Never mistake motion for action.
– Ernest Hemingway
TRACTION: The force that causes a moving thing to stick against the surface it is moving along.
When I was the head of training for a large organisation 10 years ago, I was sitting at my desk in my office on a Saturday. I was designing and finishing the time management program I was going to deliver the following week as I knew I wasn’t going to have enough time to finish it during the coming week. I remember thinking, “This is ridiculous. How am I supposed to deliver a time management program when here I am on a weekend designing it?”
I realised that something was wrong and felt really incongruent and lacking integrity. Whatever I was doing wasn’t working. Something needed to change.
So, I decided to get a coach.
It was one of the best decisions I’ve made and was life-changing. So much so, I went on to work as the lead consultant for that productivity consulting company for five years. I coached and trained teams, CEOs and executive assistants in how to be more productive with their time. I went on to train thousands of people. I delivered productivity coaching and training across businesses, the military, federal government and some of the biggest organisations on the planet, including Virgin and Rio Tinto. Productivity and high performance keep people safe, keep planes in the sky, and above all create more trust and influence.
After one of my coaching sessions, a client once said to me, “You know, this must be really easy for you. You’re super organised.”
The reality is that I am not a naturally organised person, but I come from two highly organised parents. I love to implement, and I get frustrated when I’m not ticking things off. However, I like to jump on ideas, I’m creative and reflective. I had the good fortune of working with learning expert Michael Grinder who identified I use all learning styles equally, which means tasks take longer for me to do at times. I have always grappled with finding a balance between creativity and implementation. As a result, I’ve become accustomed to putting in long hours.
So, I said to this person, “Do you know what? I’m actually not naturally organised. I’m more creative with heaps of ideas that easily distract me. But implementing the principles that I do, they help keep the wheels on. Because if I don’t follow these processes, the wheels fall off, I don’t get to achieve what I want, and I don’t feel fulfilled. When I follow the productivity principles I talk about, my days flow far more easily.”
Trust me, I’m not always perfect at managing my time. In fact, time management was my failing until I got help from my coach and started to teach others. And, after all the thousands of people I’ve since coached, I’ve found that there’s more to time management and productivity than simply putting procedures in place. It’s about identifying a person’s natural work flow and deciding what systems best suit them. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. The goal is to reduce the amount of effort it takes to implement the productivity systems that will work for you. For most I work with on this issue, they gain back about 2 hours per day.
Time management is such a key part of your success as an Influencer. It’s what gives you traction in your business. Often, you will have limited staff. To save time, you may outsource some components of your business. But ultimately, it’s up to you to manage all the moving parts. You must be in control.
Sometimes, it feels like time is a conveyor belt. It keeps moving, even though you might want it to stop. The key is to stay ahead of the game so you don’t fall behind your competitors. The trouble is, we often overestimate what we can get done in a day and underestimate what we can get done in a lifetime. As the saying goes, “We all have the same amount of hours in a day as Beyoncé.” So, make the most of them.
Here are some effective mindset principles to help you get the most out of your time:
- You are in control. Simply because someone else wants you to do something doesn’t mean you have to. You have the power to manage your time and say no. If you don’t take control of your time, someone else will. Every minute counts, you choose. The average person has gone from watching TV 2 hours per day to reading their social media feeds each day. Imagine how you use 2 hours per day for your own practice?!
- Clear the clutter. The cleaner your office is, the better. Clear decisions are made with a clear mind. Too much clutter on your desk and in your workspace creates brain fuzz, so keep things tidy.
- Positive self-talk. Stop putting yourself down, and catch yourself when you do. Know that you’re worthy of success and that you’re capable of achieving it. It will help keep you focused so you get more done.
- Use mind games. If you want to be the best in the world, pretend you already are!It’s amazing what you can achieve when you change your thinking patterns. Before beach volleyball champions Natalie Cook and Kerri Pottharst won gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, their coach had made them fill cabinets in their homes with gold medals borrowed from friends. This made them feel as though they’d already won. So, behave like you’ve already achieved your goal. Shift your mindset from believing into being. In the words of motivational speaker Paul J Meyer:
Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of commitment to excellence, intelligent planning and focused effort.
– Paul J. Meyer
How to leverage your time to get traction
Leveraged time means traction. The three elements that contribute to this traction are Projects, Processes and People.
When you take on a project, you need to know how to allocate your time to get the job done. If you don’t make projects a priority by marking them in your calendar and diary, you’ll never get started. Break projects up into chunks and ensure that you’re working on the right step at the right time.
In his landmark text, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey talks about prioritising the “big rocks” – what is really important to you in life and business. These are your big-picture projects, as opposed to the “gravel and sand” – the smaller, often more pressing issues.
To make sure you take care of the big rocks in your business, you need to:
- Be strategic. Ensure the projects you have planned align with your goals. This reduces the tendency to chase shiny new objects, helping you stay focused on the things that will get you the most return.
- Break projects into small steps. When it comes to big projects, sometimes it can be hard to know where to start. David Allen, productivity expert and author of “Getting Things Done,” says this is because you can’t “do” a project. You can only do a physical action. Allen says all projects should start with the question, “What’s the next action?” By dividing projects into small, manageable steps, you will reduce time spent procrastinating and get the job done.
- Start and end dates. Projects are time oriented. Work out when your project needs to start and when it needs to be completed. Once you have broken the project into smaller tasks, work backwards in your calendar, allocating completion dates for those tasks. That way, you will have a timeframe you must stick to. You’ll probably realise you have a lot less time to get all your projects done than you previously thought. Instead of complaining that you don’t have the time and dropping the project, look at your calendar and make the time.
- Delegate. When you can, get someone you trust to take on some of the steps involved in your project. Use a Virtual Assistant even if only for 5 hours per week. This is a great way to get some things off your plate like newsletters out, blogs up on social media or appointment confirmations.
- Allocate time in your calendar for bigger pieces of work. If something’s not getting done, it’s probably because it’s still on a to-do list. It needs to be in your calendar. If a job is going to take more than 10 minutes, work out how much time it will take, then allocate that time in your diary or calendar.
Processes are your daily, weekly and monthly habits and routines. For example, you may answer emails at a certain time each day, batch meetings at a certain time of month, and do particular tasks on certain days. Routines give structure to your work, allowing you to have greater control over your business and success as an Influencer.
According to Charles Duhigg, the best selling author of the book “The Power of Habit” he says that by created habits around processes and routines requires less energy, willpower, and discipline. From there your energy goes into more challenging aspects of your practice.
Some simple yet effective practices that will improve your efficiency:
- Inbox processing times rather than checking your email all day. When you’re trying to concentrate on a task, it is extremely distracting to constantly receive email notifications. Go into your inbox settings and turn them off. Allocate specific times during the day to check your emails so you don’t get sidetracked every few minutes.
- Identify habits and routines. Certain tasks will need to be addressed every day, week, month or year.
- Identify these tasks and calendarise them. Dealing with tasks proactively rather than reactively will save you time and headaches.
- Capture your ideas. It’s easy to lose track of ideas if you don’t write them down. According to productivity author Tony Schwarz, people can only hold seven items in their working memory at once. After seeing this time and time again with experts and communication flow between CEO’s and EA’s, my colleague and productivity expert Dermot Crowley and I created a tool to hold onto your ideas. It’s called Memo Mailer, a digital audio voice recorder. Save them into an ideas folder on your desktop, and record them in your diary or calendar.
- Batch tasks. Dedicating blocks of time to similar tasks is an efficient way of getting jobs done. It maximises your concentration and decreases the chance of procrastination. If you have multiple 10-minute jobs to do, schedule an hour to get them all done. If you find yourself with some spare time during the day, use it to get a head start.
- Meetings– most meetings are a complete waste of time and don’t have enough conscious thought. The key is to ensure they’re a conscious choice, not just because that’s the usual routine. When in fast growth phase regular and shorter meetings generally work better than long and irregular. Using them to innovate and fine tune can powerful.
- Create before you consume: Marie Forleo, the founder of B School and best-selling author says the fastest way you can reduce growth in your practice is to spend too much time on social media reading other people’s work. You as the Thought Leader need to be reading it far more than consuming it. So start your days creating content instead and watch your practice thrive.
- Planning and Thinking Time: Jeff Bezos realized he needed thinking time. He has 2 hours per day allocated to just think. Most of the executives I work with don’t have enough thinking time allocated in their calendars. They have come from a managing mindset and being 100% busy implementing rather than allocating some time for strategising. Your brain needs to rest and be creative to undertake pieces of work like this.
- Distractions: say they’re the internal thoughts of things not done. As opposed to interruptions that are driven by others. Tony Schwarz, CEO of the Energy Project is a visiting professor at Harvard University and his studies have found that people can only hold 7 things in the working part of the brain, at once…. Yes, that’s right, 7 things of “Okay, I’ll have to remember to do that.” Don’t you want the freedom to come up with some creative ideas instead of it being used to store your to do list? Ensure you have a way to capture your ideas and write down things that need to be done instead of having them held in your head.
- Work in the cracks: leverage every moment you have. Voice record your blog when you’re driving so it’s transcribed and in your inbox by the time you get home. Write a chapter of your book while you’re sitting with colour in your hair at the hairdresser, write your keynote on the plane. There are some many moments in your day unused. These activities have a compounding effect and create incredible growth. Use each minute effectively so you can spend more time with those you love.
Procrastination is the undoing of so much potential. It’s often what we do when we’re feeling overwhelmed. Research shows that entrepreneurs work an average of 52 hours per week, which is 63 percent longer than the average worker.
As an Influencer, you are incredibly busy. You can’t do it all alone. Otherwise, you risk burning out. To get traction, to move forward instead of merely spinning the wheels, you need to tap into the personalities, skills and thinking of others. It will take the pressure off and give your business momentum.In my experience, entrepreneurs work even longer than that – particularly in the start-up phase of their business.
When utilising the skills of others, consider the following:
- Meetings. Are you having the right meetings with the right people? Or are you having meetings for the sake of it? If they aren’t brainstorming or decision-making meetings, it’s time to question their effectiveness and if they are truly needed.
- Follow up. When you delegate tasks to others, keep tabs on their progress. Although you have delegated the task, you are still accountable for it. Use collaboration and task-tracking tools, such as Trello, Slack and Taskworld.
- Give feedback. It’s important you give the people you work with direction. Let them know when things are going well and when they aren’t. By having these conversations early, you can save yourself a lot of time later on.
- Interruptions. batching conversations. People are like dump trucks always looking to dump stuff on you which often creates interruptions. I had a client, David who was interrupted all day and then started his work at 5pm after everyone went home. Needless to say, he was not able to spend quality time with his family nor look after himself and get some exercise. He was also really frustrated because he was unable to read his kids a book before they went to bed. Instead, we created a call in time between 4 pm and 5 pm each day for his team. As a result they found the answers to their questions throughout the day. It also reduced the amount of questions he was asked, lowering to about one-quarter compared to previously. So look for ways to batch your teams’ interruption. Set proactive times with them if you need to.
- Debriefing. My friend Christian “Boo” Boucousis is a former fighter pilot and an expert in leadership and productivity. In his keynotes, he talks about how fighter pilots brief and debrief their missions. Each mission’s debrief is considered just as important as the mission itself. It’s the same in your practice. Constant improvement, learning and refining is key to high performance and a powerful practice. This means debriefing logistics of an event that you spoke at, it could be how your social media accounts are run or training programs. As Mark Twain said, “continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.”
Other factors that can influence your ability to leverage your time include:
- IDENTITY: The personalities of the people you work with can help or hinder your time management. Ensure you have the right people in your practice. Your recruitment processes and the way you choose vendors are key.
- IMPACT: How many people are affected and the result it creates for them and the people they serve. What results are they getting? Does the work you’re undertaking actually achieve the results they’re looking for?
- INFLUENCE: Do you have the influence you want with your team and clients? Are you being heard? Is your message clear? How seriously do people take you and how do you get them to do what you want them to do?
- STRATEGY: Identify your goals. What are you trying to achieve? What’s your focus? Does your team understand your vision and are they on board?
- SYSTEMS. What systems, procedures and checklists do you have in place so your business continues to grow? If something isn’t working well, you need to be able to identify it and rectify it. Taking personal responsibility to improve, even just a little bit each day, makes a big difference in the long run.
- STREAMLINING: Having a mindset of continuous improvement matters in this game. Once you have the systems in place it’s now about improving those systems so that they are seamless and you have to reduce the amount of friction in them as much as possible. After each project or challenging situation that is not ideal, by debriefing together with your team to find better ways to execute will create less pressure and stress for you. Remove all friction, frustrations and f$%k ups by implementing a new process.
The way we measure productivity is flawed. People checking their BlackBerry over dinner is not the measure of productivity.
– Timothy Ferriss
Questions for you to consider:
1. What are the most leveraged habits and routines in your practice?
2. What three big goals do you aim to achieve this year? Are the activities for these in your calendar?
3. Write down your top three projects for the next week. How long will each task take and when will you do them?
Love to know your thoughts…
Jane Anderson works with Thought Leaders, Trusted Advisors, Experts and CEO’s to increase their lead generation and grow their businesses.
Her blog has been awarded in the top 25 branding blogs globally. She is one of 12 LinkedIn Influencer Small Business Advocates in Australia, is the host of the Jane Anderson Brand You Show.
She is the author of 4 books including “EXPERT to INFLUENCER: 12 Key Skills to Attract New Clients, Increase Sales and Leverage your Personal Brand to Become an Industry Leader.”