What in the world have I gotten done today? I’ve I asked myself this question on many days. There have been days where I’ve sat in front of my laptop all day doing “stuff”. When I looked up at the end of the day, I realized that I hadn’t really gotten anything done. Sure, I’d replied to some emails, created to-do lists and maybe gotten some things organized, but what had I really accomplished. What had I done to move my business forward. Things that are going to help my business grow and hit the bottom line? Sadly, on some days the answer was NOT. ONE. THING. I had to learn how to be more productive.
I love online courses. I LOVE to learn new things. I guess it’s kind of my obsession. But there were times when I was taking courses and not much else. I’d dutifully take notes, listen to every module, do all the homework, but not really implement it in my business before moving on to the next course. I guess I had a little bit of the shiny object syndrome. So, I was REALLY busy, but not productive.
If I asked you, you would likely tell me that your day is busy. That you really don’t have much time to spare and you have a lot on your plate that never seems to get finished. While I don’t doubt you mean what you say, I do wonder if you are engaging in busy work or productive work throughout the day. Did you know there is a difference between busy work and productive work?
Allow me to explain…
Busy work looks productive, but it may be a false sense of productivity. Being busy may include activities that don’t lead to income generation, or activities that take time but don’t give a return on the time investment.
Here are some examples of busy work:
- Reading non-essential emails that don’t pertain to work
- Browsing through Facebook or other social media
- Printing material to “read later”
- Moving materials from one place to another in your office
- Answering the phone every time it rings
- Allowing others to interrupt you – no matter what they need
According to Lifehacker.com, it takes nearly 25 minutes to get refocused on a task after getting distracted. That means that even if you’re interrupted only 8 times a day during an 8-hour workday, you’ll spend almost half of your time trying to get refocused. Talk about being unproductive!
These examples illustrate how we can lose time in an activity that isn’t generating a vital outcome. Being distracted from productive work leads to time slipping away and a sense of overwhelm. Though the tasks may feel important and even unavoidable, you can manage them in better ways. Here are some tips:
- Filter emails or screen them by subject before opening.
- Set a time of day to check your email rather than responding to every single notification
- Use an app like the Pomodoro Timer to restrict and manage social media usage.
- Only print material when you know you are going to read it that day because it’s on your to-do list.
- Clean and tidy your office at the end of the day so it is fully functional at the start of business.
- Set office and phone hours and stick to them. Use voicemail and close the door when you are focused on productive work.
- Create your to-do list at the end of the day so that you can get your day of to a productive start the next morning
- Take breaks
- Do the hardest or your least favorite task first
Busy work is often disguised as productive work, but it doesn’t generate a money-making or vital outcome. In contrast, productive work directly affects sales, growth, or other targets you have set.
Here are some examples of productive work:
- Crafting copy for a blog post or new website
- Writing and sending an email with an offer for your tribe
- Setting up a new sales page
- Developing a new program or service and taking steps towards launch
- Setting up sales calls with interested clients
- Adding content to a membership site
These activities generate leads or income and are considered productive. These types of activities should be done early and intentionally each day, prior to non-essential busy work that matters but doesn’t result in income.
I used to put off the things that I hated to do until the end of the day. There would be this cloud hanging over me knowing I had to get that task done. So then by the end of the day, I was tired and a little bit cranky.
I read a book by Brian Tracy “Eat That Frog”, that recommends doing our hardest task at the beginning of the day. This helped to completely change my work day. Rather than dreading the rest of the day, now I looked forward to it, knowing that everything else was something I enjoyed doing. I was so much more productive.
Learning the difference between busy work and productive work can be the ticket to change for your productivity and help make progress each day in your business and your life. Get focused and engage in productive tasks before you get busy.
To Measure Progress, Set Your Metrics and Track Them
Data is the key to understanding anything. From science to sales, data drives decisions. One of the best ways to gather data is to track and measure your progress. Reviewing the data allows you to make tweaks and better decisions as you move forward.
Anything can be tracked – time, preferences, usages – anything. They key is to know what to track, for how long, and what to do with the data when it is collected.
Example: Tracking Time-This is an excellent way to determine if you are making progress towards your goals and help you make changes if they are warranted. In this instance, tracking your time as you engage in an activity can reveal if the activity is worth the time it takes. Does it contribute to or detract from your goals?
The how of tracking is fairly straightforward. There are apps that can help you track your time, record it, and offer graphs to review. Try an app like Freckle or Toggl and see what you think. Review your progress consistently; look for patterns that might warrant changes.
Example: Weight Loss– Losing weight is another straightforward goal with easy to track data that will give you insight into your progress. Begin with your current weight or body measurements and consistently weigh or measure as times goes by. Track your weight loss as well as taking note of any supporting data such as what you ate, how much, and what type of exercise you engaged in. These all correlate together to give you data that you can review and change if you need to speed up or slow down your progress.
There are many apps out there to help with tracking weight loss and exercise. Try an app like My Fitness Pal or use a Fitbit to keep accurate records of your progress.
Example: Sales Trends: If your goal is to increase sales for a specific offering, it is important to track how, when, and why your customers are buying. There are many pieces of data you can collect and review. Here are a few to consider: Ask your client before the sale how they discovered you or review your website analytics for where your traffic is coming from. Do an exit interview at the end of a sale and ask what the deciding factor was to go with your firm. Ask for a testimonial and review the consistent positive feedback.
When reviewing your sales data, look for patterns. Are your sales seasonal? Did they increase after a webinar or guest appearance? Are traffic and sales coming from a specific blog post, sales page, or social media post? Tracking this information makes it simple to replicate the activity again for consistent results.
What if you didn’t close the sale? Ask your prospects why they didn’t go with your product or service. This data can help you find ways to improve your sales process.
Tracking your progress is an essential way to gather data which will help you prove where your time is well spent and determine the best pathway to success.
Why Setting Meaningful Goals is Important
Setting goals is not a new concept but setting goals that are too large or too small is a trap worth avoiding. When setting a goal, it is important that the goal be meaningful and forces you to grow in the process. It should feel scary, but not cause you to panic. If a goal is too easy, it will be reached, but not much is really gained. If a goal is too big, you can end up discouraged or lose money or resources unnecessarily. There is a tool that helps create effective and attainable goals – The S.M.A.R.T. method.
S.M.A.R.T. goals are an excellent way to set a criterion for a goal. This acronym is a great tool for setting goals that are not too hard or too easy.
S = Specific. A goal must be specific to be attainable with focused effort. Example: I want to grow my email list by 10 people per week for the next three months.
M = Measurable. A goal must be measured to review its merit. Example: Counting the number of new subscribers each week during a three-month period.
A = Attainable. A goal must be bigger than you expect possible, but noo big it is likely to fail. Example: I want to grow my email list by ten thousand people in three months.
R = Relevant. The goal must be relevant to the outcome desired. Example: I want to grow my email list for my vegan recipe blog by 10 people per week – who live a vegan lifestyle and want to learn new ways to prepare food – for a three-month period.
T = Timely. The goal must be timely for the space it occupies. Example: I want to grow my email list for my vegan recipe blog by 10 people per week who live a vegan lifestyle and want to learn new ways to prepare food throughout the holiday season from October through December.
By following the S.M.A.R.T. goal setting criterion, your goals will be focused and attainable. Once you have reached them, you can set new ones again and again – reaching higher and higher every time. Study this method. Print this acronym and keep it handy in your work space or during your strategic planning meetings, and you will be set whenever you need to create a new goal.
Once you set your big scary goal, break it down into more manageable bite-sized pieces.
Start with your annual goal and determine what big project you will tackle each quarter in order to make your annual goal.
For example, if your goal is to make $50,000 from your online business this year, your quarterly goals might be:
QUARTER 1: Create a plan to increase traffic to your site and increase ad revenue and email list subscribers
QUARTER 2: Work on finding potential clients (if a service-based business) or outlining a new product (mini-launch) for a product-based business
QUARTER 3: Work to onboard 5 new clients or create a new product launch
QUARTER 4: Work on creating an affiliate marketing campaign
You can take these goals and continue working to break them down further into monthly, weekly, and daily goals. You now have your blueprint for being your most productive and setting yourself up for success.