Todd Cherches, CEO of consulting firm BigBlueGumball and long-time Hired Guns blogger shares his 5 best tips to enhance your productivity. Results pictured at left not typical.
Here are 5 tips to help you immediately enhance your productivity:
1. Reading and Writing (but definitely not ‘rithmetic!)
I read constantly. In fact, I am very rarely not reading something. Except when people are talking to me. And sometimes even then. Just kidding. (But maybe not.) When I first wake up, when I’m on the subway, at work, while watching TV, before I go to sleep — I’m always, always reading. I read the New York Times, blogs, books, periodicals, posters, cereal boxes, anything and everything. When you’re reading, you’re learning. And I try to make it a goal to try to learn at least ten or more new things every single day.
Reading is a great way to take in information, but writing is the best way to put information – your thoughts, ideas, and opinions – out there into the world. It’s through writing — whether an email, a tweet, a post, a blog, a white paper, an article, or a book – that you will best be able to inform, influence, and inspire others.
And the state of basic writing skills is so poor these days that the ability to express an idea efficiently and effectively will give you a distinct competitive advantage in the marketplace. My NYU students always ask me: “What’s the best way to become a better writer?” My response: “Become a better reader.” And then practice, practice, practice. Always Be Reading. Always Be Writing.
2. Visual Thinking and Visual Communication
One of the most valuable skills I’ve acquired in recent years is the ability to think and communicate more visually. What exactly does that mean? At its simplest, it’s about putting the expression, “A picture is worth a thousand words” into practice. It’s about taking a vision that exists in your mind’s eye and finding a creative way to communicate it clearly and effectively to others using the power of imagery.
And here’s the good news: Though it helps, you don’t really need to know how to draw! Visual communicating can be done in numerous forms, many of which you may already use from whiteboarding, flipcharting, napkin-sketching, and mindmapping to flow charts, process diagrams, models, maps, drawings, stick figures, props, and anything else that will help you illustrate your point and bring it to life. It’s also about using visual language, such as metaphors, analogies, and storytelling to paint a picture with words. And it’s also about using PowerPoint more effectively, by leveraging the power of visuals so as to “Educate, Engage & Excite”TM your audience, instead of putting them to sleep.
The ability to effectively use metaphors – whether verbal or visual – will allow you to communicate your messages more effectively, by making the unfamiliar familiar, the intangible tangible, the complex simple, and the abstract concrete.
There’s a huge visual movement going on out there right now, and there are tons of great resources to help you learn how. (In fact, all of my blog posts here at The Hired Guns have “visual thinking, communicating, and learning” as a unifying theme.)
3. The Six Thinking Hats
One of the most valuable visual thinking and communication tools I’ve ever come across, and the one that I use more than any other, is the Six Thinking Hats method developed by Dr. Edward DeBono. I wrote a whole Hired Guns blog post on it a while back, so you can click here to read all about it.
I (either consciously or unconsciously) use the Six Thinking Hats myself – or with others – every single day, and I truly believe that if you can learn this simple process, I promise it will forever change the way you think, innovate, make decisions, react/respond, communicate, manage, and lead.
Just note that while it may take only a few minutes to grasp the basics of this seemingly simple model, it generally takes some time, training, and much practice to truly master it. But it is so worth it!
At first I had to ask myself, Is this actually a “skill”? And then after looking up the definition of a “skill” (“proficiency, facility, or dexterity that is acquired or developed through training or experience), I realized that, yes, it definitely qualifies!
To me, “generosity” is all about giving things away freely, with no expectation of return. There’s a saying that “Knowledge is one of the few things in life that you can give away over and over again – and never lose anything as a result.” In fact, the MORE you give your knowledge away, the more you end up learning…and the better you end up feeling (*assuming that you are not being taken advantage of, of course).
For example, if someone – a client, a student, a friend – emails me to say, “Hey, Todd, do you happen to have any resources on X?” I might end up spending an hour or two (or more) digging through all my books, articles, and e-files, and doing all kinds of research online, to see what I can find. Sometimes I might even end up going on what I call a “Google Field Trip” (you know, when you go online to look something up “for a minute”…and then six hours later you’re still surfing around the web and you can’t even remember anymore what you were looking up in the first place!).
So why do I do it? Among the many reasons: One, I may suffer from “NGS” combined with “SHS” (“Nice Guy Syndrome” plus “Super Hero Syndrome”) in that I just like helping people…as well as coming to the rescue! Two, it bolsters my professional reputation as a great resource and SME (“Subject Matter Expert”) in my field. Three, I personally learn a tremendous amount in the process…so it’s a win-win. And, four, what goes around, comes around…sometimes.
For more on this topic, check out this article from the New York Times Sunday Magazine on the extreme generosity of Professor Adam Grant of Wharton.
5. Going ABCD
This last one is actually more of a “practice” or a “habit” than a “skill,” but I had to include it as it is so important, and the foundation of everything I do. What is ABCD? It’s about always going “Above & Beyond the Call of Duty.”
So many people out there just do the bare minimum. So by making it a point to always do more, to “exceed” (and not just “meet”) expectations, you will surprise and delight, and stand out from the crowd.
Don’t just answer the question – answer “the question behind the question” (i.e., what is the other person really asking. Or not asking, but should be!) Don’t just say “Yes”…but look to say “Yes, AND…” to add extra, unanticipated value. And if you have to say “No,” look to say “No, BUT…” and try to offer an alternative solution. Not only will it feel good to do good, but it will create a win-win-win situation for you, the other person, and for your organization.
So ABCD is about going that extra mile for your boss, a client, a customer, or for yourself. It’s about diligently doing your homework and preparation, and more than just what’s expected or necessary.
And even if you think you’re already doing everything you can do, know that you can always find a creative way of doing even more.
Even if you think you’re already going above and beyond and scoring a 10 out of 10, remember that you can always find a way to dial it up to 11. And WHY should you do this? Simply because it’s one louder!