Possibly The Single Best Way To Improve Your Productivity.

High productivity at work doesn’t have to be complicated.

You don’t need to attend all day courses teaching elaborate systems or spend months reading time management books.

In my many years of experience mentoring executives and entrepreneurs, I’ve found doing just one simple thing can dramatically improve anyone’s output:

Pre-planning.

Most of us arrive at work and immediately dive into emails or tasks. We think we’re being efficient by doing this but we’re making a serious error. The truth is if we spent the first fifteen minutes carefully planning our day we would get far more done.

Here’s  an excellent four step process for planning effectively:

First create a To Do List for the day.

Then pick your top three most valuable tasks (very few people do this).

Then itemize any genuinely urgent tasks (beware of pseudo urgent activities).

Then finally plan out each hour of your day in your diary or on paper, putting the important and urgent tasks at the beginning of the day.

This planning process usually takes between ten and fifteen minutes to do, but in my experience makes a stupendous difference to how much you achieve during the day.

The philosophy or pre-planning should also be applied before walking into meetings, doing important presentations or beginning critical conversations. The more clearly you plan the better your performance will be.

We need to stop winging it and start planning it.

Our productivity depends on it.

A Checklist For Super Productivity.

productivity  Are you as productive as you could be?

In today’s uber fast world, the ability to define and do a multitude of tasks quickly is more important than ever. Not just to drive our company forward, but also to make it home for dinner with our family or partner.
Here’s a checklist for super productivity – review it and compare it to your own performance and see how you score.

1. You Always Plan Your Entire Day Before You Begin
According to the world’s bestselling author on time management, Brian Tracy, every minute of planning saves ten minutes of work.

2. You Do The Most Important Tasks First. Even If They’re Difficult
As Mark Twain put it, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

3. You Work With An Attitude Of Urgency
Professor John Kotter’s research has shown that a sense of urgency is the number one personality trait of successful CEO’s. This demanding proactivity is vital to cut through the inertia and complexity of most commercial enterprises.

4. You Set Tight Time Frames For All Tasks
When we have less time to do something we usually manage to do it quicker. Therefore we should always set limited amounts of time to get jobs done. Parkinson’s Law is important here: ‘Work expands to fill the time allotted for it.’

5. You Take A Break At Least Every 90 Minutes
Tony Schwartz’s work at The Energy Project conclusively proves that people perform much better when they have frequent short breaks. He has found resting every hour and a half is optimum.

6. You Read Email Only In Organized Blocks of Time
The most effective executives do not respond to email as it comes in. That will quickly break concentration and greatly increase the chances that your attention will be captured by the new and urgent, at the expense of the important.

7. You Review Your Performance Daily
In what ways did you perform well? How could you have worked better? As the U.S Air Force has shown, performance gets better when each and every mission is reviewed.

So how did you score?

Each of us is more than capable of implementing all seven of these productivity methods. None are complex to fulfill, but they demand intense focus and daily self discipline. Keep this Magnificent Seven in mind each day and watch your productivity (and ultimately life achievement) soar.

Five Ways To Peform Better This Year.

 

1. WORK ON YOUR SELF BELIEF DAILY.

The great business mentor Dan Sullivan has long stated that in his 35 years experience Confidence is the single most valuable attribute to succeed in business. But most of us aren’t just born confident, we need to work at it.

One of the best ways to do this is to spend a few minutes daily being your own mind coach – talk yourself up, convince yourself that you have what it takes to achieve great things this year.

After all, as Dr Maxwell Maltz’s research proved over 30 years ago, we usually perform in accordance with our self identity.

2. GET CLEAR ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT.

After studying successful people for over three decades, high performance expert Brian Tracy concluded that the most important element of achievement is Clarity. Where do you want to be in 12 months? In 6 months? In the next 90 days?

Write it down and read it every day – it will triple your chances of making it a reality. You don’t have to be a genius to achieve big things in business. You usually just have to be very clear about your aims, then work hard and intelligently to reach them.

3. DEVELOP WHITE HOT DESIRE.

Strong desire is common amongst all great business titans. If you are half-hearted about your goals then mediocrity is assured. As top performance coach Steve Hardison put it, “If you’re not totally committed this ship is sinking, it’s just a matter of when.”

The good news is that personal desire can be increased quickly – by thinking incessantly about your goals, reminding yourself constantly of why you want them and remaining cognizant of how good life will be when you achieve them.

4. DEVELOP SPECIALIZED KNOWLEDGE.

In 1937 Napoleon Hill identified a lack of specialized knowledge as one of the primary reasons people fail to achieve their dreams in business.

What specifically do you need to learn to succeed in your line of work? What areas of knowledge have the top people in your field learned that those at the mid level haven’t?

Think about this carefully, then make it your business to become expert in those areas. Steve Jobs needed to how to manage people (and boards) better before he could achieve lasting corporate greatness. Investment guru Leon Black had to learn the intricacies of high yield bonds from Michael Milken before he could strike out on his own. What specialized knowledge do you need to learn to make this year an outstanding one?

5. DO WHAT’S REALLY IMPORTANT FIRST.

Having spent almost 30 years studying time management, if I were asked what is the single most critical productivity technique I would say it’s this one: whatever is the highest value activity on your To Do List do it first. Then do the next most important task second, and so on.

You can ignore all the other hundreds of efficiency techniques and still become extremely successful in business, if you master this one.

Yet not one executive or entrepreneur in a hundred does this consistently.

So there you have it, 5 simple tips to making this year a superb one. Why not try them for the next 30 days and see how much better your results become?

In the long run, success in business is no accident, it stems from doing a few key things well, again and again. Starting with the ones above.

 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles

How To Always Have A Neat Desk.

All the efficiency experts say it – a neat, clear desk dramatically improves productivity.

But what’s the best way to achieve it?

I’ve spent over 20 years studying productivity and efficiency in the workplace, and I’ve found the following technique really useful.

Try it yourself and watch that desk get neat and stay neat.

Ask A Better Question.

I call the technique The Golden Question.

All you do is change the traditional question you ask yourself when you’re deciding whether to throw away something on your desk. The usual question people ask themselves when evaluating whether to keep or toss something is “Will I need it again?”

If you always ask that question, and most people do, you will keep many, many items and documents. A messy desk is thus virtually assured.

But if you just change the question you ask to The Golden Question then you will evaluate items on your desk in a completely different way.

The Golden Question is, “Can I get this again if I need it in the future?”

Once you start habitually asking this question you get a totally different result and a far neater desk. The simple reason being that the number one cause of an untidy desk is far too much stuff on it. If we threw 90% of desk items out (and then if we occasionally needed it again then got it from somewhere else) then desk untidiness would dramatically be reduced.

You May Not Be As Disorganized As You Think.  

The breakthrough is the realization that your desk isn’t necessarily messy because you’re chronically disorganized, it’s more likely to be because you save stuff rather than ruthlessly throwing it out. That’s an important distinction to make.

With  this system you totally change your thinking; you assume you will throw almost everything out –  and then later go looking for another copy of it should you need it. (Which as we all know is highly unlikely).

Yes it’s extreme, but for most people an extreme method is what’s called for to eradicate the mountains of papers and paraphernalia that envelope their desktops. Unless you change the habitual question you ask yourself when you’re evaluating what should stay on your desk and what should go, you’ll likely always suffer from desk messiness – and the low productivity that usually stems from it.

Try asking The Golden Question each day for the next week and watch your desk (and your mind) get clear.

The Single Most Important Element for Business Success

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If somebody asked you what is the most crucial aspect of business to focus on to ensure success, what would you say?

Some would choose Sales. Some would say Marketing. Many would claim it’s Leadership. Others believe it’s Systems. More than a few would be adamant that the most important element is financial acumen.

I don’t disagree that these areas are all vital to the creation of any outstanding commercial enterprise. But in my experience there’s one element rarely talked about that trumps all the others in importance.

That element? Urgency.

Think about it. What’s the number one gripe of executives and entrepreneurs today?

They can’t get enough done.

Sure they’ve got great ideas, plenty of them, but actually making those ideas happen is the hard part.

It’s not just a matter of spending more time working. The reason so many are not achieving enough is not actually a shortage of time (who isn’t working at least 50 to 60 hours a week?).

It’s that other people get in the way.

In so many different ways.

They take ages to decide. Or make it difficult to get your job done. Or sit in endless meetings pontificating on the pros and cons. Or put off allocating the right resources. Or just don’t make a decision. Or forget they agreed to do something. Or don’t follow up.

The plain truth is that getting anything done in the business world is damn hard, because the inertia, complexity and resistance to action is so strong.

The only way to cut through it all is to act with a real sense of urgency. To behave with an almost desperate urge to get the job done, no matter what and as soon as humanly possible.

Only when you have a spirit of urgency can you push your way through the admin and red tape. Only by acting with urgency can you get others to deliver on time. Only being truly urgent in your dealings can you achieve anything significant in a year.

The more you think about it, the more it rings true. Urgency is the one thing that drives projects forward quickly.

If you’re not urgent, people sense it and relax and move slowly. Things take ages to bear fruit. Mediocrity abounds.

The big question you may be asking is of course is, are you performing with enough urgency?

Are you demanding enough? On others, or indeed yourself?

Urgency is not an easy character trait to develop. The world doesn’t particularly like urgent people. They can seem rude. Pushy. Unreasonable. Yet being that way is often the only way to get stuff of consequence done.

As George Bernard Shaw so aptly put it, ” The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

There are several different types of urgency we should focus on if we want to achieve great things.

1. Urgency with strategic planning.

I know so many business owners who have taken over a year to make a decision. As a result of their strategic cowardice and complacency they often get left behind in their industry. (What have you been thinking about for too long? How about making a decision in the next 60 minutes on it?)

2. Urgency with other people.

Who owes you a report, product or idea? Why haven’t they sent it to you already? Do they really need that much time, or are they taking advantage of your leniency? When you ask for a result with genuine urgency you usually move straight to the front of the other person’s line of important tasks. That’s where you deserve to be, must be, to get things done quickly.

3. Urgency in your own mind.

To achieve greatly, we must cultivate great urgency in the way that we think. We need to see ourselves as highly time sensitive, fast achieving people. Only when we view ourselves this way are likely to muster the energy and drive to make things happen at warp speed. As the great American psychologist, William James, so often reminded us, we become what we consistently think about. If daily we have a self image as somebody who has a real spirit of urgency, then soon we are likely to become that type of person.

So in conclusion, if you are not happy with the speed at which you are achieving in business, don’t just look at tactics, like sales, marketing, systems and the like. Spend at least as much time focusing on the one mindset that makes all the other stuff happen.

A real, deep, all encompassing, powerful sense of urgency.

An Incredibly Effective Productivity Technique.

As you probably know, I am constantly studying time saving, organisation and productivity.

The reason is simple.

If we can find just one technique that can make us more productive in business, over 5 or 10 years the impact can be extraordinary.

Today I’d like to talk about a ridiculously simple technique that can make a phenomenal improvement to how much you achieve.

I learnt it from David Allen, a celebrated productivity expert, and it’s called The 2 Minute Rule.

Here’s how it works.

Whenever a new task comes up (an email, a phone call, or a new To Do) you ask yourself one simple question.

Can I handle this in 2 minutes or less?

If you can, you do it immediately. If you can’t you write it on your list of things to do later.

Is that all there is to it? Yep, that’s all there is.

But you’ll be amazed at how following this one rule improves your business performance and your life.

For a start, you will no longer have huge lists of things you need to get done. By doing tasks as they come up your To Do list will be halved.

You also will rarely forget to do tasks, as you’ll either have done them immediately (if you can do them in under 2 minutes) or you’ll have them written down on a list.

You’ll accomplish much more, much faster.

You’re reputation at work will improve as you’ll become known for getting things handled quickly.

And your feelings of control will increase – a well known cause of life satisfaction (see control/happiness research by either Martin Seligman or William Glasser).

The 2 Minute Rule is potentially life changing. And certainly business changing.

So try this exercise. Rank your current productivity with a mark out of 10. Then try The 2 Minute Rule for 5 business days, then re-rank your productivity.

If you usually give yourself a 6 out of 10 for efficiency I’ll wager you will lift that to an 8 out of 10.

The 2 Minute Rule is that powerful.

3 Reasons People Don’t Succeed in Business.

Are you struggling to reach your goals in business?

Most people are. The fact is the vast majority of business owners fall well short of their own goals.

Try as they may, they just can’t seem to get the sales they need to grow their business.

The question is why.

Of course, there are a myriad of little reasons that entrepreneurs don’t succeed, but I believe there are 3 fundamental, overarching reasons for business failure.

As you read them please take a moment to rank yourself a score out of ten in each of the 3 critical areas.

1. CLARITY.

Most people aren’t crystal clear about what they want from their business. Oh sure, they know they want to make more money, but very few are completely clear about precisely where they want to take their business, in how long, and in what ways.

For example they are not clear on:
What they want their revenues to be in per month, in 12 months and in 3 years.
What skills they need to develop to get those results.
What lead generation systems work best for them.
What the best competitors are doing in their industry.
What the 3 best uses of their time are. And so on.

Without this clarity they are performing at half their potential – doing only a small proportion of what needs to be done, operating in a mental fog.

So, how do you rank in the area of Clarity?

Now what’s one thing you could do today to improve that?

2. SELF BELIEF.

In 1960 a plastic surgeon by the name of Dr Maxwell Maltz discovered an amazing thing.

Even after Dr Maltz had performed plastic surgery on patients who believed they had a physical flaw, many of his patients still thought they were ugly.

Maltz realised that plastic surgery was useless unless the patient also worked on their self identity and developed their feelings of self worth. He concluded that what was really needed was plastic surgery for the mind.

In other words, unless we believe in ourselves, our performance in any field (and our self respect) will be low.

Since then countless studies have been done that corroborate Dr Maltz’s findings.

Running a business is tough. The obstacles are never ending and escalating, the pressures immense, and the challenges to our self esteem virtually continuous.

In this environment it is crucial that we continually boost our self belief so that we feel confident enough to tackle this onslaught.

Yet I know of almost no executives or entrepreneurs who do this.

It only takes a few minutes a day too. If we can create a daily morning ritual of coming up with reasons why we’ll succeed, seeing ourselves succeed in our mind’s eye, and talking to ourselves in a supportive, positive manner, then our self belief will indeed strengthen.

But I believe we must do this daily. Without consistency in our mental conditioning we will drift between believing in ourselves one day and doubting ourselves the next – the mental state of most executives today.

How do you rank yourself out of ten with Self Belief?

What’s one thing you could do right now to improve that score?

3. PRODUCTIVITY.

Never before in history has the business world had such time shortages and job complexity. Endless meetings, tsunami’s of emails, To Do Lists as high as Kilimanjaro – it literally never stops. But that’s only half the problem. The other half is that we were never trained at school or university for this kind of world – we simply haven’t learnt enough productivity tools to excel in this environment.

So we are both overwhelmed by the enormity of our work tasks, and feel ill equipped with viable strategies to tackle them.

There’s only one solution of course: start devoting more time to learning how to be productive. I’m suggesting serious study in this area, not just lightly reading a tip or two on the internet. Only a total dedication to productivity mastery will defend us from the ever increasing deluge of data and tasks, that rises even as you read this.

Set yourself a goal of not only reading about productivity, but developing a collection of 10 time management techniques that you use every day-a quiver of productivity weapons that become central to your working life.

Put them on a piece of paper and laminate it, keeping it clearly in view on your desk all day long. Soon it will become a part of you.

Unless we elevate personal productivity in our lives, we risk becoming mentally and physically exhausted by the sheer quantum of what our work life throws at us. Productivity skills are a must have, not a should have.

So thinking about this, what score would you give yourself in this area?
What’s one thing you could do today to lift that score up?

OK, now take a moment to evaluate all of your scores.

If you scored 7 or higher, congratulations, it’s likely you’re on top of the game of work.

If you’re below 7 in any area, I urge you to start designing a system today to rectify it. Pronto.

Your success in business will directly stem from your excellence in these three arenas.

Focus on them. Monitor them. Act on them.

And victory will be yours.

The Centered Entrepreneur

Never before in history has life been so busy.

We have reached the point where no matter how efficient we are there is simply no way to get everything on our To Do list done.

As a result of this chronic busyness workplace stress is at an all time high. (No doubt as a business leader/ entrepreneur you are feeling it).

And it’s not going to end anytime soon. If anything the speed of business life is only going to increase.

So how can you combat this rising tide of stress and overwhelm?

Well certainly one strategy is to become an expert at productivity. But another less considered option is to get better at being centered.

When you are truly centered (calm, focused and clear) you are in an extremely powerful state.

Your workload may be huge, but you handle it with ease and the height of efficiency.

I’m sure that you’ve known times when you’ve been like this and it feels good. You are in control, you are the master of your domain.

If being centered is so important, how can we ensure we remain in this precious state of high productivity more often?

Here are some ways:

* Before you begin work, take a minute to calm yourself. (So few people ever do). Take 3 deep slow breaths and let the stress flow out of you.

* Talk to yourself quietly – say positive focusing statements like” I am in control. I am calm and focused. I am an master of my field. I am centred. I am happy.”

These simple words said with conviction gather the mind into a point of power.

* Write out your goals for the day, week, month and year. Do this and in just 10 minutes you will have risen above your incessant short deadlines and remembered your higher mission.

* Close the door, switch off your incoming email and mobile phone and experience some quality silence. Your mind will soon get sharper when the whirlwind of sensory input subsides.

* Put the word “Centered” on a Post It note and stick it next to your computer. The more you see that note the more you’ll remember to return to the centered condition. Eventually being centered will be your usual mode.

These elementary techniques will dramatically increase the amount of time each day you feel centred – and the results will astound you.

You’ll solve business problems faster. You’ll interact with other people more smoothly. You’ll find work easier and far more satisfying.

You’ll be performing at a significantly higher level.

Nobody talks about the importance of being centered at work, but you and I both know that when you’re in that state nothing can stop you.

So from now on, make being supremely centered a high priority.

And watch the magic begin.

The Three Vital Ingredients of Business Success.

You don’t have to be smarter than everyone else to succeed in business.

(The world is full of people who flunked school and still made millions of dollars).

But you do need 3 types of knowledge.

Each of these is not difficult to acquire, yet almost no entrepreneur has all three.

As I go through them, give yourself a mark out of ten for each area.

1. SPECIALISED INDUSTRY KNOWLEDGE.

You can’t make a fortune in an industry unless you really understand that particular industry.

You need to know who the top companies are (so you can take their best ideas and benchmark your quality against them).

You need to know what they are selling (so you can design a product that’s different).

It also pays to know how they are positioning themselves to customers (you must seek to have a different positioning to them).

And you should strive to know who the most respected people are in that industry (you should model them as much as you can).

Not one entrepreneur in a hundred has this level of industry knowledge, yet none of it is difficult to obtain.

2. BUSINESS BUILDING KNOWLEDGE.

Talent alone will not make you rich in business.

You need to have specific knowledge on how to grow a business.

How to market. How to win a sale. How to get repeat customers. How to correctly price your products and services.

How to run the books.

And as you grow, how to effectively manage your staff.

When I coach I teach this in detail. But the harsh reality is that the people who come to business courses like ours are the tiny minority, most business owners never bother to learn how to grow their business, they just rely on their limited knowledge and hope they can wing it.

Slim hope.

3. PRODUCTIVITY KNOWLEDGE.

You can understand an industry and know how to build a business yet still fail miserably to become financially successful -if you haven’t mastered one last area of knowledge- the art of getting things done.

We all know business is chaotically busy and ridiculously fast moving. Workloads have become so gigantic for most of us that it’s well near impossible to get the day’s To Do List actually done.

So now more than ever we need to learn the science of personal productivity, so we can focus on getting the crucial tasks done that make all the difference to our success. Rather than getting caught up in the urgent but not important stuff that relentlessly attacks us each and every day.

So those are the key arenas you need to be super at: industry knowledge, business growth knowledge and productivity knowledge.

So how did you rate yourself in these areas?

Which area are you strongest on and where are you weakest?

Business success is not a matter of luck. It’s dependent on getting better in the areas that count.

And it’s hard to find areas that matter more than these three.

How to Beat Stress and Overwhelm

If you’re feeling overwhelmed in your business, there’s a technique I developed that can massively reduce your stress and quickly improve your results.

I call it The One Action.

The One Action is ridiculously simple, but also stunningly effective.

It works like this:

When the work is piling up and you don’t know where to start, look at each project you have and ask the following question.

“What’s the one action I could take that would have the most impact here?”

And then quickly take that action.

The One Action method works so well because it reduces the confusion and complexity of any major project.

(So often we are so frozen by all there is to do, we end up doing nothing).

It moves you from thinking/worrying mode into action mode.

And it simplifies your To Do List into manageable chunks.

But perhaps the most important change The One Action makes is mental.

After you take a key action step on two or three of your projects, you get a wonderful feeling of momentum, progress and achievement.

This creates a virtuous action/result cycle where you feel more and more empowered each One Action task that you do, so you’re motivated to do more of them.

The truth is, we are often busier than we should be. Rather than just endlessly do stuff we need to behave like an army sniper and very carefully look for the most important target, then shoot it.

This highly leveraged way of thinking and behaving ensures no matter how busy we are, we get the vital jobs done (and we feel a whole lot less stress to boot).

Today my One Action task was to write this blog.

What’s yours?