3 Habits of Exceptionally Productive Leaders
How to lead without being a boss and how to be productive without getting everything done.
Productive leaders dump their to-do list
You need to prioritize to be productive. Most to-do lists, however, prioritize the wrong activities. They tend to focus on important issues that feel pressing rather than on where your time can be most efficiently spent.
For example, a great alternative to a to-do list is a 20-80 List. A 20-80 List is built on the Pareto Principle, which basically states that 20 percent of your efforts create 80 percent of your results. Examples of the Pareto Principle are everywhere. In the workplace, you’ve probably experienced that 20 percent of people do 80 percent of the work, or that 20 percent of a sales force produces 80 percent of the sales. Need an example closer to home? Look in your closet. You likely wear 20 percent of your clothes 80 percent of the time.
Try drawing a line down the middle of a piece of paper. Write “20 Percent” at the top of the left side and “80 Percent” at the top of the right side. From there, show favoritism by only listing what matters most on the 20 Percent side. All other items go on the right side. If you do it correctly, you’ll end up with only a handful of tasks on the left side of the paper. Those are the ones you and your team should show favoritism to and complete first! They will produce 80 percent of what matters most to your organization.
Productive leaders slow down under pressure
Productive leaders practice a counterintuitive habit -- they lead their organizations from a quiet place when more is added to their plate. While the implementation of this habit looks different with every leader, a couple overarching principles remain constant among the most productive leaders.
First, productive leaders create time and space to slow down before things get added to their plate. This time might be early in the morning or before they go to bed. The key isn’t when it’s scheduled, but that it has already been scheduled before anything extra gets added to their calendar. When tough issues arise, they don’t have to scramble to find time to address them because they have already schedule their lead-from-quiet time every day.
Second, they carve out significant chunks of time to lead from a place of calm and quiet. Although there is great value in taking 10 minute breaks throughout the day, productive leaders know these breaks are for taking breaks, not working. Short breaks are good for getting re-energized, but not for thinking deeply about leadership issues. The most productive leaders, therefore, block out a minimum of 30 minutes at a time so they can process issues thoroughly and deeply.
Productive leaders use simple math for their hardest problems
Perhaps what sets the most productive leaders apart is how they respond to adversity. Most people buy into the myth that the events of your day lead to your outcomes. They adopt an E = O mentality, thinking if events go their way, their outcomes will be good, but if events turn sour, their outcomes turn sour as well.
The problem with this equation is it’s based on what we cannot control: events. We don’t control the weather, the economy or people’s actions. Individuals who follow the E = O equation might as well add “= V” at the end because, if you allow your events to equal your outcomes, you’ll inevitably end up a victim. The real equation then becomes Events = Outcomes = Victims.
Productive leaders know this isn’t true and adopt the habit of approaching circumstances through an Events + Reactions = Outcomes equation. Originally taught by Dr. Robert Resnick and shared in Jack Canfield’s book, The Success Principles, E + R = O allows leaders to transform the way they lead by adding one letter to the E=O equation. That one letter empowers them and their team to win by reminding them to focus on the one thing they can control -- their response.
Leaders who use this equation commit to owning their responses no matter what events they face. By adding this one letter, these leaders can turn even the most challenging events into positive outcomes.
Wrapping It Up
Do you want to move from average productivity to outstanding productivity as a leader? Then consider changing your habits. If productivity is primarily about getting what matters most done, then practice habits that focus on getting the most important things done, slowing down, and owning your response to the events the world throws your way.
When Kent Julian graduated high school, his SATs scores were so low he had to take Development Studies to have a chance of getting into college, on probation. From those humble beginnings, he earned a BA and MA with honors, lead several large youth-serving organizations, and was appointed the National Director of Alliance Youth which served approximately 2,000 youth groups across the United States. After 20 years in the non-profit world, Julian did a 180 and launched his own lifestyle business which empowers people and organizations to live and earn it forward. He is a professional speaker, an author of multiple books, a what-matters-most business coach, and a proud bald guy. Join him at LiveItForward.com/learning-center.