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Get off that treadmill of doing the same thing

This is never going to be about more time allocation but better ways of managing it

Gulf News

Good enough simply isn’t good enough. Shockingly you’ve probably settled for producing far less than you should have and you’re not even aware of it. Year after year, month after month, day after day, it’s common to live and work in repeat mode.

Unintentionally, last year’s activities drive this year’s calendar.

I call it the curse of the calendar treadmill: repeating the same actions, schedule and habits over and over. This year, the chances are you wake up at pretty much the same time every day as you did the year before; you probably eat the same general diet; and keep the same routines and hobbies.

And yet, you wonder why you keep producing the same results.

I run a few times each week on a treadmill, but I never move forward and the surroundings never change. I repeat the same run every time, listening to the same play list and watching the same channel on the TV. Then, at the end of the run, I step off the treadmill, exhausted as always.

The calendar treadmill is very similar. Time passes but it’s the same scenario day after day and year after year. If you want a different experience you have to step off the treadmill.

The calendar treadmill drives the corporate world. Each year, the new calendar is simply a continuation of the previous year’s planning cycles, promotions, budgeting — even the same weekly meetings and past reviews. While the year changes, the daily routine stays the same.

Unintentionally, this has created a lag in productivity. When you run on the treadmill every day, you’re tempted to run the same distance at the same speed, leading to the same results.

The incoming chief executive of Novartis, Dr Vas Narasimhan, recognised this and launched a productivity revolution at the Swiss pharma giant. To get a different result, he’s taking Novartis off the treadmill.

The time and cost of taking a medicine from discovery to market has long been seen as the biggest drag on the pharmaceutical industry’s performance, with the process typically taking up to 14 years and costing at least $2.5 billion (Dh9.18 billion). To change this, Dr Narasimhan has vowed to slash drug development costs, eyeing savings of up to 25 per cent on multi-billion dollar clinical trials as part of a “productivity revolution”. He’s doing something differently.

Novartis has a huge database of prior clinical trials and knows exactly where it’s been successful in terms of recruiting certain types of patients. So, instead of repeating what it has always done, the company is going to use advanced analytics to better predict where to go to find specific types of patients.

This will significantly reduce the amount of time that it takes to execute a clinical trial. And for a pharmaceutical company, that will take out substantial costs.

By doing something differently, Novartis is predicting a different result, specifically a rise in productivity.

The old axiom is true: if you do what you did before, you’re likely to get the result you got before. So, if you want a different result, you, too, are going to have to do something different.

The question is: What will that be?

Productivity growth requires a shift from time being consumed on the calendar treadmill to time being invested wisely, by using your calendar like a budget. Because you have a limited number of hours available to you personally, and to your company professionally, you need to ask yourself: how can I get the maximum from every hour?

For example, I recently calculated that if I spend five minutes per hour using Twitter (which admittedly I was inclined to do), I’m wasting nearly 10 per cent of every hour. The calendar treadmill was consuming my time.

By stepping off the treadmill and thinking about what I wanted each hour to produce, time became an investment and it created a personal productivity revolution.

Personally, I find the calendar treadmill very boring and uninspiring. The only reason I can endure running on a treadmill is that I focus on the dashboard and change the run by pushing up the speed and distance.

That’s the way to drive productivity — time is invested, not consumed.

— The writer is a CEO coach and author of “Leadership Dubai Style”. Contact him at tsw@tommyweir.com

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