Countdown to Success: Better Productivity for Project Managers
Did you know that the way you count can affect your productivity and morale?
I learned this little tip from a military veteran turned salesman; let’s call him Joe. During Joe’s time in the service, he specialized in explosives and ordnance. This was the military equivalent of a bomb squad. This role required him to change the way he thought about counting (it sounds silly, but hear me out).
One of the first things he was trained to do was to change the way he counted. Instead of counting up from one like normal people (one, two, and so on), he had to learn how to count down. The advantages of this became fairly obvious the first time they came upon a timed fuse. You see it all the time in movies and such, where the timer is ticking down and the heroes are racing the clock. They trained bomb technicians to count down in order to focus on the urgency of the situation—as if being inches from an explosive device wasn’t enough.
Needless to say, this technique was very effective.
After his time in the service, Joe started a new career as a salesman and learned to apply this simple countdown lesson to everything that he did. This simple change drastically altered the way he worked and increased his productivity, sales performance, and drive to make him one of the top salesmen in the company.
So how does it work? It all has to do with mindset.
Say for example you have to accomplish 15 tasks in a day. When you count up, you tend to look back at what you already did. This is an invitation for your brain to get lazy and say, “you know what, I think we’ve gone far enough. Maybe we can cut it short.” Even worse, you might even look up at your target number, see the uphill climb, and think, “That number is way too difficult to reach. I can’t make that many,” and then you give up.
When you count down, however, you’re looking forward to how many more you have left to do. And the further you go, the more that number shrinks, and the more motivated you are to get that number to zero. You’re reducing your workload with every single one that you do. It’s a downhill race that gets easier the longer it goes on.
The beauty of this technique lies in its simplicity. Because the concept is so basic and easy to grasp, it can be applied to nearly any activity a project manager does.
Lists. Most project managers have (or should have) a list of tasks for them to keep track of—either on their project management software or on a post-it. Keep a mental countdown of your tasks so you can have a sense of progression as you go through your day. Also, checking items off a list is very satisfying and heightens your sense of productivity and accomplishment.
Timed tasks. We’ve all got tasks that take a lot of time to do, either because they’re complicated, lengthy, or just so boring we procrastinate and drag our way through it. If you want to speed it up and bring a sense of urgency into it, set yourself a time limit. Promise yourself that once that time limit is done, you’ll move on to another task. You’ll be surprised at how much faster and more productive you’ll be, while still having enough time left over in the day for other things. You can even use it during meetings to keep the discussion on track.
Where else do you think you’ll be able to apply the “Countdown” method? Share them in the comments below!
Image credit, psd, Flickr
Patrick Icasas is a former marketing project manager with 7 years of marketing and PR agency experience, managing creative projects for brands such as Nokia, Verizon Wireless, and Adobe. He now spends his time helping people make the most out of their project management software and entertaining his 5 year old daughter.