Productivity may be the single most important metric in business. Not because you are measuring what’s being done. You should actually be measuring the value of what’s being done. Too many leaders look at activity – specific work being done – and think that’s enough. Not hardly. Activity is great, but unless that activity is adding value to the company, then it’s not productivity … even if it’s literally producing something.
Some might argue that productivity is about finding ways to do more with less. Well, that may be good, but that’s efficiency, not productivity. You can do a lot more than you are right now and still not add one iota of value to the bottom line. That said, if you want to grow, and you want your business to grow, you do need to get more done. But before we talk about how you can get more done, we need to put this out there, because it’s the fundamental foundation:
Before employing any strategies to make you and your team more efficient, you need to make sure everyone on the team – including you – is doing more of what you should be doing and less of what you shouldn’t be doing. Some might want to lump this in with steps in being more efficient, but it’s more than a step in that direction, it’s a parallel mindset that says: “Everyone on this team is dedicated, visionally and operationally, to doing what only they can do to the very best of their ability. When you have that dynamic firing on all cylinders, you know that, whatever happens next, you have all the right people in the right places doing the right things. Once you have that box checked, it’s time to look at how to be more efficient across the board.
Guard your time. I don’t care what you believe about yourself or others, human beings are terrible multi-taskers. Even if you are, by comparison, better than most, you are still better off and incredibly more productive if you focus on one thing at a time. Unfortunately, we live in an Age of Distraction. Think about it: how many times in your day or your week are you interrupted by an email, text or phone call that derails you completely from the task at hand? We don’t really think about it, but that choice to take that call or check that email or text is us deciding that whatever we don’t know is in that message is more important than whatever we’re doing right now. Sure, it could be, but how often is it, really?
You need to front load your day. Don’t schedule all your meetings in the morning. Instead, begin your day by doing things that make you better, not only for that day but for every day coming after it. Knock out a few small tasks, so you can start every day with a series of wins, then take a bite out of a bigger task, so you can set yourself up for more success tomorrow. Cut small talk out of meetings, completely. If there’s not a specific reason for each person to be there, don’t invite them … and if you don’t need to be there, don’t go. Meetings may “feel” productive, but they are, without a doubt, some of the biggest time wasters in your day.
Schedule breaks to rest your mind and refresh your emotions. Don’t just grind through. Even if it’s five minutes out of every hour or fifteen minutes a couple times a day, give yourself a break. You will be more productive and feel better about everything you’re doing.
So, what do you think? Are there some ways you could change your approach or behavior to get more done?
David Milberg is a financial analyst from New York City.