When building a successful business, one of the most important things you can do (yet one most overlooked) is learn the art of being “productive on purpose.”
When you ask most business owners if they’re busy, all of them will reply with a resounding Yes! If you look at a business owner’s calendar, they will all have a lot of things that are taking place throughout their week. But here’s the problem. Being busy does not equal being productive.
When I work with my business owner clients, I share with them that they can make big changes in their business by making small changes in their habits. You are better off spending less time doing the right activities, than spending more time simply filling your calendar tons of the wrong ones.
Here’s five strategies that will help you become more productive.
1) Become solo focused.
It’s been proven that for every minute of distraction, it takes seven minutes to “get back on track” with what you were doing prior. Believe it or not, multi-tasking is one of the worst things you can do. When you multi-task, that means you’re not giving your full attention to the task at hand. This constant task-switching encourages poor brain habits.
When we complete a tiny task (sending an email, answering a text message, posting a tweet), we are hit with a dollop of dopamine, our reward hormone. Our brains love that dopamine, and so we’re encouraged to keep switching between small mini-tasks that give us instant gratification.
Related: Why Smart People Don’t Multitask
This creates a dangerous feedback loop that makes us feel like we’re accomplishing a ton, when we’re really not doing much at all. The best way to break this multi-tasking addiction is simple. Focus on one task. Only move to the next task, after you’ve completed the original one.
2) Create clarity for power.
When it comes to the bottom line, you must know your three IPAs (income producing activities) that produce the greatest impact on your business. Ask yourself this question, What are the activities that drive revenue, increase the number of clients I have, and produce the most results? Once you have them, write them down, put them on a sticky note, and then tape them to your computer where you can see them.
Maybe for you, it’s keeping track of the number of outbound sales calls you make, the amount of proposals you send out, or the amount of referrals you ask for. It’s not about how much stuff you can do, it’s about focusing on the things that will actually help you produce the greatest increase in revenues or grow your client base. Getting crystal clear on these IPAs will make all the difference in your focus, and ultimately, in the overall success of your business.
3) Do your most important work first.
Getting started off on the right foot, with the right actions, early in your day, is extremely important when becoming productive. When I really boil my day down, there are usually only three things that absolutely must get done to move the business forward. Yes, there are countless tasks and items on my to-do list. But usually, these three things are significantly more important than the rest.
In the past, I often procrastinated on these items, because they required the most effort or had the biggest unknowns. I would check email, schedule meetings and do a hundred other tasks before I reluctantly, if at all, went about my main task. As a result, the one thing I really needed to do to drive my business forward often never got done, slowing business growth.
By scheduling your most important task of the day first, you set the tone for the rest of the day, and your business will move forward with incredible speed.
4) Incorporate jam sessions.
A jam session is a scheduled period of time (usually 60 minutes) that allows you to be hyper-focused on your most important tasks for the day. Before you start, write down the most important tasks for that particular day. These are tasks that will move the needle in your business.
Once you have these tasks written down, your goal is to incorporate two jam sessions into your day. Purchase a stopwatch or set a timer for 60 minutes. During the jam sessions, tell your secretary, or other colleagues that you cannot be interrupted for the next 60 minutes. During this hour, turn off your cellphone, do not check emails or get up to grab coffee, and remember to completely turn off Facebook and all other social media sites.
When I incorporated this productivity hack into my business, I was able to become 50 percent more productive within 90 days. Imagine how productive you will become if you incorporated two jam sessions into your day!
5) Stop the email insanity.
When I do a speaking engagement, I will always ask the same question, “How many of you love email?” Not surprisingly, nobody raises their hand. And then I ask, “How many of you check your email at least five hours per day?” All the hands in the room go up.
We are all addicted to email. We believe we have to be checking email every minute of every day. That’s simply not the truth.
I’d like to challenge you right now, just as I do my business owner clients. Here it is: Only check email twice per day: once in the morning and once in the afternoon. For example, maybe your “email hours” are between 9 and 10am, and then again 3 and 4pm. This will not be easy at first. It will take a daily commitment and discipline. But once you get past the addiction time period, it will start becoming much easier. And the best part, imagine how much free time you will now have, because you’re not always checking email.
I recently challenged a few of my new clients with this. The first two months were difficult, but by month three, they said that by only checking email twice per day, they felt more focused, more productive, and actually felt that they controlled their day instead of their day controlling them.