If there were just a handful of secrets to being more purposeful, productive and profitable this year, when would you want to know them? Tomorrow? Next month?
What about right now?
Competitive athletes train, act and visualize "success scenarios" to prepare for game day. In your field or profession, what can you rehearse so that when it comes time for you to perform, you are ready?
1. Maximize your focus, get more done.
As an entrepreneur your work is always "right there." On the job or off, while you're commuting or while you're out to dinner with family and friends, your mind wanders over your to-dos. The solution, call it all work.
If you're at dinner with a group of people, pretend for 10 or 15 minutes that you are attending an important meeting with your mentor or leadership team.
You'd be focused, right? And, you probably would have prepared -- at least mentally -- some of the topics you want to discuss. Try this, and notice how much more you focus and are available to those at the dinner table.
Here are two ideas to maximize your focus while you're getting things done.
- Minimize external interruptions. Turn off blinking reminders and alarms. Put the phone on silent. Block out the world when you need to focus.
- Learn to capture your thoughts as they show up, then get right back to work. Write ideas on a napkin, snap a picture with your digital camera, or send yourself an email. A competitive cyclist stops only long enough to re-inflate a flat tire. Get the thoughts down quickly, then refocus immediately.
2. Get better at what you do often.
One reason business owners fail to reach their competitive potential is they're too busy handling the day-to-day. They spend time "in the weeds." What is your day-to-day like? Do you attend lots of meetings? Do people interrupt you constantly? Do you receive dozens (or even hundreds) of emails? Whatever you find yourself doing a lot of...get better at that.
Write a list the things that take your time, energy and focus. "Overdo" this inventory, and later you can sit down with a mentor to explore how you might be able to improve how you're working.
Related: Five Simple Ways to Boost Productivity
Depending on your own flow of work, some specific things you can do are:
- Control interruptions. Decide when to check in with team members. Designate specific time that your "office door" is open. Communicate when you need focus time, and ask to minimize interruptions when possible.
- Master email. Eliminate rereading emails when possible. Process (think about) email through to a decision about the next step before closing it. In our 2011 survey of 225 small business owners and educators, 60 percent of respondents reported over 100 unprocessed emails sitting in their Inbox. Stagnant emails pull on your energy and create resistance to your important work. If you have a backlog of emails, block out a series of 30-minute work sessions to purge and process.
3. Is there something to change that can make you more effective?
You are exactly where you are, doing exactly what you're doing because it's comfortable. Do you disagree? Are you "stressed out," or do you have "too many priorities" lately? The truth is you're actually comfortable being uncomfortable.
When things are moving quickly and business is building, we tend to keep doing what we did to get there. It may be a bit uncomfortable, but not enough to make any changes. In What Got You Here Won't Get You There, Marshall Goldsmith cautions readers to be careful about routines and habits. If there is something that your team is doing "because we've always done it," step back and ask if the relative effort is worth the perceived payoff.
Decide if there is something you want to try differently, for just five days or so, to see if it's worth changing. Here are a few questions you can use to coach yourself:
- Am I the best person to do this? If not, who is? (Practice delegating.)
- Is this the most important thing for me to do right now? If not now, when? (Practice prioritizing.)
- Where do we want to be six months from today? (Practice planning.)
Related: 10 iPad Productivity Apps
Can ordinary actions lead to extraordinary results? They can and will when you do them consistently. Your performance is the result of coordinating your focus and mindset with actions you can repeat. By reviewing your priorities, mindset and actions, you can identify the key areas of your life and your work. The most powerful improvement you'll achieve this year will occur when you break those bigger things down into daily, weekly reviewable actions. Build those habits just as an elite athlete trains their body, and you can achieve a new level of productivity.
Jason W. Womack is an author and advisor, and founder of The Womack Company, a productivity-training firm based in Ojai, Calif. Lisa Peake, CEO of Peake Productivity in Los Angeles, coaches small-business teams.