Don’t Be Busy, Be Productive

Don’t Be Busy, Be Productive

How do you make the most out of your time? Here are the essentials.

There are things you simply cannot control. You can’t control the pandemic, economy, season, weather,  or the cost of hangers. 

But there’s one thing you have full control over – your time. And the good news is, your time will have the biggest impact on your success, your life, and your happiness. 

How do you make the most out of your time? Here are essential areas to focus on.

Do you know how much time the typical business owner is actually productive in an 8-hour day? 60 minutes!

That said, there is always a lot of busy work to do but that’s the stuffing not the turkey:

  • Responding to email
  • Talking with vendors
  • HR
  • Helping at the front counter 
  • Chatting  
  • Pressing  

It’s all work but it doesn’t move the needle. 

How do you get focused?

I’ve found that blocking time on your calendar is the key to creating a proactive space. I strongly recommend everyone block non-negotiable “power hours” three times a week where you focus solely on being productive. 

Here are the rules I encourage people to follow when setting power hours: 

  • First off, despite the name, I recommend scheduling them for 90 minutes, not an hour. 90 minutes is the magical number you can pay attention to any single task, without having to take a break.
  • Choose a time that fits your power zone. 
  • ‘Non-negotiable’ means exactly that: you must do it. Learn to say “no” nicely to requests and interruptions such as meetings, calls from vendors, or last-minute requests.
  • Prepare everything – whatever you need to crush it– ahead of these power hours. This time isn’t about looking busy, it’s about true, nose-to-the-grindstone getting things done.
  • Announce this time and tell everyone about it, to ensure you do not get off-track. Soon, who knows – others might follow suit.

You will see real results quickly if you stick to this at least three times per week.

Planning is the key.

I had a terrible lawyer who had a great quote: “Pick the targets that you can hit and hit the targets that you pick.” He never did that himself but the saying has proven a good mantra for me over the years. 

That said, hitting your target requires identifying the right targets. That makes strategic planning important. I recommend designing a plan that you revisit and refine often. What should this plan include?

Things like: 

  • The top 10 things impacting your business. The who, what, where, and why that you need to be successful.
  • A short summary of the things that are affecting your business.
  • Trends and evolving market opportunities. Think about the perfect customers that would be open to your latest product or offer and test it with a call.
  • Competition. What does the competitive landscape look like? Are you prepared to respond to the opportunity?
  • Know yourself: Think about your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, and where you might need help. 

A list keeps you focused. Here’s what your day can look like. Unlike your strategic plan, which focuses on goals, your tactical plan will focus on what you need to do to make things happen. Break down the actions required to hit your goal by week.

Here’s a nuanced example of a tactical plan:

  • Review the lost customer list and reach out to several of them.
  • Walk through your plant and inspect your pressing pads.
  • Ask employees how they are feeling.
  • Look carefully and know the state of your business. Seeing is a powerful thing.

The point is, if you can get really crisp insights, you can begin to be a better boss and owner. Not only will that give you more peace of mind, it’ll also make you much more consistent, which is what leaders need to be steady, kind, and focused.

One word to the wise on these tactical plans – be kind to yourself. That way, if everything goes right, you can tell the family to pack their bags for Bali.

In my experience, good owners do all three.

I’ve met owners who are real go-getters, who never quit. They might not even know what they are hunting, but they hunt so relentlessly, and they hit their numbers. Like sharks they are always swimming.

This is great, but these guys and gals aren’t great forecasters and aren’t strategic with their time. For that reason, they tend to boom-and-bust.

Conversely, I’ve seen other owners who are master planners. They can tell you everything about their business, the market, the latest trends, on and on. They know when to cut their losses and when to put their shoulder into it. But they don’t pick up the phone and talk with their customers.

This can be so frustrating because while they have all of the information in their head, they don’t execute.

The best owners make a commitment to try something new every day to improve the use of their time. They are relentless, showing the grit that it takes to be a great manager and owner. But they also have a clear picture and have a strategic view of the business and their tools. And they really understand what it takes to hit their number, and therefore are killers.

Those are the owners who ultimately have long, successful multigenerational businesses. 

You can become one of these owners – it really starts with getting control of your time.