Create a seriously big picture plan, fall in love with percentages, develop a spine of steel, work in lists of three, and you got your productivity sorted!
A Word Carnival post hosted by Tea Silvestre, The Word Chef.
National levels of productivity as defined by such weighty terms as GDP per hour worked, showed that the rest of the world lagged well behind Luxembourg in the 2007 OECD chart.
Now what do the good burghers of Luxembourg have over the rest of us, that their productivity levels are nearly twice that of many other countries in the OECD?
Analysis of the national characteristic of those Luxembourgeois, (true, I looked it up!), which contribute to this remarkable achievement might be better left to social economists, more qualified to comment than I.
However, the point of that somewhat tortured introduction, was to posit the theory that none of these statistics would reflect the ocean of sweat represented by small businesses’ prodigious effort to pay themselves and an army of outsourcers.
Productivity and small business
No, our productivity and how it impacts on our lives today, and into the future, is left to our own efforts to improve. Variously, and with wildly differing success rates.
Speak to any small business person or business owner operator. They are universally overwhelmed. If they aren’t, it’s rarely because they have their _ together.
They may be managing current business. But if that’s only paying the bills, then there’s a gaping hole in what must be achieved to build the business, or transition it, or succeed from it.
The push pull of the Internet
We laud, love and could not do without the Internet as a source of endless opportunity and increased productivity. It’s also a massive contributor to business owner overwhelm.
It offers us effective relationship marketing systems, automated process solutions and a constant kaleidoscope of life-changing information on the one hand. And the frustration of unrealised opportunity, information overload and distraction on the other.
So what do we in small business do, both online and offline, to forever alter our productivity levels toward more output for less work, while leveraging this remarkable tool.
First – the seriously big picture – create a succession plan. .
If you start and continue in business without having a succession plan, you are doing yourself a disservice. The creation and implementation of a succession plan forces you to come to terms with a number of important facets of your life, not just your business:
1. How long do you want to work?
2. How much money do you need to retire/do something else?
3. What would you do, if you could do something else?
4. Is your business saleable or could it be taken over?
5. If not, can you make it?
6. Who would buy it/take it over and are they in your business already?
7. What do you need to do to foster that outcome?
8. What are you doing right, or could improve, on to achieve this?
9. What could you do now that might provide you residual income into the future?
Answering these questions is a whole-of-life focussing exercise.
You may be decades away from retiring, or changing what you do, but if you plan for succession, you start to focus on those activities that will achieve those long term goals. You have created a vision and it’s relevance to you and your life into the future.
Fall in love with percentages
One of the problems of condensing your succession plan into 10 years rather than 30 is that the pressure increases exponentially. A good reason to do it sooner rather than later. If you are pushed and pulled in divergent and distracting directions, your productivity dissipates at an alarming speed.
My mentor, a man of 70, sat me down recently. You are juggling way too many balls in the air, he said, focus must be your mantra. Here’s how he helped me, and it was all about percentages.
First, I needed to supplement our living costs to pay the bills. He worked with me to understand exactly how much of my week should be devoted to that task, given how much income is required in a week. I work 60 hours a week. We allocated a percentage to this activity – 60% of my time or 36 hours a week.
Establishing a routine where client tasks alone occupy 60% of my day from 8-2pm, has focused my attention. So to be super effective in that allocated time, there is much I have come to grips with.
1. No more email alerts. I only open emails before 2pm if I know there is client correspondence in there, otherwise they are ignored.
2. A list of three, (more about that later)
3. No rabbit holes
4. A necessity to work successfully with selected outsourcers.
Second, there is the activity to build an authority blog (about blogging) and an online community.
As this activity gives my offline business credibility, it’s in synergy with earning a living. It also has the potential to earn a reasonable residual income. We allocated it 20% of the time to this -12 hours.
This has been hard, as it has meant sticking only to what I must do, rather than what I would love to do. None the less, the blog continues to build as does the community.
Important note: If you are getting the essentials done, then do not to berate yourself about the things left undone. Feelings of guilt are so enervating and counterproductive to productivity.
Third, there is the pursuit of residual income through speaking and internet marketing activities. I had this pegged as the most important, but with out ongoing cash-flow, then very little else is possible. The balance of 20%, the remaining 12 hours are devoted to this.
This has required the most discipline. As anyone knows working online, there will never be enough time in a lifetime to absorb, learn, decipher, select, act on and work the opportunities available online.
So I have chosen one pathway only, that works with our skill sets – Kindle Publishing. Whatever sits well with your skills, that matches your interest and passion, just choose that and get really good at it. It’s always about application and persistence. The grasshopper syndrome is not good for productivity at all.
Spine of steel
Simple. If you only have an allocated number of hours a week, then stop working for free. Only work for those clients that value you and will pay you what you’re worth. Ask upfront for what you’re worth or have the courage to say no. Get paid. Develop a spine of steel.
Nothing is more likely to take your productivity and hurl it out of the window, then working hard and not getting paid. If this is a difficult area for you, get a coach. It will pay way more than it costs to resolve any business issues you have, with a coach.
List of three
Some of us are list addicts. Others carry everything in their head. This is a good system for both to keep you focussed, tackling the hardest tasks first and keeping your productivity finely tuned each day.
At the end of your working week go through your lists or everything you have still to do. Write a fresh list of everything that was not done, in no particular order.
Add to it everything you have to do the following week.
On the first day of your working week, select the top three, the absolute must-do items from that list. If they are complex items write against each, the three things that must be done to achieve it. Once you have completed those, and if you still have time left, add the next three to the list.
If you have clients, then educate them not to expect unrealistic timeframes. That way you can juggle the lists to ensure you have not set an expectation you cannot meet.
There is nothing more rewarding, energising and productive, then ticking off the most important things you need to have done in a day. You can sleep easy knowing that you got your _ done today!
And always leave time to blog or learn to blog! Don’t forget to download last month’s awesome Collected Wisdoms from the Word Carnival Team: How to find and connect with your ideal customers.