Business Owners and Personal Productivity
Do you ever consider your personal productivity? When you run your own business, you are taking more risk in the hope of earning a greater reward for your effort, when compared to working for somebody else. But does it always work out this way? The answer is only sometimes. The vast majority of people running their own SME businesses work harder and get paid less than they might get paid for working elsewhere.
In fact, the business owners are often the last to get paid and actually survive on what is left over, because their staff and key suppliers must get paid first to keep the business going. This was not the original dream that the entrepreneur had for the business.
So how can the typical business owner change this situation and increase the odds of getting the financial return they deserve? One way is to increase their personal productivity. With everything being equal, and their underlying business being basically sound, SME business owners can increase the likelihood of getting a fair return on their investment in their business by working smarter and not harder and by consciously focusing on their personal productivity.
So where does one start? In my view, you need to look at the time thieves that are currently preventing you from being fully productive. These will be some or all of the following:
- Not getting enough sleep and rest
- Arriving in work tired from the previous day
- Allowing yourself to become stressed
- Bringing work home with you at the end of your work day
- Bringing home issues to work with you
- Poor diet and thus low energy levels
- Lack of proper hydration
- Frequent activity switching
- Allowing frequent interruptions
- Becoming a slave to email
- Refusing to have telephone calls filtered and taking every call
- Not having a plan for your day
- Not having a well considered plan for your business
- Getting dragged into minor issues and conflicts that can be resolved by subordinates
- Staying in your comfort zone
- Micro-managing employees
- Not taking time out to refresh and rejuvenate
- Listening to the inner voice that may be negative and holding you back
It is important to remember that we can shape the results we get in our lives and our businesses by thinking deeply about them first. Everything that has ever been created in reality in this world has first been a thought in someone’s mind. Look at the inventors of all the technologies we enjoy in the world today and consider that none of these inventions would exist if the inventors had not thought about and conceptualized them first. The lesson here is that we need to be clear in our thinking and clear about what we want to achieve before racing off in what might be the wrong direction.
So how do we get into the productivity habit? It all starts with creating daily rituals that put you in the right place physically, mentally and emotionally. Get sufficient rest at night so that you wake up invigorated and ready for the day. Take the first 90 minutes of each day to create the very best circumstances for a productive day.
First task is to rehydrate by drinking a litre of water. Then take some exercise, perhaps a brisk walk, to get your blood flowing for at least 30 to 60 minutes. Next step is to have a nutritious breakfast with as much raw protein as you can tolerate. Caffeine and sugar is not the right way to energize your body – they are a short-term quick fix, which are usually followed by a collapse in energy levels within an hour or two.
Bad Habits to New Habits
Next, we need to develop a determination to overcome our bad habits, many of which will be in the bullet list discussed a few moments ago. The best way to get rid of a bad habit is to develop a new one that supersedes it, and to practice it for 30 days to ingrain it into our daily rituals. It is important to adopt new habits one at a time so that you do not become overwhelmed and risk not completing the 30-day implementation period.
Use Your Time Better
Despite the compelling urge to do so, avoid looking at your email or phone messages at the beginning of the day. Generally speaking, these messages are working to other peoples’ agendas and not yours. Make a decision to work in productive blocks during the day wherein you will not accept interruptions. These blocks involve two 60-minute periods of focused attention followed by 30 minutes of recovery. Adopting this habit for the beginning of the day places you in a position to work on your highest value activities when you are fresh and energized. These activities are the ones that grow your business and your profits the fastest.
Avoid Switching Tasks Frequently
Task switching makes you extremely unproductive, even if you feel that you are getting through a lot. Instead, use the time blocks discussed in the last section. If you can manage 2 or 3 time blocks of 150 minutes per day, you will be astounded by what you will be able to achieve. Do 60 minutes of concentrated and uninterrupted work; take a 5-minute break, then another 55 minutes of concentrated and uninterrupted work. Reward yourself with a 30 minute cooling down period where you get to stretch, rehydrate and perhaps eat a small meal or protein snack. Then you can check your messages and emails before deciding to step into another 150-minute period of high achievement.
Eliminate Friction In Your Mind
We are all bedeviled by our inner voice prompting us with unwanted advice that keeps us in our comfort zone. Internal conflict burns up our energy and our ability to make things happen. Growth only happens outside of our comfort zone and so we must learn to control our willpower. Use your thoughts to visualize the life and business you truly want and use daily rituals and habits to help manifest these thoughts into reality.
Concentrate On Highest Value Activities
My friend, Eben Pagan, developed a concept called the Productivity Pyramid. It is a useful way to look at how you spend your time. There are four different levels to the pyramid and it will serve you to list 3 to 5 activities that you habitually carry out that fit into each level.
The more time that you put into the top level, the better your business will be performing. If you have a lot of activities in the bottom level, you need to stop doing them or if they are necessary for your business, then delegate them to somebody else.
Now focus on the Venn diagram, which is a derivative of the Productivity Pyramid. Your productivity zone lives in the intersection of the 2 circles, so spend as much time there as you can.
Finally, look to the Pareto Principle, wherein you know that 20% of your activities generate 80% of your results, which means that 80% of your activities generate very little of your results. So stop doing the 80% activities or pass them on to someone else. Then look at this again several months down the road and use the same metric. Focus again on the 20% of activities that are generating 80% of your results. DO another cull of the 80% activities. Every time you go through this culling exercise, you will become more and more productive in how you are using your time.
This is a short digest of some of the things you can do to increase personal productivity. Eben Pagan runs a 12-week online course that guides you through some of these personal productivity steps as well as several others. It is called “Wake Up Productive” and I have no hesitation in recommending it to my followers and subscribers.