All leaders want to move forward in progression. We want to keep the momentum going and the results flowing. Most people seem to have no problem coming up with ideas and plans. The problem is ideas do not work; you have to work the ideas. You have to work the plans. Planning is prince but execution is king.
Here are 7 Big Ideas to help you do better with your rate of execution.
1. Lengthen your planning cycle. Get as much clarity as possible about what the curent year means to year. You might even give it a theme. "This is my year of ________." You need to set aside some time to plan the year, each quarter, month, week, and then day. Plan out your 5 biggest things daily which will propel you forward. Focus in on those 5 creative things and keep reactive work as much at a minimum as possible. I recommend some time early in the morning when you are not distracted to carefully line out your Big 5 things for that day. Spend some time envisioning yourself being successful and what that execution-oriented, success-filled day looks like. Olympic and professional athletes do this all the time; they envision themselves performing at a very high level when event time comes. You can do the same and achieve a high level of clarity on your coming day, week, month, quarter, and year.
2. Shorten your review cycle. Set aside time daily to review what you accomplished that day. I find this is most helpful right before bedtime. I might even rate the quality of that particular day against what I had planned to do. A key is to not stress out or get down if that day did not go as planned. Resolve yourself to always do better the next day and execute more excellently. Tomorrow is another opportunity to do better.
3. Clear your mind. If you execute the previous two strategies really well, something amazing will happen in which you need to take note. Once you get your plans down on paper long-term (your year) and short-term (that day), you will experience an amazing thing. Your mind is now free. Your brain is designed to have ideas, not hold ideas. After you have set it free from the constraint of trying to keep all this in your head, now your brain is going to start generating new thoughts. Capture these as well, but do not lose focus on your already pre-determined plan. Your new ideas may fit in well next year or they may cause you to shift direction. Consider this carefully and stay out of the theory trap.
4. Measure what is important. Set up KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for yourself. They are key measurements of the results of your work and activity. Positive results on these KPIs will give you a sense of accomplishment and will function as mile markers along your road to success. You may have daily, weekly, monthly, and annual KPIs. This way if some are out of alignment, you have measurements to see adjustments you need to make to get back on course with your plans and results.
5. Know your high-energy times. Thinking requires a lot of energy. Focus requires a lot of energy. We have a hard time thinking through difficult problems when we are at low energy levels. We get distracted more when our energy is low because we don't have the energy storage available to fight off the lure of distraction. Schedule your most difficult execution tasks when your energy level is the highest. Most people who perform at very high levels also need a break about every 90 minutes to re-set themselves. Schedule a 10-minute re-fresh period for yourself for every 90 minutes of focused, intense work. Research shows that an “always on” approach to life has a comparable effect on your IQ to losing a night’s sleep.
6. Say goodbye to multitasking. You can focus on only one conscious task at a time. Switching between tasks uses extra brainpower. If you do multiple conscious tasks at once, you will reduce your accuracy or performance and increase your stress level. Break tasks into chunks that can be accomplished within twenty minutes. Then sit down and get it done without distraction or interruption. You will get more done with greater accuracy and less stress.
7. Get an accountability partner. This is why people hire a personal trainer. The thought of knowing someone will meet you at the gym or you have to call to cancel your appointment sometimes keeps people on track and making progress. Perhaps there is someone who can share this with you. Maybe you tackle this together and both of you are accountable to each other, sharing your plans and results. Two people I know email each other at the end of every evening with the results of their pre-discussed daily plan. If you are brave enough to do this, your execution results will dramatically increase.