5 ways corrections leaders can be more productive

Productivity is about getting the right things done, in the right order, in a satisfactory manner

By Jesse Williams and Randy Larcher, C1 Contributors

“I’m working to improve my methods, and every hour I save is an hour added to my life.” –Ayn Rand

While technology may have promised to increase efficiency, our lives are very hectic. We have a lot to do and little time to do it.

Warden Ronald Davis, left, talks with guards on duty in the east block of death row at San Quentin State Prison Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2016, in San Quentin, Calif.
Warden Ronald Davis, left, talks with guards on duty in the east block of death row at San Quentin State Prison Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2016, in San Quentin, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

As we are so busy, it is important to implement best practices that make us as effective as possible. We often find ourselves in the thick of things like sending emails and performing other repetitive tasks. It is essential to use the most efficient methods for accomplishing tasks. We need to avoid wasting time on things that are not important. In many ways, less is truly more.

In an era of constant distractions, we are at risk of overlooking important tasks because things that seem urgent overshadow them. We also confuse being present with being productive. The two are not synonymous. The challenge is to improve our methods in order to get the best things done with both expediency and quality.

Productivity is not just about getting things done. It is about getting the right things done, in the right order, and in a satisfactory manner.

Productivity expert Dave Crenshaw describes three principles of productivity:

  1. Space;
  2. Mind;
  3. Time.

Space refers to the physical location of where we work and how we use devices such as an in-basket, notebook or desk to collate tasks and organize projects.

The mind involves the process of moving from an idea to a reality.

Time management is vital, and includes prioritization and budgeting.

In “The Power of Full Engagement,” Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz write about “full engagement,” where they maintain that, “Energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance” and “performance, health and happiness are grounded in the skillful management of energy.”

This includes renewal and strength training in all the areas of life balance (physical, mental, spiritual and emotional). If work does not fully renew us each day, our productivity will suffer. Here are five simple steps you can take to be more effective:

1. Make to-do lists

Everyone should keep a list of things to do, but we should do our best to limit the list to a few items each day. Some experts advocate for only two mission-critical tasks a day, but others merely caution to keep the amount low. Apps such as Todoist and Wunderlist can help you stay on top of tasks.

2. Engage in deep work

Set aside time each day to focus on important projects. In order to sharpen focus, consider shutting your door (if you have one), closing your email and removing other distractions.

Deep Work,” author Cal Newport argues that focus is the new I.Q. in the modern workplace: “Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It's a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time.”

3. Always have a meeting agenda

Rarely, if ever, conduct a meeting without an agenda. An agenda keeps a meeting on track and prevents participants from venturing off topic. Prepare an agenda ahead of time and send it to those attending the meeting. Send a follow-up email after you have met with a review of assignments.

4. Craft an email strategy

If there is one thing we are doing on an increasing scale, it is reading and writing emails. You must employ strategies to prevent email from ruling your life. One tip is to get everything out of the inbox. If you did not delete the email in the first place, it must be there for a reason. Productivity consultant David Allen has a simple formula when dealing with email: Delete it, do it, defer it or delegate it.

5. Keep a calendar

Use your calendar to schedule time for your most important tasks. This way it can serve as a powerful to-do list with automatic reminders. When you schedule meetings, attach the agenda to the meeting invite.


Author H. Jackson Brown Jr. said, “Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson and Albert Einstein.”

Resolve to fill your days with productive pursuits. Strive not to major in minor things, but to work deeply on those things that matter most. By streamlining how we spend our time and striving to ensure we are energized to perform at maximum capacity, we can ensure our busy-ness results in deliberate, desired outcomes.

About the authors
Jesse Williams is the Captain of the New Mexico State Police Training & Recruiting Bureau in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He is a graduate of New Mexico State University and earned Master’s degrees in Criminal Justice and Public Administration. He enjoys applying best practices regarding personal wellness and development.

Randy Larcher is a Captain with the New Mexico State Police Investigations Bureau. He graduated from New Mexico State University in 2005 with a degree in history. He is a student of ethics, productivity and leadership.

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