The other night while filming the first of a new video series on starting a small business, the conversation with my well-informed and experienced co-host turned to a topic that, frankly, most people do not deal with well as small business owners and entrepreneurs. In fact, even seasoned business owners do not handle it well. What is it? Stress and disorganization. Ever hear the expression, “I can multi-task”? The impression is left that successful entrepreneurs can somehow handle multiple tasks well at the same time. Most entrepreneurs believe their success equates to how many hours they work and how many tasks they can juggle at once.
In fact, here’s the truth… being productive is about working smarter, not harder, and in fact multitasking can be detrimental to our mental health. In our world of disruption and deconstruction, I wanted to go further and deconstruct the business world’s perceptions about productivity, get clear on what productivity means, and give you clear examples of how you can begin to regain focus in your work:
Productivity seems like something we all understand, but I'm not sure it always is. If we don't understand what productivity means to us, then we're not going to be productive. So, have clarity about what you want to do. Is it doing more in less time or is it doing more generally? Then, go back to what it is that you want to be productive about.
Here's an example you can use. You can sustain effectively concentrated attention for smaller periods of time. Depending on how easily distracted you are, depends on how much time you think; he considers focus almost like a muscle.
"Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort." Paul J. Meyer
We have hundreds of thousands of distractions coming at us from all sides. If you don't have the ability and comfort with focusing on one thing at a time, then you're going to struggle to be productive. It’s about understanding yourself. I’m not amazing first thing in the morning, so I don't do anything important as soon as I wake up. Yet, my co-host is the opposite. She is most productive in the early morning and enjoys rising early to start the work day.
Here’s an example you can use. I have a morning routine that sets me up for the day. I do most of my concentrated work for the rest of the morning. I know I’m more able to concentrate midday. I tend to push my lunch as late as possible to try and take advantage of that time and leave smaller tasks for the rest of the afternoon when I have less concentration.
"Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing." Thomas A. Edison
The next reason that makes some entrepreneurs more productive, is saying no to other people or saying no to other unimportant things. I cannot stress how important this is. Your day can be full of distractions. Often, we get caught up in the wrong kind of activity, like the task that isn't going to promote whatever our business is.
One of the things I choose to do with my limited time is write. It can be easy for me to get distracted by promoting my business on social media and doing things which feel useful and important. But the thing that is going to help me be a better writer is writing. Oddly, the writing leads to content, such as this article, which in turn boast on our online presence and ultimately feeds the front end of the business in attracting prospective conversations and future clients.
Here’s an example you can use. Turn off every single social media and device notification you have. Instead of my social media, my email, and my messenger pulling me in, they’re now a push activity. I must go in collectively to see if I have email. You would think that would be how you choose whether to be bothered by them, but we don't even seem to think about the number of notifications that pop up these days. It amazing how much time is consumed and ultimately wasted by our constant need to check that next message.
"Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks." Warren Buffett
The better you understand yourself, the better you understand what you’re like. If we try and replicate what others do, then it's not about how we work. Rather, if you see what other people like and see what applies to you, then the more effectively you can use that information.
Here’s an example you can use. Find the rhythm that's right for you. That might be having a post-it note to keep drawing your attention back to whatever you’re doing, or break up your periods of attention.I also recommend people turn their Wi-Fi off. I don't touch an electronic device in the morning until I’m done my morning routine, because as soon as I do, I am sucked into other people's priorities.
Here’s another useful time management technique that provides a maximum focus and creative freshness and allows you to complete projects faster with less mental fatigue, in my humble opinion. For every task throughout the day, budget your time into short increments and take breaks periodically. You work for 25 minutes, then take break for five minutes.
So, what are you going to do tomorrow to be more productive? That’s it in a nutshell. Nothing can change until you try to change. It’s amazing how quickly one can see a positive result to your productivity, as stated earlier, when we carve it down into smaller tasks. This sense of accomplishment promotes you to strive for more. It promotes more productivity. Work smarter, not harder. It’s a healthy step in Keeping Life Current.
Steve is the SBCN Community Mentor and can be reached at steve@NorthernRiverFinancial.ca