By Ryan Neal, an EO Seattle member as well as president and cofounder of Blueprint Consulting Services
The transition from individual contributor to leader—whether you’re promoted within a company or you start your own business—comes with a unique set of challenges. Chief among them: Maintaining your productivity.
Talent and experience help us become influential, even critical, contributors to a business. However, once we move from being a high-performing contributor to being a leader, time becomes scarce as choices grow more difficult. Meanwhile, the organization continues to rely on us for our expertise, vision and guidance.
Leaders and entrepreneurs face this challenge every day. And how we handle this challenge has a significant impact on our productivity.
The Secrets of Successful Leaders
Instead of writing a blog espousing my own thoughts about what makes me productive, I took advantage of time with my fellow entrepreneurs on a recent retreat. This group of business owners—in varying industries and with their own national and international reach—are some of the most productive people I know.
I asked them one question, “What is the one thing you do to be your most productive?” Here’s what they said:
“Review a daily dashboard,” says Kelly Grehan, owner of Hiway Transportation Services. “Establish a daily feed of metrics and review it first thing every morning. It keeps you in touch with the daily rhythm of your business and lets you be proactive by making small changes in your company.”
“Delegate,” says Mario Stadtlander, owner of Eagle Promotions. “It allows me to focus on the high level aspects of my business and it promotes inclusion and participation with the rest of my team. I wouldn’t be nearly as productive as I am without the great support of my team.”
“Map your business rhythm to your customer,” says Xavier Peterson, owner of QI Security. “Many of our customers are on the east coast. When we started our days at 9 a.m. PST, we found that we were playing catch up throughout the day. We improved our productivity greatly by changing the existing rhythm of our business from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. to 6 a.m.–2 p.m. This allowed us to stay at pace with our customers and remove all of the catch up time from our day.”
“Write down everything,” says Troy Ferguson, owner of Red Rocks Camps. “I have a terrible memory as well as a healthy level of ADHD, which combine to make me very effective operating in the moment. One thing I’ve learned is to play to both my strengths and my weaknesses, so I carry a notebook with me at all times and write everything down. This helps me always be present and not worry that I might forget the next big idea for my company.”
“Schedule proactively,” says Theresa Fette, owner of Provident Trust Group. “I take Sunday night to plan my week and prioritize the most important things I want to accomplish. I also take the first fifteen minutes of each day and set out my daily goals and expectations. I move the highest priority items to the top of my calendar and move the lowest priorities off my calendar if possible. This allows me to know going into each day the top items I should be focusing on each day. I choose the morning to do this work because that’s when I’m most productive; I try to load this time up with as much as possible.”
These are great suggestions, and my team and I use many of them. I would also add these tips:
1. Create a personal regimen and discipline: Make your daily core schedule as regimented and repeatable as possible so it can operate on autopilot. A constantly shifting, unpredictable schedule can often lead to inefficient and scattered days. A predictable schedule, on the other hand, allows you to know the when, where and what of your next meeting without having to rely on a calendar. This helps you focus on higher-level strategic issues throughout the day. It also leaves room for the unexpected exception.
2. Give your mind time to wander: Create time in your day where you engage in activities that free your mind to disengage. I choose yoga and jogging; others choose meditation or bike riding. Whatever your preference, include the activity in your daily cadence to unlock your mind from the oppression of the immediate and allow it to process the important things in life.
What’s your favorite way to maximize productivity?