Want to Increase Your Productivity?

Posted on by in Business, Goals, Personal Development, Planning, Time Management

Do you often feel frustrated at the end of the day–like you’ve worked hard, long and fast–and yet it still doesn’t feel like you’ve done enough?

Believe it or not, one of the main culprits of that feeling is probably your ability to multi-task! In other words, one of the skills that you acquired as you’ve built and led companies over the years has now becoming one of your Achilles’ heels. Productivity
For years, you’ve probably prided yourself, like I have, on your ability to do a lot of things very fast and often at the same time. And chances are, the people around you have probably been in awe of that ability (which only made you feel better, didn’t it?).

However, you’re now the senior executive of a thriving business and what was once an asset, has now become a liability. The studies are clear, multi-tasking actually slows you down–it doesn’t speed you up. A classic example would be writing an important proposal (or letter or ad or …, you pick). You write paragraph one. Your Blackberry goes off (or your email program beeps). You look at it. Read it. Respond to it. Then back to the proposal. “Now, where was I?” So you go back and re-read the first paragraph. As you’re doing that, in walks your admin (or staff member, etc.). And so on. And so on. Right?

The proposal (or letter or ad or …) which should have taken a half hour to an hour to compose and get out the door, has now taken three hours–or even worse, didn’t get done because the only time you had available to do it was “eaten” up by other people and activities. You’ve been busy, but you haven’t been effective.

The number one quote that haunts me every day is from Alec McKenzie. “Nothing is easier than being busy, nothing more difficult than being effective.”

So, what’s the solution? The simple solution, which you probably already know, is to work in uninterrupted blocks of time. That may mean working at home or closing the door of your office (yes, it is okay to close your office door and not be accessible all the time) or, as I frequently have done, work at a restaurant like Panera Bread.

However, since I assume you already know that, I’d like to give you another idea that can help you actually do what you know you ought to do. At the end of every day, take five minutes (no more than seven) to answer three simple questions (and do this every day).

    1.    What did I do today?
    2.    What results did I achieve?
    3.    What progress did I make today on my needle movers for this month?

If you prefer, you can change the last phrase to “my top three (or, if you prefer, five) goals” or, “my strategic initiatives,” etc. But, personally, I love the phrase, “Needle movers,” from Christine Comaford. She defines a needle mover as a result that if you achieved it would radically change everything. For example, “Generate a 1,000 new leads this month.”

You determine the wording, but don’t you think that if you asked and answered those three questions every day for the next 30 days, that you would be infinitely more focused and productive? Absolutely! You’d be more focused on results than activity. And more importantly, you’d become incredibly focused on the three (to five) most important things that can move your business forward this month.

So, if you want to increase your productivity, why don’t you commit to asking these three questions at the end of each day. Then make sure you send me an email, 30 days from now, to share the results of what’s happened in your life and business because you asked these three questions.

To your accelerated success,

P.S. If you need help clarifying your needle movers and strategic initiatives, click here >>

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2 Responses to “Want to Increase Your Productivity?”

  1. Ben 3 May 2009 at 6:09 pm #

    Chris Carmichael, the famous “coach” of Lance Armstrong, will tell you that Lance used the same type of specialization to win the Tour de France 7 times!
    Traditional training for cycling suggested that riders work on a little bit of everything during a single week. So Tuesday would be for sprinting, Wednesday might be a medium distance day, Thursday an endurance ride, etc. During the build up for the Olympics in the 90’s, the cycling coaches tried a radically different approach – they had the riders focus on ONE thing for a series of weeks; perfect it and then move onto the next “skill.” When the athletes worked out like this, they experienced huge jumps in performance. (note: others would say that their training had nothing to do with the jump in performance – they had also discovered blood doping!!!).
    Is there any validity to finding one’s own “stacking” order of tasks? At times, I get blocked up when facing a single task, but if I switch to something else for a few hours, sometimes I can pop right back and break through the barrier.
    Or maybe I’m just justifying bad behavior? :)

  2. Bruce Johnson 3 May 2009 at 9:41 pm #

    Great insight on the change of strategy from Armstrong!
    As for justifying behavior, I’m guilty as well! Knowing what to do and actually doing it are too different things–especially when it comes to time/self-management :-)

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