Posts Tagged ‘productivity’
The Key To Getting More Done? Do Much Less. Wednesday, January 11th, 2012
I speak with a lot of business owners; some are seeing success while others are struggling for whatever reason. Even the successful businesses have obstacles though. In fact, nearly ALL business owners I speak with face a common obstacle. It may be slowing them down or even completely holding them back.
That obstacle is the constant effort to do too many things at once.
Businesses face a lot of challenges and include many functions that must run simultaneously such as sales and marketing, finance, payroll, fulfillment and production, etc. Because of this, it is only natural that business owners decide to work on them all simultaneously as well. Each function has its own issues to work on and improve. This, of course, pulls the business owner in every direction and last time I checked, there is only one of me (if there is more than one of you, please share your secret).
Now I’m not simply talking about multi-tasking (which is a bad idea even though my wife claims otherwise). I’m talking about the direction you are going with all those tasks. What are working toward? Highly productive people have this same problem believe it or not. It is a matter of focus. Not just daily focus, not even weekly focus.
We’re talking about singular focus that lasts at least 2 weeks and as long as 90 days (maybe a year if you’re a later stage company with slower growth). Within that time frame, you will eat, breath, and sleep that single focus. Maybe your focus is to increase the average number of sales by 50%. Well my friend, that is ALL you care about for the next 90 days! Do you still do the other stuff? Well, of course.
You can’t sell if you aren’t fulfilling, making payroll, or any of the other critical functions. The difference is you will simply maintain them at their current level and nothing more. It is okay to keep these other functions within your peripheral so they do not fall apart but beyond that, you know nothing of them. It is all about the single focus of increasing sales. You talk about it constantly, theme parties around it, reward against it, and dream about it when you don’t want to.
How long do I have to do this?
So how do you know which time frame (2 weeks to 90 days) you should choose? Well, that depends on a few factors such as your industry and growth rate. If you are approaching the speed of light, your time frames will be closer to 2 weeks as too much is changing too rapidly.
If you stay too long on one focus, it may slide back in importance long before you are done and leave you with big fires to put out. Certain industries such as software development often do what may be called agile development which is often based on 2 week deployment cycles in order to ensure no one falls into complacency and to ensure no one’s brain melts from overexposure to the same computer code. For most businesses, the 90 day line is perfect (1 quarter of the year).
Every 90 days, you take another look at things and determine a new focus. It is good to switch it up because computer programmers are not the only ones running the risk of melted brain. Teams and people become callous toward the focus after too long and begin to ignore it. We all do it (just think of routines and goals you stopped tracking after a bit).
Are you even capable of laser-like focus for 90 days? probably not… at least not without some level of accountability. You will need someone to discuss progress with, someone that will ask about how the focus is going on a regular basis (at least twice per month). This can be an advisor, a board member, or may even become part of someone’s job description (it is still recommended to have some outside perspective as well).
I’m good at balancing work needs… and lying.
Oh, you like to do a lot of things do you? Well, there will be plenty to do in order to achieve your focus and you won’t be bouncing around, almost getting somewhere, always complaining that nothing works. Almost marketing never sees results.
Almost solving a problem leaves you without an answer… still. Unless you are a chameleon with those crazy eyes, you can’t focus on two things at once but we all continue to cram many more than that into our minds. Stop it! Those other things can be your focus next time, but this time they are not. You can capture them in your productivity system, a journal, or whatever to be visited later but now, they can wait.
Progress must be visible
In order to maintain this brutal level of focus, you must be able to see progress, movement, something! If you can’t visualize your standing within the area of focus, it is almost guaranteed you will get lost. You will think you are still focusing but upon comparison to your original plans, you are out in left field… in another stadium! Have numbers you can track that can be prominently displayed and regularly reviewed. How close are you to your 50% increase in sales? Have a way to see it.
Congratulations, you are alive… break time
After the 90 day period of focus is over, celebrate. Break routines and enjoy yourself a bit. At least have 2 cokes at lunch instead of one… something! You must reward yourself and your team for their dedication and focus. If you jump right into the next cycle, it will feel like never ending torture. If you reached your goal, really celebrate, if not, than just celebrate but don’t really celebrate. Instead of buying a small tropical island next to Richard Branson’s, just have a beach day a few miles down the road. Have some fun, you earned it.
Ready, set, go… again!
Now that the celebration is over, get back to work!! Take some time to find your new focus and… wait for it… focus! Forget the world around you, including those other, albeit necessary, business functions and focus.
This process of only looking at one thing for a period or quarter will lead to some phenomenal successes and allow you to sleep a little easier, or at least less confused as you will only be dreaming of one thing. You will see surprising clarity in other areas of your business, not just the focus area. It is just cleaning off the desk (which I literally need to do as I write…) so you can get to the brass tacks of what will bring success to your biz. First things first, set some time to figure out your focus for the next quarter and give it a try.
Your Daily Morning Routine For Productivity Thursday, April 21st, 2011
Being a business owner means that you are on your own. In fact I recently stated that business is freedom. If business is freedom the dilemma then becomes, how to use that freedom wisely. One particular rhythm that I have set up for myself is a tool for morning productivity that I call a “power hour”.
Whether you are a stay at home mom or a Fortune 500 executive, busy people need to get their day started off on the right foot. The only time to do that is in the morning.
My morning “power hour” consists of focus on three key areas; spiritual, physical and mental. I don’t necessarily spend an equal amount of time in each discipline but I do spend focused time in each.
Here are some common questions that I get about doing a “power hour”?
What if my children get up at 5am?
The easiest way to answer this is to get up at 3 or 4am. For this to work you are going to have to get up before your kids. It’s that simple. As a father of four beautiful little girls, I feel your pain. One question to consider is, do your kids need to get up at 5am? Mine don’t. I could get into this topic more but I will save that for another post.
How long does it need to be?
I call it a “power hour” because you need at least an hour to spend adequate time in the proper disciplines. However, if you can’t do an hour then do it for as long as you can. You can even rotate between spiritual, mental and physical and do them on different days if you are pressed for time.
What does the mental part consist of?
This is a time to work on educating yourself. Read an informative book. Work on your business. Organize some facet of your life. Create something new.
How often should I do a “power hour”?
I would aim to do it every day so that it is a habit and just part of what you do. I notice a significant difference in my attitude and demeanor when I do a “power hour” vs. when I don’t.
What if I am not a morning person?
I wasn’t either. In fact I wrote a love story about waking up in the morning. You can train your body to a new schedule.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is if you don’t have a morning productivity routine then it’s time to start one. No one has ever started doing a “power hour” and told me that they thought it was a waste of their time and they were sorry they did it. Usually I hear the opposite of that and in some cases I have had people tell me uplifting stories of how implementing this simple discipline changed their life. Do me a favor and try it on for the next 2 months and let me know what your results have been from doing it. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
The Only Path To Quick Results Monday, April 4th, 2011
You ever ran 100 miles an hour in a certain direction only to realize your were running the wrong way? I know I have. The best way to prevent this from happening and in the process realize quicker results is to have clarity behind what you are doing.
Some people may read the above message and think that trying to gain clarity will slow down their ability to produce not speed it up. I am not saying that you need to completely vet out every idea and move that you want to make because no plan is fool proof. What I am saying is that you should have a general idea of what you are doing and what you are trying to accomplish.
Don’t be afraid to breath. There is benefit in gaining clarity for these reasons:
Less Wasted Effort: This just come down to understanding the results you want. For too often we start something without even thinking about the finish line and what that might look like. This isn’t to say that you will be right but it does help at least point you in a more accurate direction. Time is precious in business. Use it wisely. Sometimes you only get one shot.
More Production: This is a no brainer. Having a focus allows you to work on the right things rather than being distracted by all of the wrong things that interfere with productivity. Things like phone calls, e-mails, useless meetings, etc.
Saves Money: When you are focused, your business doesn’t waste money. They tend to hire better people. They employ the right marketing strategies for their business. They also understand what activities are going to positively affect the bottom line.
Keeps Your Team Engaged: Nothing kills team morale more than not knowing where their efforts are taking them or their business. Consider this scenario: Your boss has you work on a report that takes the better part of your work time for 2 weeks. After handing in the report, your boss tells you that they aren’t moving in that direction anymore and sorry he forgot to mention it. That sucks. Unfocused businesses are morale killers.
Focus in your business seems like a no brainer yet I am surprised at how poor of a job that business owners do at taking the time to gain some additional clarity around why their business exists and formulating strategies for getting there. If you find that your business lacks focus, take some time and work on getting a clearer picture. Get other people involved if you need to.
How have you failed or succeeded because of focus?
How To Assess If You Are Busy Or Productive Tuesday, January 11th, 2011
We spent our last My Business World coaching call talking about planning efficiently and effectively. We don’t just get tripped up because we don’t plan. In fact I don’t think planning is our #1 issue. What good is planning after all if you don’t execute.
This is where time management comes in. Business owners can find things to do for days but how do you know if you are spending your time wisely?
There are two pieces to this formula that you can look at to help you assess your time management.
The first exercise is to do an activity inventory. Take five-ten and write down every single thing you have going on personally and professionally. Don’t over-think this and literally write everything down.
Now step back and look at it. Are there things in that list that need to be moved off of your plate?
Here’s one way that you can help decide.
Think about an ideal situation where you are only doing the work where you bring the most value to the table. What does that look like on a per hour basis? Is it $100/hour? Is it $500/hour?
Now go back to your list and ask yourself if there are activities that you can give to someone on your team or that you can hire out that would cost you less than the dollar per hour value that you ideally bring to the table.
This means most likely cutting out some paperwork or maintenance activities etc.
This sounds simplistic in its’ approach but the reality is you are probably wasting a lot of time working on activities that bring no real value to your business and that keep you plenty busy but ultimately keep you from being productive.
Spend some time this week to assess your activities. What are you spending the majority of your time on? What are the time wasters for you? What are you doing that you hate? Look at these activities and look for ways to get them off your plate and move you closer to your most productive year in your business yet.
In business, change is your only constant so you must constantly create Monday, November 15th, 2010
Stagnation in business is a leading factor in business failure. The fact is, in life, change is your only constant and about your only guarantee. The challenge for business owners is to be prepared for this, regardless of your current successes. The market doesn’t care about your track record or past wins, it doesn’t even care if you are doing well right now. The market only wants demands met by supply. Once some of these are met, it will move on to others and often leave the old demands in the past.
There is no long term “pension” reward for past work in the marketplace, its all about current supply meeting up with current demands. Well folks, if you supply something great today, it may not be so tomorrow unless you are ready for the constant of change! I mean, the prime example of a failure to prepare for change is the vast majority of mortgage brokers. One day, you are making half-a-mil a year and the next, you are filing bankruptcy, losing your assets and saying “why me!?” It doesn’t mean business who are prepared for change do not experience any downswing, only that it doesn’t cripple them and they are also preparing for their next upswing.
The only way to adapt to this change is to be constantly creating. You must continually spend time specifically flushing out ideas, executing on some of them, adapting services, adding new ones, diversifying old ones and generally “tweaking” your business. Having a system in place to work through ideas will allow you to make change in your business a constant that keeps up with and meets the change guaranteed by life. Some simple steps start with creating time on a weekly basis to look at your ideas and make plans for action on them. What is the next step? Part of this time is spent simply vetting out new ideas and deciding on viability and priority, the rest is spent deciding how to implement the top ones and then you simply must do what you decide.
There you go, on a weekly basis, do the following:
- Get all the ideas out there and vet out their viability and priority
- Decide on the immediate next steps for the top ideas and those you are actively working on
- Now finish with all this pie-in-the-sky planning time and get down to getting this stuff done!!
Taking time to make change in your business as constant as change in life will create sustainability within your business and ensure your “best-year” will always be the one you are in!
Upcoming Training on Implementing a Cycle of Creation in your Business
Our Cycle of Creation event is coming up in Salt Lake on December 9th and 10th. You can check out details for the event and register for that as well by visiting here.
What To Do When You Can’t Do Everything Thursday, October 14th, 2010
One of the most prevalent struggles that I hear from business owners is that they don’t see their projects through from start to completion and the primary reason for this is that they get overwhelmed with everything that needs to be done.
Has this ever happened to you?
I am pretty sure it’s happened to everyone. So provided that you have an idea that you need to implement for your business and you feel pretty good about moving forward how do you keep yourself from being overwhelmed?
Our brains are tricky. On the right side you have the ability to coordinate multiple things in time and space whereas your left brain take more of a linear, step by step approach. What makes this duality even more challenging is that you need both of these functions to start and complete a project.
The right brain take a look at the big picture. It’s the opposite of linear. It’s the fire hose. You need to be able to look at things from a 30,000 ft viewpoint and start thinking creatively about how a certain project is going to be put together and implemented. For instance, if you have anew product coming out, you have to start asking questions like; How will this product be best delivered? How will it be best experienced? What are some by-products that make the product even more appealing? For these types of questions, your right brain is essential.
Once you dial in the big picture questions you then need you right brain to start mapping out processes for putting this abstract concept into concrete terms. This concept reminds of the movie Stand and Deliver which is based on the true story of math teacher, Jaime Escalante. Jaime is teaching at an underfunded school that is not known for its academics and he decides that he is going to teach Calculus. When he introduces the concept of Calculus to his students they are extremely overwhelmed by the totality of learning something that seems so far beyond what they have done. Jaime’s mantra in the movie? Take it step by step.
Taking it step by step is the key to the completion of projects large and small.
If you find that your business is overwhelming you. The first thing to do is take a step back and look at all that your business is and compare it with what you want it to be. Then diagnose the easiest and most productive things that you can accomplish for your business. But the key is that you may freak out when you see all that needs to be done but push through it. It will pass once you start breaking it down into steps.
Jaime Escalante’s students were fortunate that they had a coach help them break their business down step by step. If you are having trouble breaking down the steps, a coach can help you with that as well.