What defines an elite performer isn't how they perform when everything is going well but the way they deliver when their well-laid plans are falling apart.
Peak productivity is the result of dedication and awareness. Regardless of your current situation, what business you’re in or what your goals are, productivity is extremely important. In a time of constant movement, constant communication and continual pursuit of achievement, we seldom feel we are ahead of that long to-do list, no matter how many completed tasks we record at the end of the day. It seems that our days are controlling us, vs. us taking control of our days.
Constant busyness and lack of rituals can actually take you off course from your highest value work. The “trick” to productivity is deciding, at some point other than in the moment before, what you’re going to work on. Practice that high-value work over and over until it’s natural, habitual and automatic. A lot of these ideas I originally learned in Tim Ferris' amazing book, The Four Hour Workweek.
I’ve experimented with many approaches to improving producivity and results. These four I recommend strongly.
1. 80/20 everything. Pareto's Law states 80 percent of the outputs result from 20 percent of the inputs. If you take 10 of your tasks and activities you want to get done, two of them will produce more results than the other eight combined.
Sometimes when we get busy we feel we must get a ton of tasks done vs. the important ones that create bigger results. Think intelligently about which 20 percent of your tasks will yield huge results and work on those with absolute focus. Remember, it’s not the hours you work but the work you put into those hours.
2. Most things don't matter. Most things make no difference, and aren’t moving your progress or business forward. In fact, most of the things you can do in your business don’t accelerate growth. At best, they just maintain.
Being busy is often a maifestation of lazy thinking and indiscriminate action with no better results than laziness. Being overwhelmed is often as unproductive as doing nothing but is far more unpleasant. Being more thoughtful and selective about choosing what actions we make priorities is a reliable path to being highly productive.
Focus on the important few and ignore or delegate the rest. At the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey, I thought I had to do everything myself. I didn’t realize most activities don’t actually move my business forward.
If somebody can do something at least 80 percent as well as you, make it their job. Your time is more valuable. I’ve never met a successful person who doesn’t value their time, and I’ve never met an average person who did.
3. Doing something unimportant well doesn't make it any more important. Activities that are not connected to an outcome or purpose are the drain of all fulfillment and fortune. The value of what you do is most important, followed by how you do it.
Being effective is wasted unless applied to the handful of things you could be focusing on that will create exceptional outcomes for your goals. It's easy to get caught in a flood of trivial matters as we often do. Feeling rushed is a sign we lack of priorities.
Take time to stop and re-focus your priorities as often as needed. Intelligent thinking, combined with the right action, will get your productivity to a level few attain.
Jim Collins stated in his best-seller Good To Great, “If you have more than three priorities, you don’t have any.” Write that down and remind yourself of it often.
4. Put time limits on everything. Parkinson's Law dictates that a task will become bigger in importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion.
Most inputs are useless and time is wasted in proportion to the amount that is available. If you have 12 hours to complete a project, the time pressure forces you to focus on execution. You have no choice but to do only the essentials that actually matter. If you have a week to complete the same task, it's six days of validation, excuses and procrastination followed by one day of rushed work. If you have a month, it becomes a mental monster.
There is magic and high value in deadlines. Deadlines bring equal or higher quality results, sooner, by encouraging greater focus.
Identify the few critical tasks that contribute most to your business results and schedule them with very clear deadlines. If you haven't identified your critical tasks and set firm start and end times for their completion, the unimportant becomes the important. Even if you know what's critical, without deadlines that create focus, the minor tasks forced upon you will raise to consume time until another minuscule task jumps in to replace it, leaving you at the end of the day with nothing accomplished.
I spent months jumping from one interruption to the next, feeling run by my business instead of the other way around. Don’t make the same mistake. Adopt these four practices into your daily agenda today.