We all want to be more productive. We all want to get more done. The problem is that we are restricted by this little pesky thing called “Time”.
We all get 24 hours in a day as the saying goes. So, the answer doesn’t lie in finding a way to “do more”. Just doing more means you are working more. That’s ok, if you really like working. But what if you want to spend more time with your family, volunteer, and grow your business all at the same time?
This is a common problem facing most entrepreneurs and business owners. We want to be more productive in our business, but we don’t want to trade our time to be more productive. So, let’s look at 4 ways you can increase your productivity today.
1) Don’t Set SMART Goals!
Even though this post is about productivity, it’s important to start with goal setting. Because the ultimate way to be more productive is to focus on the right things. I don’t care how fast you can draw a gun and fire if your aim is bad. That’s the problem with trying to be productive for productivity’s sake. We can end up checking off a lot of our to-do list but not really get where we want to be.
That’s why we have to set goals that matter. And if you’re going to set goals, they should be SMART goals, right?
If you’ve read any sort of books or articles on being productive, you’ve undoubtedly heard about SMART Goals. If you haven’t heard of it before, this is what it means.
When you set a goal for yourself, you should make sure that the goal is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based. There’s nothing wrong with this model. In fact, I use it all the time to break down a bigger goal or project into specific chunks. Here’s an example of how a SMART goal would be written:
This example is from about.com
Broad Goal: I want to start a business.
- Specific: I will sell handmade cards through Etsy.com.
- Measurable: I will be ready to take my first Etsy order within four weeks, and I will aim to sell a minimum of five cards per week.
- Attainable: I will get set up on Etsy first. Then, I will build an inventory of 30 handmade cards to sell. Finally, I will promote my business and build customer relationships through word of mouth, referrals and local networking.
- Relevant: Selling handmade cards will allow me to benefit financially from my favorite hobby.
- Time-Based: My Etsy store will be up and running within four weeks, and I will have an inventory of 30 cards to sell within six weeks.
As you can see, the SMART approach is, well, smart. You take an idea and you turn it into something you can actually do. I teach this all the time. A goal isn’t anything but a dream if it’s not laid out and properly thought through. But there is a problem with this sort of “logic” brain thinking. Focusing too much on SMART goals can lead you to aim low. This means you get caught up on making sure a goal is achievable or doable within a certain time frame. This leads to what I call ticky-tack goals. Sure, it feels good cause you’re accomplishing something, but you’re not moving the needle.
Enter the savior to this problem: Stretch goals.
Unfortunately, there’s not an acronym for STRETCH (yet), but if you give me time I’ll come up with one. Stretch goals mean what you think. And they are a killer way to increase your productivity. Stretch goals have you start by asking what would I do (or could I do) if I threw caution to the wind and just said, “what the heck – let’s go for it”. A great example would be running a marathon. I’ve weighed as much as 540 pounds in my life and there was a time when the idea of a marathon would give me a heart attack. I’m doing 5k’s now and have done some pretty good distance triathlons. Point is, you’ve got to stretch yourself and expand what you think is possible.
Using the example above – what if you changed your goal into “Starting a software business I can sell for 25 million dollars”. Wow, that’s a stretch. Now imagine you don’t know how to program, you’re not technical, you don’t have any ideas, and you have no money. The good thing is, you have that stretch goal. You have opened your mind to the possibility of this happening. In short, you’ve given yourself permission to dream again.
So, that’s it right? You just start “going for it”? Umm, not quite. Remember those SMART goals? We still use those. We just have reframed what we are using them for. So, the answer isn’t to ditch SMART goals and only use Stretch goals… but rather to combine them. Start with the Stretch goal, something audacious. Then, use the SMART structure to break it down into doable chunks. You’ll be amazed how powerful your brain is once it’s been given an assignment.
In the comments, feel free to layout how you would tackle the Stretch goal of starting a software business that can be sold for 25 million dollars. Remember all the restrictions you have as well. It’s an exercise in creativity, but also a great way to get more productive because now you have something to aim for that you are hopefully passionate about.
2) Use The Concept Of The Super Six
Full disclosure, this is what I use. And I also created it. So, I may be a bit biased. But my Super Six has taken me to great heights in business as a consultant, coach, marketer, and all around entrepreneur. The concept behind it is so simple I’m almost embarrassed. I’ve downloaded a lot of productivity apps and task list things. And most of them are pretty awesome overall. They do so many cool things like remind me to take a pill or buy milk or whatever.
But for me, I have a hard time making those sorts of apps part of my life. Maybe it’s because I’m old school, but I like to focus on the most important things that I need to accomplish that day. So, I created a text pad file (high tech!) that I call SuperSix.txt.
In it, I put today’s date at the very top next to the words SUPER SIX. Then I write out numbers 1-6. It all looks like this:
Date: Friday April 29, 2016
Then, in each of those spots I write down the main goals or tasks I want to achieve that day. I have taught this to members of my team, and they have reported being more productive than ever before. For me it works like this. I sit down to start working and suddenly I can’t remember what I should be doing. Oh yeah, that’s right. I’ve got my Super Six. I open it up and read through the list. Then it all comes back to me. I work through my list in the order I choose. When I’m done, I delete that task and a feeling of bliss consumes me. I’m weird like that.
Then, when I’m done working, I take whatever I didn’t finish and move it to the top of the list. Then, I fill out the other remaining spots with important tasks. This works for me for two reasons.
- It forces me think about what I really want to be working on. I only have 6 real “things” I can accomplish in any given day. So, I take special care to sort the umpteen tasks into the 6 that will have the biggest impact on my business that day.
- It also makes me reflect on my day at the end of it, and think about tomorrow before it gets here. Every late afternoon when my day ends, I take a moment to look over my accomplishments. I then think about the next day and give my brain a heads-up. This is what we’re doing tomorrow, so start thinking about it now, brain. I find this really helps.
Want my Super Six Template? (With a few more things I didn’t have the time to cover here? Join my mailing list and I will gladly email it to you. You can always unsubscribe after you download it and I won’t even know. But I think you’ll like my occasional email or two. 😉
3) Build A Team That Does Stuff For You
Ok, this one may not be completely unique, but I do have a spin on it that might help you. In life and in business, there’s lots of stuff we don’t like to do. But, sadly, usually we have to do it anyway. There does come a point though where it makes sense to do less of what you don’t like (or aren’t good at) and more of what you are good at. Take me, for example. My wife will be the first to tell you that I am the least handy person on the planet. The light in my bathroom has been out for a week and I’m still trying to figure out how to change it. It’s really hard to get the cover off!
So, what do I do? I hire people to do the things that I can’t or just won’t do anymore. And here’s the real aha moment I hope you get. A lot of people ask me, “how do I outsource? What’s the process?”. Odds are, you are already outsourcing, you just don’t think of it that way.
Ever hired a kid to mow your lawn? You just outsourced. Had a babysitter watch your kid? You outsourced again! Have you ever paid someone to stand in line for you to get the newest iPhone? Oh, you haven’t? Well, some people have… and guess what? That’s outsourcing!
The gist of outsourcing is having someone else do a task/job/process for you in exchange for money (or trade). The rest of it is all just details. Think back to the kid mowing your lawn. I hope he’s old enough to be doing that for you, but I digress. What’s the first thing you did when you talked to the kid? Most likely, you asked him, “how much?”. Then he gave a price or asked you, “how much lawn?”. You showed him what he had to mow, he told you the price, and an agreement was made.
Congratulations you are an outsourcer!
Now, here’s the lesson you can take from this to make yourself more productive.
- Figure out all the things you don’t want to do or can’t do cost effectively
- Look for people who would do those tasks for a price you can afford
- IMPORTANT (the hardest part): Layout, in exact terms, what the person needs to do to accomplish the task for you.
- Check-up on their work and be clear on what they need to improve upon
- Give them about 30 days to learn the ropes
- Do a 30 day review and if they are working out, keep them. If not, start at # 2 again
Some sites I like to use for outsourcing are Staff.com (for people who actually work for you) and UpWork.com (for people who just do side jobs here and there). There’s an art and science to outsourcing. The art is in reading between the lines and figuring out what your outsourcer can and can’t do. This is especially difficult given the language barrier if you go overseas. Sometimes, I will take a less talented person with better English because it’s just easier to explain stuff.
The science part of it is measuring their output vs expense. If you’re paying $1,000 a month, are you making more than that back? Are you using your saved time for more productive and income earning activities? Or if your goal is to just use that time to spend with family… are you doing that? Whatever the goal was for you, make sure you are accomplishing that goal. Otherwise, it’s all for not.
4) Get Better Tools
This might just be the easiest of the 4 in this list to implement. Basically I’m giving you the excuse you’ve been looking for. Is your computer slow? Do you spend time staring at a loading page or wait for 10 minutes while it boots up. I confess in my younger and more vulnerable days I had a computer that took 30 minutes to boot up! I dropped it and the guy that fixed it had to do some techie work around to even get it to work.
So, my ritual was to turn it on and go watch TV or something till it was ready. Don’t be like me if you can help it. Get a new computer. Speed matters. You will instantly be more productive and faster, all because of your computer speed. Is your internet slow? Are you still on dial-up? (Just kidding, you can’t be on dial-up… right?). If your internet is slow,that means you are slow. Get faster internet and instantly be more productive.
If you waste just 10 minutes a day with a slower computer or internet and you work 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year, (oh no, can you feel the math coming!) that is a total wasted time of 41.6 hours. Basically a whole work week! That even shocked me. Cause let’s be honest, slow computers and internet probably cost us more than 10 minutes a day.
And this same logic applies to the computers in our pockets, aka smart phones. Been eyeing that newest iPhone? Get it. Work better and faster. Tell ’em I sent you. Wife or Husband mad at you? Tell them some guy on the internet told you to buy it because it will make you more productive. That always helps. 😉
Oh and if you work a lot on the computer and you type a lot (like this 2771 word blog post) then I seriously suggest you practice typing faster and better. It’s a small price to pay that really pays big dividends. I took a lot of classes in high school. From learning how to take people’s blood pressure, to anatomy, to geometry and trigonometry (fail)… but the one class that has made me more money than all the others combined was my typing class.
I can crank out words at about 80 words a minute. Which granted, isn’t that fast. But it sure beats a lot of people who hunt and peck. I recently starting using this site to improve my typing speed both on the computer and on my phone. Oh yeah, on the phone I am TERRIBLE. Don’t know about you, but how do these teenagers do it? I think their thumbs are evolving.
I have named this section after the other Jonas Brother whom they call the Bonus Jonas. Anyway, you came here expecting 4 unique strategies, but now here’s a bonus one. Granted, this one isn’t necessarily unique either, but I like it cause I like doing two things at once. Makes me feel super human, like I am cheating Father Time.
And this is one you can start doing right away.
Walk and Talk! Instead of taking a call on Skype or in your office, go mobile. Asked to be called on your cell. Get a Bluetooth headset or use some good headphones. This works especially well for me if I’m on the dreaded conference call where everyone talks one at a time while no one else really listens. It also works well for me when I need to listen more than talk. Or think a lot about a problem.
So, not only can you get in some healthy cardio, you still get to be productive with work stuff too. When a call comes in now, my first thought is – can I go outside and take this? And the answer is often yes. I always wear my trusty fitbit, so I have seen my steps go up. One day, I was on calls all day and ended up hitting over 10,000 steps. I couldn’t believe it. It felt great to get all my calls done and hit my steps goal.
Now that’s one way to increase productivity.
Hey, do me a favor would you? If you liked this post and got something out of it. Could you share it with some people you know? It would mean a lot to me. Hope you enjoyed reading… don’t forget to lay out your plan for starting a software business that you can sell for $25 million. Bonus points if you use some kind of SMART goal to lay it out.