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The Productivity Principle

A better version of you (and your business) starts with a few simple steps.

Harry Welby-Cooke

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From a personal productivity or business productivity perspective, if your year doesn’t start with a plan, whether that’s financially, in terms of marketing or simply your key goals, you’re not going to achieve what you set out to accomplish.

The important first step though isn’t just to have a list and a plan, but priorities. You need to focus. You can’t do everything, so choose three or four priorities for the year, both for your business, and for yourself.

The reality is that even if you’ve just come back from a holiday and you’re ready to hit the year running, unless you take the time to plan, you’ll be running around in circles.

So, how do you develop your goals and list, and focus on what’s really important? Here are three steps to get you started.

1. Take a step back and remember why you got into business in the first place.

Was it because you wanted to travel more, spend more time with your kids, or have flexible hours? Was it because you wanted to change the world, or create a brand that would become a household name?

In our experience, too many entrepreneurs start a business, and then quickly get sucked into day-to-day operations to such a degree that they never take the time to step back and evaluate where they are, where they want to be, and how they’re going to get there. You’d be amazed what you can achieve if you put the time aside to plan properly.

2. Ask yourself what the business needs to do to serve you and your goals.

What will really help you achieve your vision? If you can’t articulate this, you won’t be able to recruit others to help you, and you won’t see your goals come to fruition.

3. Evaluate your personal goals for the year. It’s not enough to have a list.

You need to have a carefully thought-out list that is achievable. The big danger most entrepreneurs face is that they don’t actually do what they set out to do — they end up working for their staff, suppliers, the bank and so on instead of living the life they want to lead, and running the business they want to own. It’s time for you to change that focus. Start by asking yourself, what’s in it for you?

Related: Why Managing Your Time is a Waste of Time

Getting your goals in order

Begin the process of developing goals by taking a careful look at your business.

  • How is it faring?
  • What would you like to achieve this year?
  • Do you want to grow revenue?
  • Do you need to find more time for the business?
  • Or would you simply like to find more time for yourself?

Once you can answer these questions, start your planning with big picture thinking that covers the next three years. This allows you to get past the last year, and what you did and didn’t achieve. Often, we start the year, determine our goals, realise they’re the same as last year, and we practically give up before we’re even out the gate. We just assume we won’t manage them again this year.

Instead, starting with a three year plan gives you time to achieve your goals, but it also lets you focus and break the plan down into smaller, more manageable increments — and as you achieve each goal, you’ll celebrate, and be galvanised to achieve more.

Next, paint a picture: What does the end goal look like and feel like? If you can picture it, you can focus on getting there. It’s important to evaluate what any changes will mean to the customer, and to yourself. There needs to be a tangible reason to do something, or it’s just wasted energy.

You also need to be focused. Jack Welch famously said that you need to narrow your focus and choose your key operating aspects carefully. How many are on your list? 15 is too many. More than four is too many. Be narrow and then focus them to death. This will not only allow you to know exactly what you’re aiming for, but it will help you articulate your vision to your staff. They’re an integral component to achieving your goals.

Step three is to follow a simple line of questioning: If I do this, will it increase revenue, save me time, or both? You need to evaluate what it is you really want: More money, or more time. Once you can answer that question, you can start determining how to achieve it.

The two generally go hand in hand though. Most companies pay for resources to buy time, which they can then use to focus on areas they’re either really good at, or are their unique selling proposition, meaning areas their competitors can’t do. Sometimes it’s actually easier to make money that you can then use to buy time. Don’t waste energy on things others can do. Rather free up your valuable time (this goes for you and the business!).

Finally, put processes in place that will allow you to free up the time to focus on your new goals. This is often a sticking point for many entrepreneurs, whose typical mindset is that developing systems takes cash, time, as well as the belief that “I have to do it myself anyway.”

This isn’t true. Systems are just processes that are documented and easy to follow. The simplest way to get a system in place is to start by asking each staff member to write down exactly what they do on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. You’re not using your time because you’re putting the job in your employees’ hands. It also doesn’t cost anything. Check and request changes, sign off the process documents (or get your line managers to sign them off) and your system is in place.

Once all processes are documented:

  • Streamline the business
  • Tweak systems where necessary (you can’t tweak things unless you know what you do)
  • Choose which systems can be replaced by IT (and easily evaluate the cost versus output of such a change).

Again, be focused. You don’t need to automate everything, just one or two essential areas. The pareto principle says that two or three systems will free up a lot of time and efficiency (or that 20% of your systems take up 80% of your business’s time).

You just need to work out which systems these are, and make sure they’re as efficient as possible.

Related: Is Procrastination Poisoning Your Chance of Success?

Now turn your attention to yourself

If your ultimate goal is to do more with less (less time, money and even energy), you need to look beyond your business to yourself. What is your role within the business, and how does the business help you achieve your personal goals?

What’s your monetary worth?

Have you worked out everything you do in a day, week and month? Draw up a list, and give each line item a monetary value.

Then work out what you need to be bringing into the business each month as its owner. What activities bring in the real cash? If it’s to sign R2 million worth of deals each month, why are you also doing R50/hour admin work? Rather hire a bookkeeper and free yourself up for the things that only you can do.

Your time as a business owner is valuable — do you treat it as such?

Finding the best way to spend your time

Here are eight ways to ensure you’re getting the most from your time.

1. Create a template of the ideal week.

As you begin the year (and after you’ve evaluated what you want to achieve this year), what would your ideal week look like? What do you believe you should be spending your time on? Write it down. Create templates of each day, and document the time allotted to specific tasks each week.

2. Measure what you do.

Start by spending two weeks measuring what you do by the hour. You need to know what you spend time on before you can start finding more time. The better your details, the more you’ll understand exactly where your time is going. Every entrepreneur we’ve done this exercise with is always surprised by what they actually spend their time on.

3. Compare the ideal to the reality.

Once you know what you’re actually spending your time on versus the ideal, you can make key decisions about what you’ll hand over, and what you’ll retain for yourself (remember, these decisions should be based on what your time’s worth, and what brings in the money). You’ll quickly see how much of your staff’s work you’re doing, and you can set some rules for yourself. For example, if you want to spend 20% of your week on existing clients, but find you only spend 2%, you can now make proper time for this in your diary.

4. Set aside ‘me’ time.

This is particularly important if you’re prone to distractions, but even if you’re not, ‘focus’ time helps you stay as productive as possible while you’re completing certain tasks.

An open door policy is great, but you need closed door time as well. Set clearly demarcated times when your staff can walk into your office, and defined times when they cannot.

You’ll also be empowering them if they can’t run to you every time they have a question or problem that needs solving. You should also turn off automatic mail alerts, and only check emails at designated times in the day.

5. Spend time planning for tomorrow.

This can be a huge time saver, but more importantly, it also allows you to really focus on the tasks that need to be prioritised:

  • Spend 15 minutes today for tomorrow
  • Spend one hour this week for next week
  • Spend half a day this month for next month
  • Spend one day this quarter for next quarter

Put these planning times in your diary and stick to them. That way, tomorrow morning, before you get sidetracked, you know what you need to do, what your priorities are, and what’s critical.

6. Evaluate what you’ve achieved in a day.

This relates to your planning time above. Each day, ask yourself the following: What have I been doing today, and how has this contributed to getting money in the bank (and how much?). Always choose the activity that drives money to the bank versus a meeting that achieves nothing. And then use these insights to create your lists for the next day, week and month. The key is to be critical of your use of time.

7. Instil discipline.

This is probably the hardest step, but crucial if the other six are going to work. You need to consistently action your goals, and as human beings we aren’t very disciplined.

Our advice is to outsource this step, and ensure that someone is holding you accountable for your achievements. You can get a coach; ask a mentor or a friend to monitor your progress, or get your PA to police you. For example, if one of your goals is to call two or three clients each day, reporting on this to your PA should be mandatory — with repercussions if you don’t.

8. Balance fun with skill.

As an entrepreneur, balancing fun with skill is critical to your business. Ideally, you want to be having fun (driving passion) and using your skills at the same time, which will result in your feeling challenged, productive and enjoying what you do.

The worst case scenario is doing tasks that are neither fun nor skilled. Often, we substitute one for the other though, and if that’s what you’re doing, you’re also not maximising your time.

To measure how you spend your time, create a graph. Place fun on the y axis, and skill on the x axis. You’ll now have four quadrants. Ideally, you want as many activities as possible in the top right quadrant (fun and skill).

However, the reality is that not everything you do can be fun — but it must always be highly skilled. This means strategic thinking is good, but taking care of invoicing is a waste of your time, and someone else should be doing it.

Here’s the real secret to success and productivity: If you enjoy what you do and you’re challenged, you’ll naturally be more efficient and more disciplined.

Harry Welby-Cooke is the Master Licensee for ActionCOACH South Africa. He is also the President of COMENSA (Coaches and Mentors Association of South Africa). ActionCOACH is the world’s largest executive and business coaching company with operations in 39 countries. It is also on the list of the top 100 franchises globally. As a highly successful Business and Executive coach, Harry is a master of teaching business owners how to turn their businesses around and accelerate their growth. Email him at harrywelbycooke@actioncoach.com or call 0861 226 224

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How to Calculate the True Monetary Value of Your Time

As an entrepreneur, your time is precious. To protect it, you must know exactly what it’s worth.

Nathan Resnick

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Do you know the value of your time? Ken Segall, creator of Apple’s famous ‘Think Different’ ad campaign for agency Chiat/Day, said he got thrown out of a meeting once by the founder of his agency, Jay Chiat.

“Why are you here?” he asked Segall and the art director, who’d shown up with everybody else. “We’re just responding to the invitation,” said Segall. Chiat told them to get lost. “Go create something,” he said.

Jay Chiat knew the value of his creative people’s time. He knew it wasn’t worth it for them to go into that meeting when they could be putting together the next big ad campaign. They were more valuable to the company doing the creative work that made it run than attending a meeting.

That’s what knowing the value of your time can do for you; it tells you what’s most important. Time is the one resource all of us have, but it’s also painfully finite in nature. You can’t bank it — all you can do is invest 
it wisely.

As an entrepreneur, if you don’t know the true monetary value of your time, how are you going to prioritise your business and your life? What does it take to find the monetary value of your time?

Invest your time

Be aware that your time is likely to appreciate in value. If you’re a founder or running a successful business, your time’s value will increase as your business does. Sooner or later, the monetary value of your time is going to surpass the importance of money. It’ll be more important for you to invest your time in moving the business forward because your time is going to be worth more. So, invest your time on process early, lest you spend it later putting out fires.

Related: 5 Time-Management Tools for Small Businesses to Improve Productivity

Crunch the numbers

James Clear

Entrepreneur James Clear decided to approach this problem systematically — he talked to everyone from poker players to executive coaches to figure out what the optimal method of measuring his time’s value was.

Then, he sat down and tracked every hour for three months. The upshot of that time investment was a very clear process that you can use to lay out what your time is worth.

First, figure out the amount of time you spend to earn money. That’s not just time spent working. Are you commuting? That’s time you’re using towards work that’s not going elsewhere. School? That counts. Drop the kids off at school? Add it on.

If it’s related to the time you spend earning money, add it on. Clear’s estimate guesses that most full-time employees and entrepreneurs spend around 2 500 hours a year on this (his exact estimate for himself came out to 2 742).

Then, figure out how much you earn in take-home pay per year. That calculation should be pretty simple, though if you’re a business owner, it’ll be a little more complex as you figure out taxes and withholding.

Divide your total earnings by the hours you spend to earn it. That’s your time’s value.

Surprised? It’s probably lower than you expected, especially if you calculated the extra hours devoted to things like dropping of kids at school or commuting accurately. We don’t often think of our work value in terms of total hours spent.

Related: 6 Reasons Why Time Management Is Such A Waste Of Time

Create a system of checks and balances

You don’t want to just rely on that, though. Maybe you’re being underpaid (or underpaying yourself, if you’re an entrepreneur — don’t laugh, it’s more common than you think). Maybe another factor is throwing it off, or your math has 
an error.

Consider a few other factors:

  • What do other people make to do your job?
  • What would you pay someone else to do your job?
  • What could you make on the open market if you were to go find another job?

Run those numbers against each other to determine an average. For entrepreneurs, this changes everything. Once you understand this number, it’ll change the way you approach everything in your business and your life.

Know what your own time is worth. Remind yourself of it constantly. If you do, you’ll find yourself more productive, more efficient, more satisfied, and more successful.

So, what are you waiting for? Invest wisely.

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(Infographic) 9 Productivity Mistakes You’re Making In The First 10 Minutes Of Your Day

From setting goals to drinking coffee, these bad morning habits might surprise you.

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There are a number of things you’re probably doing every morning that are actually hindering your productivity.

If you’re an avid coffee drinker, you might be surprised to find out that drinking coffee between 8 and 10 a.m can make you more stressed throughout the day. That’s because caffeine early in the morning interferes with the time that the stress hormone, cortisol, is peaking in your body. It’s best to get your fix between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

When you get into the office and try to jump right into the top of your to-do list, you might find yourself confused and not very productive. When you don’t let your brain empty and refresh before starting a project or task, it loses a sense of control, becomes overwhelmed and ultimately, makes you less productive. Something else to avoid is checking email or social media right when you wake up. Typically, after checking your inbox, it takes a person at least 25 minutes to get back into a productive state. If you start your day off reading and responding to email after email, it will take you a long time to get back on track.

Another surprising mistake is setting self-imposed goals. Setting goals and deadlines for yourself might seem like an obvious productivity hack, but it turns out, that’s not the case. Instead, share your deadlines with others and you’ll feel more pressure and responsibility to get things done.

Related: 5 Surprising Elements That Boost Your Productivity (One of Them Is Colour)

Check out resume.io’s infographic below for more productivity mistakes you’re likely making in the first 10 minutes of your day.

1538429589_9-productivity-mistakes-infographics-7934969f76af5ebe1b5b0b84ce9053ec43752717512fb7d9339e84f86afe91d1

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Workflow And Business Efficiency – 5 Strategies You Ignore At Your Peril

Emails alone don’t cut it as an efficient way to communicate with team members. You’re not still depending on email, are you?

Toby Nwazor

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An inefficient business can cost you a lot more than just growth – it can affect your revenue, too. According to a report by IDC, your business runs the risk of losing 20 to 30 percent of your revenue due to inefficient systems.

Unfortunately, many companies still struggle to implement the right systems to improve their workflow. Others have it worse, because they have no systems. In those situations, projects take ages to be completed, more time is spent on menial tasks and teams never seem to get enough done during work hours.

If that describes your company, your company’s profits may start to plummet, too.

Every successful business, then, has clearly defined systems to help the business run like clockwork. Improved workflow, better management and business efficiency save time, increase the bottom line and ensure a higher profit margin.

In fact, in an article on ContractZen, Tim Cummins, president of the International Association for Contract & Commercial Management, wrote that, “The average corporation could boost its bottom line by almost 10 percent if it invested in improving the quality of contracting.

For many companies – especially those in more complex, project-based industries – the prize could be much higher – perhaps as much as 15 percent.”

Related: Become A Life-Hacker

Unfortunately, some companies fail to provide systems that put users first, taking a negative toll on those companies’ workflow and efficiency. The good news is that they’re only five strategies away from turning this around:

1. Automate all you can

automated-emails

From email lists, bookkeeping, invoicing and contract management, to social media posts and payrolls, almost everything can be automated. For a business that aims to be more efficient, automation is a must.

Automation doesn’t just save you time, it can be the one strategy that can guarantee explosive growth and higher conversion rates. According to this Lead Generation Marketing Effectiveness study, 63 percent of companies polled that were outgrowing their competitors said they had automated their marketing.

Automating monotonous tasks that have to be repeated several times during the day helps you be more productive in tasks that require your personal attention.

2. Invest in customer-relationship management software

It’s not uncommon to find businesses that are barely able to keep up with their leads. Some waste hours hunting the low-quality leads instead of focusing their energy on those ready to buy. Here, a customer relationship management (CRM) solution linked to these businesspeople’s network phone system is a great way to enhance customer communications.

Customers value businesses that provide excellent customer service. A CRM solution increases the ability to keep track of customer information, monitor leads and provide efficient delivery. Businesses can provide for their customers’ needs faster and make effective business decisions. With CRM, businesses can also keep their focus on quality leads that will drastically improve conversion rates.

Related: 11 Ways To Maximise Every Part Of Your Day

3. Set up a task-management system

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Emails alone don’t cut it as an efficient way to communicate with team members. Email makes it difficult to carry everyone along. However, setting up task-management software like Slack, Trello or Asana makes it much easier to have everyone’s tasks in one place and ensure that everyone is carried along in the project.

Task-management software helps members of a team track their progress and ensure that everyone is working on their tasks.

4. Sync your calendar with that of everyone else on your team

How many times have you had to reschedule appointments because you didn’t know you had other meetings lined up for the day?

Aside from leaving negative impression in clients’ mind, this error makes you less productive. Having to go back and forth until you have settled on an appropriate date can be cumbersome especially when different time zones are involved. So, do this instead: Sync your personal calendar with your work calendar, and make sure that everyone in your team is synced to the latter, too.

This will ensure sure that everybody is “on the same page” in terms of appointments and deadlines. Google Calendar can help you do just that. Once everyone is synced up, any change in the calendar will be seen by everyone so they can manage their own appointments.

5. Block out chunks of time

time-management

Constant interruptions hamper your workflow. Imagine having to deal with turning over a project on a deadline while you’re stuck in a series of meetings throughout the day. It can get very difficult to focus on completing your most urgent tasks.

Block out chunks of time on your calendar for uninterrupted work. It’s better to schedule a series of meetings in one day than to spread them throughout the week.

If you’re creating content, block out one day to create all the content you’ll use for the week. That way your business will run more efficiently.

Related: 3 Reasons You Should Embrace Change

Wrapping it up

With the right strategies, you can turn your business around to make it efficient and lucrative. Automating your processes, setting up the right software and remaining focused on the tasks at hand will go a long way to help you do this. But just as with every good strategy, you need to remain consistent and give it time to do its magic.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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