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  • 5 Ways to Bring Productivity Out of Chaos: Mourn Change, But Move On

    Laura Stack, 5 Ways to Bring Productivity Out of Chaos: Mourn Change, But Move On

    By now, you’ve no doubt realized a basic fact of life: the only constant in the business world is change, especially as we hurtle full-throttle into the New Millennium. Ironically, most of us prefer things to remain the same. Change forces us to learn and do new things, stealing our time and making us expend energy—two resources often in short supply.

    As a result, many of us mourn change, because it often wrecks our comfortable lives and carefully laid plans. But you can’t stay stuck in the past, and you can’t sit beside the graves of your old processes while the world passes you by. Do it too long and you disengage from your work, productivity falls, and when you do wake up, you have to work harder and run faster than ever just to stay in place.

    Maintaining Your Productivity

    You can and must fight the pain of change without mourning it excessively. If you want to maximize your productivity through times of significant change:

    1. Don’t bottle up your emotions. Mourn if you must. Express how the change makes you feel, if only to the person in the mirror, and recognize the validity of your emotions. Don’t wall them up, or they’re likely to come out at bad times, in unexpected ways. If you’re hurt and bitter, be hurt and bitter. But at the same time:
    1. Maintain your professional approach. Master your emotions and keep working to your normal high standards. Mastering your emotions doesn’t mean jettisoning them; just don’t let them stop you. This may prove easier said than done, but steel your resolve and keep moving forward on the new track. If necessary, use your frustration to fuel your drive to excel. Sometimes I work like a madwoman when I reach the “that’s enough” stage.
    1. Look for the silver lining. We’ve all heard the phrase “reframe your challenges as opportunities” so often it’s become a cliché, and many of us don’t really hear it anymore. Start listening again. Look for anything you can salvage that can help you rise to the top of your game. If engineers can turn failed military products into two of the most successful toys in the modern era, the Slinky and Silly Putty, then maybe you can find a jetpack in the rubble—if you look hard enough. 
    1. Revisit your Why, so you can reinvent your How. Why do you want to excel in your work? The reason might be as plain as competitiveness or the desire to earn $100,000 a year by age 35, or it may be to support your family in style, help the world become a better place, or achieve your dreams of financial independence. It doesn’t matter. You have at least one Why: pull it out and examine it, looking for ways to retool your reasons to keep rising higher. There’s almost always a way to convert your existing How into a new one.
    1. Find new ways to be of value. Whether the change is relatively minor or so extreme your livelihood is endangered, you have no choice but to find new ways to make yourself more valuable. Find ways to extend your value beyond its former limits. Instead of thinking, “that’s not my job,” make it your job. Do whatever you can to improve your lot and your organization’s profitability. Typically, the two go hand-in-hand, since the better you do, the more everyone benefits. Volunteer to lead new initiatives, to mentor others, to learn new apps, software, and processes—whatever increases your value to your company.

     The Crucial Cog

    I can’t overstate the need for flexibility in the face of change, especially when trying to pull peak performance out of chaos. You may suffer a lag before you get back on track, but reasonable leaders expect that—and it’ll happen whether they’re reasonable or not. So mourn change, but don’t let it stop you. Take a little time to reorient yourself, then charge back in and do your job so well you amaze the people who matter.
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