Time is an entrepreneur’s rarest commodity. There is always something that we should be doing conflicting with whatever it is we are doing. There is simply not enough time to get through the myriad of things requiring and demanding our attention.
And that is why Mega-Productivity is a skill that all entrepreneurs and business owners must acquire if they are to be successful. And that success extends across business and across life. After all, even if our businesses are tremendously successful, they become meaningless when our personal lives lie in tatters.
The challenge with most people is that they are extraordinarily busy. But, when you ask them what they are achieving that really matters, it is precious little. If business is all about ROI or return on investment, time is all about ROE – return on energy. Because time is such a precious commodity, we must ensure that every one of the 1440 minutes we experience each day gives us a return.
1. Establish what you want
Zig Ziglar said “Aim at nothing and you’ll hit it every time”.
So, unless you know exactly what it is you desire for your life and business, you are likely to pursue anything shiny, and waste a lot of time in the process.
You have to figure out what, when you are 90 and sitting in your rocking chair reflecting back on a life well lived, will stand out for you as the things you are most proud of.
The temptation is to select what you think you can achieve. That’s great! But also include the goals that may be a little tougher to get to. You may not know quite how to get there – yet – but unless you start taking some action towards their achievement, they will forever and always remain merely a dream.
Once you have identified the overall goals and dreams, you must prioritise them. Number them in order of priority. Be cautious here to think through your list of priorities carefully. Remember that you can only juggle so many balls, and whilst, when dropped, some will bounce, some balls will break. Make sure that your choice is made with full awareness of the consequences, and the time that you have available.
2. Write a list of how you intend to get there
This is a process whereby you detail the action steps you’ll need to take in order to achieve your overall personal goals and business objectives. Start with the goal that you labelled as number 1, and work through each until you have created action steps for all.
If you have set a goal that is particularly challenging, you may not know the steps that you need to take beyond perhaps the first ten. That’s OK for now. Once those first ten steps have been taken, the next ten will reveal themselves. At that point, write those ten steps down in a list, and keep repeating the process.
3. Use your most productive time productively
Most people wake up in the morning, and hit the office only to focus on the 100 e-mails that have arrived in their Inbox overnight. If you are energised and focused in the morning, your time could be far better utilised.
Identify when you are most productive during the day, and block that time off to get one of your priority tasks completed. I always do my most important tasks first thing in the morning.
The reason is that unless I complete them first, I get caught up in the demands of the day and find myself out of time and out of energy. If you run this risk, then commit to completing your number one important (not urgent) task first thing each day. Do not move onto anything else unless and until that priority task has been completed.
4. Leverage the productivity curve
We have all had experience with the productivity curve, even if we are not directly aware of it. It goes like this: When we start something, it takes us a while to get traction.
We need to figure out what we intend to do, and how to do it. We waste quite a bit of time being unproductive in this phase. It is only after some focused effort that we start having an impact and moving forward in an upward direction.
If we give ourselves a sufficient amount of uninterrupted and focused time, we can start achieving Mega-Productivity, and get into ‘the zone’.
However, precious few of us get to this point when we are in our work environment. When we are just at the point of starting to gain productivity, we are called to our next meeting, are distracted by an incoming e-mail or message, or by a member of our team.
After we have dealt with the distraction, and return to our work, we revert back to the point of negative productivity. We need to figure out what we’ve done, what we still need to do, and get our train of thought together before we can move forward once again.
You can imagine that many small interruptions have the result of us losing massive productivity. Something that may have taken us 30 minutes to complete ends up taking ten times as long. And given repeated interruptions, that’s no exaggeration.
You have to create the habit of booking out blocks of time in your diary – time that is long enough for you to achieve the focus that drives Mega-Productivity, and enables you to complete your most important tasks without interruption. This is an absolute essential step in accelerating your achievement of your goals.
5. Get your e-mails under control
E-mails are a killer of productivity. If you are not careful, you can spend an entire day on e-mail, and not complete a single important task.
Identify two times in the day when your energy is low. Book a 30 or 60 minute slot in the morning, and again in the afternoon.
Dedicate that time to reading, responding and completing your e-mails. Do not look at e-mails at any other time. If there is something of significant importance, you can be assured that someone will actually phone you.
When it comes to working through your e-mails, apply ‘one touch management’. The temptation is to open an e-mail, read it, and think – I’ll get back to this one. That’s a productivity no-no.
You’ve just invested a minute or two reading this e-mail, so deal with it in its entirety now. Do whatever needs to be done now to complete the task at hand.
7. Mega-Productivity is a mindset
Consider that if you invest R1 every day for the rest of your life, what an incredible investment you’ll have as a result of the cumulative interest you’ll earn. This is in fact what you are doing in your life and your business. Whatever actions you undertake today must repay you in return on energy tomorrow, and next year.
Consider therefore the implications of leaving a Must Do task incomplete. You can never re-earn the cumulative interest you’ve lost. Adopt that mindset for every important task you have listed. Make completing your Must Do and Important to do list a habit. Your life will change as a result.