-Relevant

T-Timely

You can start applying this today and see if your output is higher and your attitude is healthier. You don’t have to work in business to be productive. We all have lives and growing to do lists. Imagine looking at your house and saying “the whole house needs to be clean by 2!” How overwhelming! You are overusing your problem solving skill by setting a goal and time, but you bulked multiple tasks into one large one. You’re sure to get fatigued this way. The balance of skill here would be to break that large task into smaller ones. You will feel like you are making progress and remain focused.

I’d love to hear from you! Did you find you were overusing a skill? How did you adjust it and what was the outcome?

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