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Productivity? It’s not just about better time management

What I learned from ambitious entrepreneurs about focus.

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A question I hear almost daily in my work as a coach is: “How can I be more productive?” Not just productive. “How can I be truly impactful and do meaningful work?”

The most common frustrations I hear on productivity are:

  • How can I cut through the noise and identify what matters most?
  • How do I best use my time to do the things that are most impactful?
  • My schedule is jam-packed; how do I find the extra time I need? And time to really think about what I’m doing?*

*This is often said wistfully. Thinking time in our working day appears to be a serious luxury.

You have 168 hours in a week! You just need to manage your time better. Right?

Wrong.

A lot of productivity advice centers on time management. There are some brilliant strategies, tools and tips out there, from the benefits of the early morning rise and evening routine to scheduling your day down to the minute (literally). It’s worth having a go at a few different options to trial what works best for you.

But here’s the thing. You can’t manage time. You can only manage what you choose to spend your time, energy and attention on.

In truth, most of us don’t have an efficiency problem, we have a focus problem.

There will always be an overflowing inbox. There will always be urgent issues which demand your attention. There will always be plenty of unimportant tasks that are simply a distraction from what you want to achieve. There will always be interruptions.

To compound the challenge of focus, our brains are hardwired for distraction. It’s an old survival thing. From the days when we ran into wild beasts as pioneers and it was important to be attentive to our environment. Nowadays, we’re just plain distracted.

Then there is the growing body of research on how the internet is affecting our focus. But that is for another post… Focus.

Want to ditch being busy and get seriously productive?

Discover where you are going and why. Understanding what drives you will allow you to define what is important and what is… not.

Because of my work – both as a coach and as a commercial director in tech – I spend a lot of time with entrepreneurs. What I’ve noticed is that entrepreneurs know what they want to achieve, the problem to solve and why it matters to them.

This clarity and motivation exists despite the very real fragility of the journey they have struck out on and the fact that there is no certainty about its correctness or its likelihood of success.

Entrepreneurs commit to taking consistent action and make decisions based on their mission and priorities because they know that a lack of commitment creates ambiguity.

And ambiguity is the quickest way to kill productivity.

Getting clear on your purpose and priorities and what that means for where you focus your time, attention and energy will allow you to achieve the impact and success you want in your career. Then it’s all about getting a plan and daily routine* in place. 

* This does NOT have to be the 5am rise: water/journal/workout/meditate/read/smoothie/bullet coffee routine. You can still be a successful, creative human if you’re not a morning person. It’s about working to a routine that works for YOU, not for someone else.

Caroline Rae has created the Get Seriously Productive Five Step Challenge to help you achieve meaningful impact at work.

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