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How to Be Productive and Effective: 10 Lessons from Great Leaders

How to Be Productive and Effective: 10 Lessons from Great Leaders

Productivity is not about getting things done. Productivity is, in fact, about getting things done efficiently and effectively. Let’s face it, this can be a challenge. Life is complicated and you often have to face challenges that you didn’t expect. At the same time, you can easily get distracted by little things — or big ones, like friends dropping by, Facebook and other fun things.

So, how can you be productive and get things done in a world of distractions? How can we bring our life and work projects to completion? Learn from some of the greatest leaders of all time and apply it to your life in a way that make sense to you. Here are 10 things you can learn from greatest leaders and how you can apply it to your life too.

1. Think Big

The first step in being productive is having your mind on a completely different level. Once you decide what you want, go after it.  Thinking big is the key to setting goals and achieving them.

So, how you get to do this? Start dreaming… Create great dreams and big goals.

It always seem impossible until is done! – Nelson Mandela

2. One Step at a Time

Now, you have great dreams and an objective. You may be thinking big, but you must also know how to take things slowly. The real work in getting things done is not about dreaming but instead about planning every little step that you are going to take in order to be get there. Learn to take small sure steps rather than taking big uncertain steps. This will help you get things done effectively.

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“Great acts are made up of small deeds.” – Lao Tzu

3. Perseverance

Taking small steps still does not give you the assurance that you will be immediately productive. Sometimes you will meet up against obstacles and you’ll have to figure out how to get around them. Even if you come off your path, you must try to find a way back to it.

I have not failed, I have 10,000 other ways that won’t worl – Thomas Edison

4. Do Not Settle

If you have a big dream, don’t settle for less than that dream. But at the same time, remember to savor the journey to achieving it. Each small event, each small task is a step in getting to your dream. If your dream is to be a big-time singer, you’ll have to sing in a lot of small venues, often for no pay. While this may not be the dream in and of itself, you can savor each of these experiences, enjoy them and learn from them.

Experience is the teacher of all things – Julius Caesar

5. Have a Proper Mindset

This seems to take you back to the first key, but if you will have a proper mindset about the idea of having a proper mindset, you will know that it isn’t. Mindset is not about dreaming but looking at things from different perspectives.

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Set your mind toward your task and you can achieve it. Worrying about failure or other problems will only distract you. Try and keep your eyes on the prize.

Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right – Henry Ford

6. Change

Sometimes, we have to change in order to pursue our goals. Our own behavior is often counter productive.

Being productive requires flexibility. Obviously, if you are not being productive something is not working and you must change.

To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often. – Winston Churchill

7. Take Risks

When you change, you will be able to take risks and expand your opportunities and achieve the expected results. Life is about taking chances. Opportunities come only once if you don’t take them someone else will.

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Taking risks is not only about business opportunities or related topics it is in fact about productivity. Being curious and taking the risk of doing that extra task to aim for excellence will in fact show you that you can produce more in the same time span. Challenge yourself. This way, you will not have any regrets about not trying to do more. It’s better to fail than to not try at all.

Go out on a limb. That’s where the fruit is. – Jimmy Carter

8. Do Not Just Do Something

You may be taking risks, changing and moving, but movement is a lot different than taking action. Do not just do something in order to get it done. Do not just do stuff, do things that matter and are taking you closer to your goals. Once this act became a habit, it will be difficult to change.

If you are doing just stuff you may want to go back to tip six. You must change it!

Never confuse motion with action – Benjamin Franklin

9. Connect with Your People

To be productive, you must know how to effectively communicate with people. Why? Because there is no man that can do it all. Being an effective communicator allows you to delegate tasks that are not your forte and leverage the strengths of others.

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You must learn to let go, but to get there you must communicate effectively the expected outcomes. Focus on your core competencies. Do what you are suppose to be doing not learning what others can do better.

Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don’t interfere as long as the policy you’ve decided upon is being carried out. – Ronald Reagan

10. Aim for Excellence

This may be the last on our list, but it is also ranked as a 10. You must consistently aim for excellence make it a habit. It will also influence other people around you.

I must add that the act of excellence does not mean perfection. It means doing the right thing to get the right results. Do the right things in life, for your business, for your family and focus! Take the steps required to produce excellent outcomes.

Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected. – Steve Jobs

So, there you have it 10 things that great leaders can teach us and how to apply it to your productivity and goals achieving process.

What to do next? Evaluate yourself and not just keep yourself busy, be productive.

Featured photo credit: gothick_matt via farm4.staticflickr.com

More by this author

Jorge Gasca

Entrepreneur, Digital Marketing, Project Management, Planning Hacker

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Last Updated on January 6, 2021

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

3. Create a System

Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

5. Use a Ratings Scale

Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

7. Offer Feedback Forms

Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

8. Track Cost Effectiveness

This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

9. Use Self-Evaluations

Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

10. Monitor Time Management

This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

    The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

    While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

    11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

    We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

    Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

    For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

    Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

    Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

    From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

    12. Utilize Peer Feedback

    This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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    Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

    Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

    It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

    13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

    When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

    Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

    Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

    14. Use an External Evaluator

    Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

    They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

    While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

    Final Thoughts

    These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

    The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

    The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

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    Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

    Reference

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