Every time I head to the cinema, as I get glued to the screen, it occurs to me that the cinema is probably one of the last bastions where it is socially demanded that we stay unconnected to the world outside. The times we are unconnected like this are fast reducing, as even flying will soon be a connected event as you nip from Australian city to city for business or take a 24-hour trip to Europe.
Clearly the connected world has massive advantages we all enjoy, including instant access via mobile to services, knowledge and social interaction. For me there is also a downside, as some people perceive they are now unable to fully relax and unwind. There is the constant pressure to know what is happening in both business and social life.
One book that tackles this for me is Overwhelmed: How to Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time written by Brigid Schulte, a journalist caught in the world of balancing a career with home life and feeling that she manages neither well. The book brings to light the perspective that nowadays as professionals, we all seem in constant state of flux: busyness, which has settled as the new social norm where we believe we have to be impossibly busy to be successful. When you bump into someone in the lift and you ask how they are, the most likely response is that they’re “really busy”. It is often said with pride because if I am really busy then that means I am doing well. It is unlikely you are going to hear that work is all under control and that they are looking to leave early to head to the beach.
I am as guilty as anyone in falling into this social trap. In the creative industries we have digital disruption to deal with, greater demands on changing business models, revenues falling, global competitors increasing and so much knowledge to keep up with. How can we be doing our job if we are not being busy? The downside though can be constant pressure, anxiety, well being gaps and missed opportunities to have fun with family and friends.
As you look to review or set your KPIs for the coming year with your boss and team, there is a different way you can do things.
Here are a few practical pointers which could be beneficial in helping to work out your work KPIs and de-stress the year, by clarifying your holistic focus, not just your business one.
1. Imagine the end of your KPI year or period as today – Imagine you are in the last few days before completing your KPI period. Think about looking back over the year. What is it that you want to have done by then? Use your emotions, not just your practical mind. What would make you really smile or feel proud, when you look back? Yes, work achievements will be there, but how did that big holiday make you feel? Or a family or friend’s achievements, significant birthdays or life events too? How do you feel having recruited that key direct report, or delivered the new launch mid-year? This can help you focus more holistically on what really matters. Then jot them down and create some different goals. Be careful not to be too soft or too hard but realistic. If you make it too easy to achieve then you won’t make any real effort. If too ambitious then you will have an end of year downer.
2. Own your work KPIs and they will be your friend – Sometimes it is tempting to either accept KPIs that you really feel you have no chance of meeting or if you have not been set them, then to sit back hoping they never get to you. Both tactics create miscommunication at best and at worst lead to missed bonuses and lower ratings, as leaders and individuals head off in different paths. Be proactive, take ownership of your KPIs and have some of the difficult discussions at the start rather than the end of the year. For example, if you really need that extra resourcing to deliver your KPIs, at least you are asking for it at the start and so if it gets refused, you have a clear understanding which could help in your review discussions at the end of the year.
3. Family, friends and love: give them time and focus – Look at the big events others will have, where they need your support and time. It could be their HSC year (as my daughter faces); a child may be starting school, a new instrument, or a sport; your partner plans to change jobs mid year; there is a big holiday booked for October. As you look at the year think about who will need you in a big way and when.
4. Plan key dates now – Turn this knowledge into planned action. Go to your work diary and put significant dates into your diary, so they stand out. If you know when you plan to take holidays, book the leave now, and get the approvals into the system. If you have likely conferences, put them in. If you can, use colour coding to highlight family/friends/partner versus work, so you can tell them apart instantly. This will really help as you look ahead to work deadlines and key projects. You can instantly see what clashes you can plan for, rather then remember very late and crisis manage the clash.
5. Delegate what you can now – While you have the time at the start of the year, make the effort to look at what of your workload you can either delegate or dump. If you have been creating a weekly report that no one read in 2016, isn’t it time to dump it? If you have direct reports, they may be keen to take on some extra responsibility to include in their KPIs. So ask them what they would like to take on that you currently do. You may be surprised by what they grab, which can then free up time for you to focus on other things.
6. Clear the clutter now- We often have that big list of little things to do, which would help the business, but just always gets put off by the more demanding priorities. Now is a good time to look at the list, dump the ones that really don’t matter and knock off some of those others to get the benefits now, before you get swamped in operational needs. Find some blocks of time to do them yourself over the coming month, or delegate to a team member, or get a contractor in to complete the project for a small investment. Either way the list dramatically shortens, the benefits are realised early in the year and you save the nagging stress of them sitting on a future small project list.
I hope you find some of these tips useful and that they will help you get some planning done to help you kick-start the creation or review of your KPIs.
You may even find that when you get stopped in the lift in a month’s time with the question “How are you going?” you are able to answer that it’s going to be a productive year, with lots to get delivered, and a plan you’re just turning into reality.
Good luck for setting smart KPIs that you can achieve well at work and at home.