Producing Productivity

In our hectic lives today, everyone seems to be busy, yet not everyone is as productive as they are busy. In Charles E. Hummel’s classic booklet, Tyranny of the Urgent, he discusses the danger of letting the urgent things crowd out the important things. Hummel is correct – it’s easy to be carried away by the day’s demands and end up busy but not productive. Read on to hear what these local leaders have to say about working smarter, not harder, in order to pursue productivity.

Dennis Blanton, CPA

Practice Leader – Chattanooga, LBMC

Stephen Covey said, “Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.” If not carefully managed, day-to-day demands, both expected and unexpected, can result in your time being chopped into lots of small fragments that leave you resembling a Waffle House menu item – scattered, smothered, and covered. Establishing just a few must-do priorities based on what is important to your mission is essential to escaping this state of fragmentation. There are always unexpected requests that may appear to be urgent that pop up and compete for time. Setting priorities and expectations in advance is how I can best impact my personal productivity. The key is affirming my own high-value priorities and knowing when an ad hoc request can wait or be handled by someone else.

Terry Denniston

Chief of Staff, The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

The key to being more productive is to know how to successfully prioritize. Prioritizing doesn’t mean taking shortcuts, because there are none. Instead, assess what will maximize your time and contributions. Ask yourself, “How can I move my team forward today?” or “What can I do to make the most impact in my organization right now?” Entrepreneur and motivational speaker Jim Rohn says, “Don’t wish it were easier; wish you were better.” I live by this philosophy. To me, productivity is as much about evaluating and improving what you do as it is about doing the work. I’ve learned to be intentional and block time on my calendar to accomplish tasks. I recommend tackling the little things that pile up first, so that you can focus on bigger projects that take more time and attention. And remember to celebrate. Incentivize or treat yourself when you can. It will reinforce a positive relationship with productivity. 

Skip Ireland

President, COS Business Products & Interiors

I find I am most productive when I avoid information overload and really concentrate on fewer, more meaningful analytics. When COS was a much smaller company, it was easy to be involved in every aspect of the business every day – now that is simply not possible. Holding weekly meetings instead of daily briefings have also benefited us. I tend to get more important information from my managers, and working together in these weekly group meetings tends to keep everyone informed, on track, and more focused on our most important business issues. It is easy to get sidetracked in our daily activities and convince ourselves we had a very busy day even though it was not a very productive day. By implementing key performance indicators (KPI) for every department, we have greatly enhanced our ability to keep everyone thinking, “Did I help myself, my department, or the company achieve a KPI today?” If not, you were not as productive as you could or should be.

Harshad Shah

President & CEO, Hamilton Plastics

To achieve positive results, productivity is not only important for the business as a whole, but also for the leader. Prioritize your agenda, and delegate to your team the best you can. A consistently successful leader will get ahead in his own work without getting tired or frustrated. Utilize technology where you can and make sure to have the best team in place. Establish trust and faith with your team, and it will be reciprocated. That creates loyalty, and loyalty breeds productivity. Establish clear goals, give full support every step of the way, and both you and your team will be productive. With passion and an air-tight strategy, you can join the ranks of successful businessmen and women. No matter what, aim high and keep your feet on the ground to achieve decades of success.

Robb Millican

Director, Sales, Coyote Logistics

To stay productive, you must be quick to decipher what’s important, as it’s easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day grind. Personally, at the end of every day, I write down the things that I must accomplish the next day, and I plan my calendar around those activities. If something else interferes, I have to make a judgment call of what becomes top priority. The act of delegation is also a crucial aspect of being productive. Successful people are surrounded by quality personnel working with them, and it’s important to leverage help when needed. Many times, it feels easier to tackle any and every task that comes your way – however, this method tends to kill actual productivity. Leaning on the expertise of those around you not only helps you be more productive but can also propel others in their career.

Valerie Gifford

Senior VP of Retail Operations, Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union

After working in human resources for nearly three decades, I have learned an array of tactics for increasing productivity – from using block timing to allow for better focus on big projects, to limiting distractions by turning off email notifications. However, the technique that has helped me the most is to metaphorically think about my projects as spinning plates. We all know that multitasking decreases productivity. So how do we strategically advance multiple projects with competing timelines? Planning is the key to the balancing act. Carve out time to work on projects with a strategic focus, and then identify the first step or next step on each project. Set weekly and daily goals. Then periodically ask yourself, “What’s the best use of my time right now?” Learn when you are most productive and maximize those hours. For me, I like to come in early to limit interruptions. Good luck in your plate-spinning balancing act!

Gregg Gentry

Chief of Staff to the President & CEO, Chief Administrative Officer, Erlanger Health System

In today’s world of accelerated business cycles and advanced technology, we find ourselves in a space whereby we must be more productive. We are busier with our day-to-day activities, but are we effectively spending time on what truly moves the organization forward? In order to experience more value-adding days, it is essential to determine which decisions better serve the organization with timeliness as opposed to more analysis. Speed over precision is a winning formula in many instances. It is important to be flexible and have the ability to adapt to a fast-paced environment. One must lead with intent, ask more questions to make better decisions, and follow through with effective delegation and updates. Hold yourself and your team accountable for the assigned tasks. Learn how to use a polite “no” when it is appropriate. And remember emails, text messages, and voicemails should not control and run your day. Notwithstanding, effective communication is essential to the success of the team and the overall organization.

Paula Shuford

Owner, Herman Grant Company

It’s easy for me to sit behind my desk working on the computer or making phone calls, but that isn’t the most productive way to spend my day. As the owner of a steel fabrication company that manufactures asphalt plant equipment, I find the best way to be productive is to walk around our plant and interact with our amazing employees. By taking the time to visit, they know I am interested in the job they are doing, and I can listen to their opinions and suggestions on better methods for building equipment. They are great innovators! A critical benefit, though, is that I can remind them to constantly be vigilant about safety – that is my most important role. I want to be proactive and not reactive concerning our safety rules. We work and learn together as a team with a shared vision for our future.


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