YOU ARE DOING PRODUCTIVITY WRONG

Productivity has been THE buzz word since the industrialised era began.

It only takes one look in the business section of the bookstore to see book after book about how we can get more done in less time.

More Done. Less Time.

It all sounds good in principle. But where we go wrong is this expectation that if we get more done in less time, that just means we need to do more. And more. And more.

At least that is what we are indoctrinated to believe in schools and workplaces.

How long we actually take to do the work doesn’t matter, as long as we get our work done in the time assigned. The rest of the time is just busy work.

At least that’s how I spent much of my career whilst employed.

I still remember my first full-time job. Fresh out of high school, 16 years old, I got an administration traineeship in the city. I had the standard 38 hour week and was paid a pittance.

The work wasn’t hard. Answering phone calls, completing forms and putting together company registration documents. And lots of walking to lodge those registrations at ASIC (before electronic lodgements existed).

The thing was, even if I was quick at my work I would still be left many days with not much to do. And I’d get paid the same. Cue staring out the window watching the busy workers walk up and down St Georges Tce and waiting for the time to pass. My boss often would work from home so it was just me manning the desk. And A LOT of detours when going on those walks to lodge paperwork.

Now while I’ve definitely had busy days in the office when deadlines loom or when there are metaphorical fires to put out I’ve always just been efficient.

I’ve spent my life finding the shortcuts and trying to get to the end result as quickly as possible.

While I was enrolled in school, the curriculum was self-paced. This meant that I graduated Year 12 when I was only 15. Gaining almost 2 years on my counterparts.

During university, I held down 2 jobs but the majority of my hours were in one day working a day shift in the office for 8 hours and then nightshift at a fast food chain for another 8 hours.  I just found it easier to get it all over with in a short period of time.

And throughout my career, many days have been spent in power mode soon followed by a flat line in energy.

This is just how I operate – and why I get a lot done in my business now in very little time.

And sometimes, why I feel quite lazy. At least if I measure myself by today’s standards of working hard = successful.

The trouble is, I see many small business owners falling into the same trap they were indoctrinated into in school and the workplace. That in order to be productive and achieve success they need to put in the hours.

This is just a misrepresentation of what productivity really is.

According to Business Dictionary, productivity is “a measure of the efficiency of a person, machine, factory, system, etc., in converting inputs into useful outputs.”

Note one word that is missing from this sentence – time.

Yes, time is one “input” metric we can use to measure productivity. But it isn’t the only one.

Money is another – you could pay for someone or buy some software to do something for you and still get the same RESULT. The input is just different.

But there are others, the most important of which I’ll share a little further down this article.

The real secret to increased productivity:

Focus on the result you want to achieve and figure out the quickest/easiest way to get there.

THEN choose your inputs. 

KEY #1: START WITH THE RESULT

This is why goal-setting is so crucial.

If we don’t know where we want to go, then how will we know if we are making progress or not?

These can include both number goals like sales and email list subscribers.

It can include completing specific projects.

But it can also include some more feel-good ones too.

In Winging It, Emma Isaacs shares her daily journaling strategy of writing down 3 things which answers the question “What will make today great?”.

By doing this, I’ve been able to really focus my efforts onto what is important and even if I don’t get all the things done on my to do list I can look back and see that I have achieved something – even as simple as laughing with my kids.

KEY #2: FIND THE QUICKEST OR EASIEST PATH

Once you know the result you want, it is time to break down the steps to get there.

This tends to be where we get stuck as it is easy to over complicate it.

Often the easiest path is to have someone else do it for us, so if this is a possibility for you I highly recommend this path. Choosing an expert to do something for us will almost always ensure quick output and a job well done.

As a recovering control-freak this is something I wish I had done a lot earlier in my business.

But of course, this isn’t always possible.

If it is down to you to do it, how can you get it done quickly?

What are the minimum steps you need to complete?

These are your milestones and your bigger tasks. Don’t get lost in the weeds here – often things change once you begin anyway.

KEY #3: JUST START

Once you have an idea of what you need to do, just make a start.

Don’t overthink just do – one step at a time.

You will learn more and achieve more by doing and not by thinking.

KEY #4: CHOOSE YOUR INPUTS

As you approach each task ask yourself what resources can you get to help you along the way?

Will some skills training help you get it done quicker? Or is there some system or software you can bring on board to simplify the thing?

There is often always a simpler way to achieve something, but we just get caught in the trap of doing it the way we know.

I even experienced a classic example of this. I spent a couple of hours editing a spreadsheet to remove rows where a particular field was duplicated. As I learned a week later, there is actually a function to do this in Excel which takes approximately 15 seconds.

A simple google search probably could have saved me hours but instead I just carried on with what I knew.

KEY #5: MANAGE YOUR NUMBER 1 INPUT – ENERGY

As mentioned above, time and money, are common inputs to achieve an output.

But the most important one is not talked about and that is energy.

When you are a business owner, your energy is your number 1 resource.

Continuing to work when you are exhausted will only result in reduced efficiency and can lead to burnout.

Instead of thinking about how much time to put into your business, think about it as energy.

And the good news is we have much more control over our energy than we do have over time. If we protect it…

A practical example of this is thinking about the tasks you do in your business.

Which of these are energy giving, energy draining and energy neutral?

For me, energy giving tasks include writing and planning. They get me excited and I just get lost in it until I’m called to the surface by school pickup time.

On the other hand, as a slight introvert I find client sessions and marketing trainings draining. While I love this part of my work, I know that if I have a morning full of client sessions I need time afterwards to refuel.

Energy neutral tasks tend to be the more administrative tasks. They don’t take much thought but they aren’t exactly that interesting either.

It is important to be aware of this and plan your days accordingly so you have realistic expectations about what you can get done.

The goal is to be in the “flow” state as much as possible. To be doing the work that makes a big contribution to the result.

But in order to be in that flow, you need to have the rest in between.

Many people try to just push through but efficiency plummets.

This is why some might consider me lazy.

I recognise when I have the energy and when I don’t.

I’ll do 4-5 hours in full power/flow mode but then do nothing but hang out with my kids for a few hours.

Or in the evenings, I’ll rarely pick up the computer for anything other than watching Netflix in bed. That’s my re-energising time. And it contributes as much to my business (and my sanity as a mum) as actually doing the work.

PRODUCTIVITY & MARKETING

Oh yeah, this is a marketing blog! Here I am rabbiting on about productivity but does what one really have to do with the other?

In short, marketing has everything to do with productivity.

Marketing is often the task that gets put in the “Important but Not Urgent” quadrant of time.

It is also the thing that can potentially make the biggest impact on your desired result (if the result you want is sales). And if done right, it gets those sales with the least amount of input.

Marketing can be part of that shortest/easiest path if you take the time (or enlist the help) to set up a great marketing strategy for your business.

Within marketing, there are also a lot of shiny objects and pitfalls. Places where you can get caught detouring, perfecting and procrastinating.

Often the shortest/easiest path within marketing is simple actions taken consistently with a clear knowledge of what is working and what isn’t.

You don’t need to do 1001 things.

You just need to do a few things really well.

And once you figure out what those things are for your business you can start to systemised and outsource as much as possible to make it even easier.

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