Remember what it was like to get your first eyeglasses?
Or the revelation provided regularly when the eye doctor replaces the blurry eye chart with stunning clarity by sliding that big old refractor in front of your eyes?
My mother thought the world looked better when she couldn’t see all the depressing details. The rest of us love crystal clear vision. At least I think so!
But what’s interesting is that until you visit the eye doctor and suddenly see with a new level of clarity, you don’t know what you’ve been missing. There is no way of knowing how blurry your world is. Most people see what they see and pretty much assume they see what everybody else sees.
The same is true with mental clarity. You can’t know what you aren’t seeing. There is no way of knowing how much sharper your world could be. Here are seven clarity vacuums that represent huge opportunities to improve productivity that you probably aren’t seeing.
1. Vague requests
Vague requests are extremely common and they leave others guessing, heading down the wrong track completely, over-performing, or under-performing. Specificity creates clarity. If you can’t see the need for greater specificity, you won’t create it. Those on the receiving end who recognize the fuzziness are frustrated with you. Those who don’t realize they were just handed an amorphous blob are frustrated with themselves. I wrote about one such example in How Can I Think More Quickly On My Feet. Both cases reduce productivity.
2. Unproductive meetings
Meetings consume well over half of all compensation dollars and at least half of that time is a waste. If you don’t believe me, you simply aren’t seeing what happens in meetings. And if you can’t see the underlying cause of the unproductive meetings, then you are running unproductive meetings too.
3. ‘Focused’ conversations
Most ‘focused’ conversations aren’t focused. People think they are, but they aren’t. If you listen closely, you will see that they are comprised of many distinct, but interwoven, threads. Just enumerating the threads will create a new level of clarity and allow each to be handled in the right sequence. Try it, you’ll like it!
4. Treadmill Verbs™
If you use and hear words like review, report, inform, discuss, and update, you and your colleagues are speaking in ‘Treadmill Verbs™.’These verbs have no destination. When you ‘report,’ there is no way to know when you are done. That is true of all of Treadmill Verbs™. They are simply an invitation to talk. You will improve your clarity and your productivity, as well as everyone’s around you, if you choose instead to speak The Language of Outcomes.
5. Too many priorities
Most people think their priorities are clear. They are wrong. When asked about those priorities, they reel off a laundry list of tasks. They don’t see that too many priorities means no priorities. At any given moment, you have to be able to set aside your laundry list in favor of those top few priorities so you can focus and finish. Making those choices requires clarity. Don’t make The Worst Mistake You Can Make When Overloaded!
6. Email that begets more email
Email consumes 23% of the workday for most people and clearly does not generate 23% of profits. Most people have no idea when to write email, when not to, and what constitutes a productive email message. They don’t even know they are part of a huge email problem. They are too accustomed to blurry email. Before you write another email, read Don’t Hit That Send Button Just Yet!
7. Thinking that isn’t critical
Critical thinking requires clear distinctions, logical mental processes, and discipline. It’s not just about thinking hard or being smart. Examples of poor critical thinking abound. For example, if you don’t notice others mixing objectives with alternatives, then you are undoubtedly doing the same thing. And if you don’t realize that most people start on the third step of the four basic steps of decision-making, then you don’t realize that you are making the same mistake they are. Guaranteed. Because people are doing those two things around you every day, all day long. And if you can’t see it, you are doing it.
These seven are among the most obvious examples of clarity vacuums. They represent enormous potential to improve profits by improving productivity. If you were to don your clarity spectacles, you would be horrified by the fog that is swallowing up your profits. Once you start seeing the lack of clarity, you can learn how to create clarity and you would start bringing clarity to every request, conversation, meeting, and email. Once you can see the fog, once you’ve sharpened your mental clarity, you can’t not see it. You’d have to be drunk to miss it. You’ll be frustrated, I’m sure, but I hope you’ll join my cause and help me bring clarity to corporate America in order to boost profits and unleash talent!
This article originally appeared on Forbes.com on November 6th, 2016.