Advertising
Advertising

How Focusing Just 4 Hours Every Month Can Skyrocket Your Productivity

How Focusing Just 4 Hours Every Month Can Skyrocket Your Productivity

Over the years, It’s become shockingly clear to me that how I schedule my work week has a very dramatic effect on how productive I am and how quickly my business sees results. I look back and I see that I was busy being busy. Waking up every day and just winging it.

Sometimes I would plan my day out in advance that morning. Once in a while, I’d have an idea of what I’d do the next few days. But rarely, if ever, did I have my entire work week planned out in advance. I certainly never had an entire year planned out!

What’s been most surprising is:

  1. How EASY it is
  2. How little time it takes

Let me prove it.

The Difference Between Focusing And Worrying

Planning ahead and worrying about the future can sometimes sound similar, but the truth is they are worlds apart. How different they are shows up in the results. One allows you to focus and live fully in the present, doing what needs to get done while simultaneously setting yourself up for future success.

Advertising

The other one has you constantly thinking about the future that hasn’t happened yet. Creating stress and anxiety. Lowering your self esteem. Taking you out of the present moment and preventing you from enjoying your life.

How similar do they sound now?

The same way that worrying about the future creates tension and anxiety, not knowing what the future holds can create a feeling of being lost — that feeling of being in limbo. Without a clear goal and specific steps on how to reach it, everything you do can feel like walking in place.

Wake Up With Purpose

I used to wake up every day and just lay in bed, trying to figure out what I’d do that day. There was no sense of urgency to get anywhere or get anything done. There was no looking forward to the next work day because I had nothing planned. With nothing planned, it was all too easy to procrastinate, get distracted and waste an entire day doing things that were not all that important.

Goals and stepping stones are crucial to the growth and life of your business. They serve as markers and sign posts, letting you know you’re going the right way. Driving cross country from California to Boston, you’d have a map. You’d have your destination set in your GPS. If you’re old school, you’d have a paper map and printed directions at the very least.

Advertising

If you started veering off course, you would know very quickly. You wouldn’t wait till you hit the Canadian border near Vancouver to discover you got off on the wrong exit.

The thing about that example, is that it’s not even the worst case scenario. If you wasted all that time driving north to Vancouver, you could at least then ask for directions on how to go east towards Boston. Because you had a final destination to start.

Without a final destination? Without an ultimate goal? Then what does it matter, you can spend your days driving around in circles, doing busy work, procrastinating, whatever. Your destination is nowhere and there are thousands of ways to get there.

So what I want to show you is how to plan your work schedule the same way you would plan a road trip. You’re going to have a starting point, a final destination, and pit stops along the way. Each day, you have a certain number of miles that you aim to drive before stopping and taking a break. Rinse, repeat. Simple and effective.

Create Urgency In Advance

It’s important to have a sense of urgency when you’re working for yourself. Urgency creates productivity, which creates momentum. Momentum is what we want.

Advertising

How do you create urgency? Here’s one way:

(You can do this for anything, by the way — not just work)

  1. Figure out your 1-year (12-month goal) and what would need to be in place for it to happen (i.e. number of leads coming in, your conversion rate, number of ads, squeeze pages, etc.)
  2. Split that in half and you have your 6-month metrics
  3. Now break that down to your 3-month and 1-month numbers
  4. Break down your 1-month goal into weekly goals
  5. Break your weekly goal into detailed, daily tasks

This is called drilling down. You literally take your big goal and drill it down until you have bite-sized, daily, actionable steps.

The 1, 3, and 6-month number serve as your stepping stones — your markers, so that you know you’re on the right path. So how do you create urgency? Take that 12-month goal and make it your 6-month goal, and drill down from there.

Take your goal and give yourself half the time to accomplish it. Don’t freak out! Just try it. You’ll find that once you drill it down to daily actions, it will look very doable. Are you going to be busy? Well, yeah. Absolutely.

Advertising

Don’t tell me that’s a problem.

Planning each week becomes the golden nugget here. Everything will depend on how well you plan out your daily tasks for each week. Your commitment is to sit down every Sunday or Monday morning, and plan your week out in advance.

Featured photo credit: From Chaos To Order via flickr.com

More by this author

The Difference Between A Great Leader And A Regular Manager How Focusing Just 4 Hours Every Month Can Skyrocket Your Productivity

Trending in Productivity

1 How to Be a Good Leader and Lead Effectively 2 How Long Does It Take to Break a Habit? Science Will Tell You 3 What Is the Purpose of Life and What Should You Live For? 4 Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes 5 10 Things High Achievers Do to Attain Greatness

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on October 21, 2019

How to Be a Good Leader and Lead Effectively

How to Be a Good Leader and Lead Effectively

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a contender for the 2020 Democratic nomination, is a reminder of why I am so drawn to leadership as a topic. Whenever I think it is impossible for me to be more impressed with her, she proves me wrong.

Earlier this week, a former marine suggested that he had been in a long-term sexual relationship with the Senator. She flipped the narrative and used the term “Cougar,” a term used to describe older women who date younger men, to reference her alma mater.

Rather than calling the young man a liar, or responding to the accusations in kind, she re-focused the conversation back to her message of college affordability and lifted up that “Cougar” was the mascot for her alma mater. She went on to note that tuition at her school was just $50 per semester when she was a student. Class act.

But by the end of the week, news broke that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, another contender for the presidency, had a heart attack. Warren not only wished Sanders a speedy recovery but her campaign sent a meal to his staff. She knew that the hopes of staff, donors and supporters were with the Senator from Vermont and showed genuine compassion and empathy.

To me, she has proven time and time again that she is more than a presidential candidate: she belongs in a leadership hall of fame.

What makes some people excel as leaders is fascinating. You can read about leadership, research it and talk about it, yet the interest in leadership alone will not make you a better leader.

You will have more information than the average person, but becoming a good leader is lifelong work. It requires experience – and lots of it. Most importantly, it requires observation and a commitment to action. Warren observed what was happening with Sen. Sanders, empathized with his team and then took action. Regardless of the outcome of this election, Sanders’ staff will likely never forget her gesture.

Advertising

You would have had to work on a political campaign in order to appreciate the stress and anxiety that comes with it. In this moment, staff may not remember everything that Warren said throughout the lengthy campaign, but they will remember what she did during an unforgettable time during the campaign.

If this model of leadership is appealing, and if you are searching for how to up your own leadership game, read on for six characteristics that good leaders share:

1. Good leaders are devoted to the success of the people around them.

Good leaders are not self-interested. Sure, they want to succeed, but they also want others to succeed.

Good leaders see investing in others just as important as they see investing in themselves. They understand that their success is closely tied to the people around them, and they work to ensure that their peers, employees, friends and family have paths for growth and development.

While the leaders may be the people in the spotlight, they are quick to point to the people around them who helped them (the leaders) enter that spotlight. Their willingness to lift others inspires their colleagues’ and friends’ devotion and loyalty.

2. Good leaders are not overly dependent on others’ approval.

It is important for managers to express their support for their teams; good leaders must be independent of the approval of others. I explained in an article for The Chronicle of Philanthropy, that:[1]

“While a desire to be loved is natural, managers who prioritize approval from subordinates will become ineffective supervisors who may do employees harm. For example, a manager driven by a need for approval may shy away from delivering constructive feedback that could help an employee improve. A manager fearful of upsetting someone may tolerate behavior that degrades the work environment and culture.”

In yet another example, a manager who is dependent on the approval of others may not make decisions that could be deemed unpopular in the short run but necessary in the long run.

Think of the coaches who integrated their sporting teams. Their decision to do so, may have seemed odd, and even wrong, in the moment, but time has proven that those leaders were on the right side of history.

3. Good leaders have the capacity to share the spotlight.

Attention is nice, but it is not the prime motivator for good leaders. Doing a good job is.

For this reason, good leaders are willing to share the spotlight. They aren’t threatened by a lack of attention, and they do not need credit for every accomplishment. They are too focused on their goal and too focused on the urgency of their work.

4. Good leaders are students.

In the same way that human beings are constantly evolving, so too are leaders. As long as you are living, you have the potential to learn. It doesn’t matter how much knowledge you think you have; you can always learn something new.

I have the experience of thinking I was doing everything right as a manager, only to receive conflicting feedback from my team. Perhaps my approach was not working for my team, and I had to be willing to hear their feedback to improve.

Good leaders understand that their secret sauce is their willingness to keep receiving information and keep learning. They aren’t intimidated by what they do not know: As long as they maintain a willingness to keep growing, they believe they can overcome any obstacle they face.

Advertising

As both masters and students, good leaders read, listen and study to grow. They consume content for information, not just entertainment purposes. They aren’t impressed with their knowledge; they are impressed with the learning journey.

5. Good leaders view vulnerability as a superpower.

It means “replacing ‘professional distance and cool,’ with uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure,” said Emma Sappala in a Dec. 11, 2014, article, “What Bosses Gain by being Vulnerable” for Harvard Business Journal.[2] She went on to note the importance of human connection, which she asserts is often missing at work.

“As leaders and employees, we are often taught to keep a distance and project a certain image. An image of confidence, competence and authority. We may disclose our vulnerability to a spouse or close friend behind closed doors at night but we would never show it elsewhere during the day, let alone at work.”

This rings so true for me as a woman leader. I was raised believing that any show of emotion in the workplace could be used against me. I was raised believing that it was best for women leaders to be stoic and to “never let ‘em see you sweat.” This may have prevented me from connecting with employees and colleagues on a deeper, more personal level.

6. Good leaders understand themselves.

I am a huge fan of life coach and spiritual teacher Iyanla Vanzant. In addition to her hit show on the OWN network, Vanzant has authored dozens of books. In her books and teachings, she underscores the importance of knowing ourselves fully. She argues that we must know what makes us tick, what makes us happy and what makes us angry.

Self-awareness enables us to put ourselves in situations where we can thrive, and it also enables us to have compassion when we fall short of the goals and expectations we have for ourselves. Relatedly, understanding ourselves will allow us to know our strength. When we know our strengths, we will be able to put people around us who compliment our strengths and fill the gaps in our leadership.

Final Thoughts

Being a good leader, first and foremost, is an inside job. You must focus on growing as a person regardless of the leadership title that you hold. You cannot take others where you yourself have not been. So focusing on yourself, regardless of your time or where you are in your career will have long term benefits for you and the people around you.

Advertising

Further, if you want to become a good leader, you should start by setting the intention to do so. What you focus on grows. If you focus on becoming a better leader, you will research and invest in things that help you to fulfill this intention. You will also view the good and bad leadership experiences as steppingstones that hone your character and help you improve.

After you set the intention, get really clear on what a good leader looks like to you. Each of us has a different understanding of leadership. Is a good leader someone who takes risk? Is a good leader, in your estimation, someone who develops other leaders? Whatever it is, know what you’re shooting for. Once you define what it means to be a good leader, look for people who exemplify your vision. Watch and engage with them if you can.

Finally, understand that becoming a good leader doesn’t happen overnight. You must continually work at improving, investing in yourself and reflecting on what is going well and what you must improve. In this way, every experience is an opportunity to grow and a chance to ask: ‘What is this experience trying to teach me?’ or ‘what action is necessary based on this situation?’

If you are committed to questioning, evaluating and acting, you are that much closer to becoming a better leader.

More About Effective Leadership

Featured photo credit: Sam Power via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] The Chronicle of Philanthropy: Why Good Managers Overcome the Desire to Be Liked
[2] Harvard Business Journal: What Bosses Gain by being Vulnerable

Read Next