To get ahead in your career it is not enough to have the right degrees from the right universities. Today, to make sure your career moves in the right direction, you need to develop a number of critical skills that collectively are known as “soft skills”.
Soft skills are skills that are developed through practical experience. Communication, decision making, negotiation and conflict resolution, for example. Skills that cannot be taught from a textbook or in a lecture hall. These skills can only be developed by practice. School and university curriculums are, for the large part, built around the tired old tell teach method where a teacher or lecturer stands at the front of the classroom or lecture hall and tells students what to learn. Not a very useful way to prepare students for the realities of the modern world. School and university do not prepare you for life, they prepare you to pass exams. The development of soft skills — skills that are essential for life — are left to outside influences. Your friends and parents. Life experiences and the skills you get from reading the right books and applying what you learn to everyday life.
However, one skill tops all of them because it is a skill that develops all other skills and that is time management and productivity. Here are six ways improving your time management and productivity skills will improve all other soft skills
Most people’s relationship with email is bad. Email is considered annoying, stressful and overwhelming. Yet, it is the primary form of communication in business and being slow to respond to a colleague or customer ‘s email causes delays in projects and important decisions as well as frustration from the people that are waiting for you to reply.
When you become better at managing your time you become better and faster at responding to your emails. You are in control of your inbox and know what’s in there, what needs responding to, reading and deleting and you have time to respond in a timely manner to all important emails.
Decision making (critical thinking)
If you practice a system such as my COD system or David Allen’s Getting Things Done you learn to make decisions quickly. You ask the right questions about what something is: “What is it?” Is it relevant to me? What’s the next action? Etc. With practice, you develop decision-making skills that can impact your whole life.
Asking questions such as “what is it?” And “What do I need to do next to move this forward?” Helps to develop your ability to make decisions based on available facts and information quickly and decisively. The very skills companies are looking for when hiring potential executive level employees
You might be wondering how being better at time management and productivity can help with conflict management but it does. It does so because when you are better at managing your time you are able to give people better attention. You are not just physically present, you are also mentally present.
Being present and giving another person your full, undivided attention means you are able to listen and understand their perspective and are able to make better and fairer decisions about what to do to resolve issues before they become conflicts. When you are in control of all that is coming your way and have a system in place that allows you to compartmentalise your work, you become much better at managing people and their issues.
This may be an obvious one. When you are in control of your time and have your work and commitments prioritised and organised you will experience a lot less stress. Stress in the workplace is generally caused by over-committing to work and increased workloads that pile up. Not knowing what needs doing and by when leads to panic setting in and this causes stress.
When you write everything down and have everything organised in its rightful place you feel in control. You know what needs doing and by when and you do not feel overwhelmed.
Flexibility / adaptability
Having a time management and productivity system in place means you can handle any changes that come your way with ease. All projects change over time. Outcomes change, timelines change and so do the people involved in the project. When you have all your next actions organised in a list you can change them, adjust timelines and adapt.
When you don’t have a system in place any changes to a project you are working creates uncertainty, a lack of clarity on what needs to happen next and a lot of confusion. Being a productive person allows you to accept changes and adapt accordingly.
When you are in control and you know what the outcome is you are leading. Too often, we are doing work each day that has no clearly defined goals or outcomes and we just keep out heads down, do the work and not worry about which direction we are going in.
Organised productive people know the outcomes of all their projects with clarity. They know what the outcome needs to be and they lead their teams forward knowing they are going in the right direction. With that clarity of purpose comes clear communication which ensures all team members are moving in the right direction with purpose.
So, If you want to improve your overall soft skills, start by improving your time management and productivity skills. That one skill will lead to improvements in all other soft skills and allow you to build a career of success and fulfilment.
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My purpose is to help 1 million people by 2020 to live the lives they desire. To help people find happiness and become better organised and more productive so they can do more of the important things in life.
If you would like to learn more about the work I do, and how I can help you to become better organised and more productive, you can visit my website or you can say hello on Twitter, YouTube or Facebook and subscribe to my weekly newsletter right here.