How to Be Productive Rather than Just Busy
You know those days when you seem to be really busy, yet you start questioning yourself late in the afternoon, “Was I actually being productive today? What exactly did I achieve there?” You know what I mean I’m sure, and it can be super-frustrating, right?
You know that you’ve put in a solid shift – in fact you might even feel like you worked your butt off, yet you struggle to identify any significant objectives or high priority tasks that you were able to tick off from your ever-increasing list of ‘stuff to do’. That might be the difference between feeling like you’re ‘keeping busy’ and ‘being productive’.
The Rabbit Holes
One of my associates, Mark Chaston runs a successful promotional clothing company, called ‘Embroidermark’ and he was asking about this problem the other day. Mark is no slouch and has been working hard on his new business since making the ‘sea-change’ from financial planning in 2018 – his work is highly recommended.
Mark seemed a little perturbed recently as he likened his experience of slogging through a busy day to going down a series of rabbit holes, moving from one task to another, especially in the realm of marketing activities, yet wondering where all of this had got him. It had left him feeling a little unfulfilled and confused about whether he had done the right things.
I answered that sometimes the rabbit holes can surprise you and turn out to have pots of gold buried at the bottom of them. Nevertheless, the whole topic of productivity and effective time management is one of the biggest issues that can make or break owners of small businesses.
Some Tips for Being Productive
My coaching system, named simply ‘The Inman System’ tackles this issue of ‘being busy’ versus ‘being productive’ by helping you to compartmentalise your thinking and your activities.
- We all have a wheel of life and a wheel of business, where we constantly strive to keep those wheels turning in sync, so that your vehicle keeps moving forwards.
- The driver of the vehicle though is, or should be, you. It starts with your philosophy – beliefs, attitudes and mindset; is kept on the right track by your leadership traits (even with a one-person band) and is harmonised with your ability to maintain work life balance.
- The ability to juggle all these things hinges on your vision and your purpose. The clearer we are about the big picture of what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, the easier it becomes to prioritise our objectives.
Those objectives can then be prioritised into annual; quarterly; monthly; weekly and daily orders of importance.
- Once prioritised, the objectives can then be chunked down into tasks and further prioritised as ‘A’,’B’,’C’, and ‘D’; or ‘Urgent and Important’; ‘Important but not Urgent’, ‘Urgent but not Important’ and ‘Neither Urgent nor Important – whatever labelling terminology works best for you.
What Mark called ‘rabbit holes’ could be those activities that don’t seem to really achieve very much. The trap to watch out for there is that we often tackle first the topics that appeal to us the most and postpone (procrastinate on) the tasks that we know we should really be doing.
Objectives and Key Result Areas
If you start each week with a plan of the objectives you want to achieve and make a list each day of the tasks in order of priority, it then becomes a matter of discipline to focus on the key result areas.
If you think this is an issue for you, I recommend keeping a time log for a week. At the end of each half hour, you write down the key points of what you just did, but you must be honest. If you spent half an hour on a Facebook post , ask yourself honestly whether it moved you forwards in the direction of your goals, or whether it was just a time-wasting distraction, where perhaps you drifted off topic and started commenting on cat pictures, politics or your friend’s latest gym crunch record!
If you can make yourself adhere to this discipline for a week, you’ll soon know where your time is going, and you can compare that with your ‘planned week’. I repeat that you must be honest with those assessments too, because we humans tend to justify our actions.
A Return on Your Investment (of Time)
Another key question is to ask yourself ‘What are the most likely income-producing activities?’ and ‘Am I allocating enough time to focus on these specific tasks?’
With sales you can usually reverse-engineer the process. I.e.
- I need to make ‘Z’ dollars per week in gross profit to break-even (cover my expenses)
- The average gross profit is ‘Y’ dollars
- The average sale is worth ‘X’ dollars in turnover
- Therefore, I need to sell ‘X x Y’ widgets per week to hit my ‘Z’ Target.
- My target is ‘E’ dollars in revenue per week or per day.
- The average customer spends ‘D’ dollars per transaction.
- I therefore need ‘C’ number of customers, spending ‘D’ dollars to bring in my sales target of ‘E’ dollars.
- But it may require ‘B’ number of appointments with prospects to get ‘C’ customers.
- Therefore, I may need to make ‘A’ number of calls or contacts with suspects to achieve ‘B’ appointments with prospects.
20 calls leads to 5 appointments to 2 sales, averaging $500 to make $1,000.
If the goal is to call or contact 5 people a day, you make sure you call at least 5 people per day.
If you do that first, you can then go off on your side-track topics, at least knowing that you’ve done what you set out to do to keep things on track.
The Right Balance
The bottom line is that if you’re not making the profit figure you need to break-even, you may not be able to sustain that for very long (unless you are doing it in one business to offset the loss against a profit somewhere else, but that’s not so often the case).
Nevertheless, the big balancing act is to ensure that you are thinking and working in two different head-spaces:
- The activity you need to do today to make the sales and profits that you need.
- The time in thought and activity spent working ‘on’ your business and not just ‘in your business’ to secure your future.
Working ‘on’ your business is the important leadership area of setting the goals to support your vision and doing things like marketing, developing of new products or services, streamlining administration, improving your systems, training your staff, establishing quality controls or refining sales processes.
Having an experienced Mentor or Coach to guide you can really help you get that focus in balance.
For example, one of my clients, Leroy Brown was struggling to find enough carpentry customers to fill his diary for the week. By working together on his vision, his goals, his systems, his marketing and his business strategies, we were soon able to book up four weeks’ work in advance, so that he could then look at employing someone to assist him and free up more of his time to work on the next level of business growth. (By the way, Leroy Brown is an excellent carpenter if you need one!)
If you’d like to know more, you can read my books, attend my workshops or seminars, follow your preferred platform of my social media pages, or you can contact me to arrange a no-obligation chat about your specific situation.
I can even tailor a program, specifically designed for you or to suit the needs of your organisation or team, to help you get the results that you want and deserve.
To find out more, simply contact me via this website or call me, Tony on 0419 860 382.
Let’s see if we can help your sales increase like the rabbit population down those rabbit holes.