Walt Disney said “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing” and Tim Ferriss, the bestselling author of the 4 Hour Workweek constantly says “focus on being productive instead of being busy.”
For those of us in sales this sounds great, but how in the world do you begin to implement this? And how do we get the most out of our workdays? When I read what the legends are doing, it inspires me but it always makes me wonder how do I get started?
While there isn’t one answer, I continue to try, fail, and augment on this repeated loop cycle. Like you, I’m looking to maximize my time to achieve the goals I’ve set out for myself.
I see two fundamental challenges that makes good people fail at being productive:
1. The wandering & drifting mind and;
2. We make other people’s work our priorities.
Let’s talk about these because these keep most of our work days unproductive. And, to the point where you feel that you didn’t get anything done today, again.
The Problem with Being Busy
While you may start your workday with the best of intentions, pesky things like emails, voicemails, the temptation of the internet browser, and more keep us distracted and detached to our work at hand.
Some of this stems from having a To Do List but data indicates that 76% of Americans keep one close to them at all times. You may also have a To Do List. But, does this make you productive?
The problem isn’t knowing our tasks, it’s in prioritization and ruthless execution. All tasks can’t be created equal, ever. While all tasks on your To Do List hold importance, when you factor in time, not all tasks are.
In his classic work Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Greg McKeown has a simple rule for prioritizing tasks. On each and every task you set out to do, ask yourself this simple question (and I paraphrase):
On a scale of 1-10 (1 being low importance and 10 being high), how important is this task for me to complete right now?
If the answer isn’t 9 or 10, you can’t afford to complete the task right now. If you score many things as 9 or higher, then clearly you’re not factoring in time or you’ve been procrastinating too long while work is piling up.
Think about the brilliance of this simple question. It forces you to ensure that you are laser-focused on what matters. It may seem harsh but so is not getting your most productive work done as well, right?
In short, we allow ourselves to be disturbed far too often and interpret being squirrelly and busy as productive.
Implementing Theme Days
If you notice how often your mind wanders when you’re doing multiple things from many categories, then theme days are a great solution to keep focus. This calls for categorizing your days to focus solely on specific items.
Let me share my example.
My work at Sales For Life touches multiple departments and areas from sales, customer success, training, product development, content creation and more.
To maximize productivity, I’ve carved up entire days for deep focus. Instead of touching on each of these categories each and every day, I’ve set up theme days. On Mondays for instance, I’ll focus on internal company meetings and administrative tasks in the morning. And in the latter half of the day, I’ll focus on sales & business development.
On Tuesdays, I focus on training and Wednesdays are my customer success days.
The entire point of this exercise is to focus on getting the biggest tasks moved a few cycles. Otherwise, I’d be all over the map without having the mental horsepower to dedicate to them. And make no mistake, some of these tasks we do require massive mental output. You owe it to yourself to ensure that proper time and care is being invested in these areas.
What’s In It For You?
Jack Dorsey, the man behind Twitter and Square, swears by Theme Days. He runs two successful companies that require this approach. But I believe the principles can help those of us in sales.
Think about all of the tasks you’re required to do daily and start chunking them out. Perhaps you’ll have categories for calls, emails, prospect meetings, learning & development, and more. Which of these can you focus on in days or segments?
The Bottom Line
Maximizing productivity is a lofty goal. We all want it but most of us struggle to get it. Even for those of us who experience it in small bites, how can we tweak our approach to get more work done? I believe Theme Days are definitely an answer.
Are you currently doing this or anything similar? I’d love to hear from you. Tweet me your thoughts @AmarSheth or connect with me on LinkedIn to share.