“Do more with less” seems to be a continuing refrain I hear from leaders. I don’t believe our personal productivity as leaders has ever been more important. While attending the Global Leadership Summit last week, Bill Hybels shared one of the practices that he’s used to help him be more focused and productive. Here’s my summary of his comments.

Bill, faced with more challenges than he could manage, began to search for a way to shorten his list of “priorities.” At the same time, he decided to shorten his time horizon. Rather than saying, “What should I focus on for the next year?” He said, “What should I focus on for the next 6 weeks?” As he admitted, he somewhat randomly chose the number 6. Nothing magic about it, he said it just felt manageable. So, as he described it, an experiment was taking shape.

Bill made a list of all the things he could focus on and decided to rank order the list. He used the following question:

What are the top six contributions I could make in the next six weeks?

Using this question as a filter, Bill went back through his list of all the things he COULD focus on and shortened the list to six items. He wrote them on a 3×5 card that he prominently displayed on his desk – he called it his 6×6. He reported that six weeks later, he had accomplished all six of the things on his list. He was thrilled! He repeated the experiment a second time – it worked again. Then, he made another breakthrough before he started the third round of the experiment; he actually arranged his calendar to help him accomplish the items on his 6×6.

Today, this 6×6 approach has become part of the culture of his organization. Leaders around the organization are selecting 6 key priorities and focusing on them for six weeks.

Why does this work? I think there are a couple of reasons. Bill and his team understand that they can sprint for 6 weeks but not for 6 months. These bursts of energy and focus overcome the inertia we often encounter when working on something important. Also, Bill said that his 6×6 helped him deliberately disregard second tier activities. How often, do we allow “second tier” activities to sidetrack our leadership? For me, the answer is far too often.

As leaders, our energy and focus matters more than we may recognize or want to admit. As I tell my team constantly, we get no credit for doing the wrong things well. Perhaps Bill’s 6×6 will help you do more of the right things well.[GLS_Shield]

What work habits and practices help you be more effective?

Author: Mark Miller

Mark is a business leader, author, communicator, photographer, husband, and father. He spends his time helping leaders grow.