There are a million and one things out there we have all read about productivity and efficiency. I've read The Four Hour Work Week, Getting Things Done, and Rework. These books offer many helpful hints, but they also have quite a bit of theory. Over the past month I've made four changes in my life that I can attribute, not just increased productivity to, but increased effectiveness at reaching my goals. We can be very productive at doing things that don't help us.
1. Supplement output with commission-based assistance.
One of the things I do most is speak. I am constantly trying to expand my speaking capabilities. Since the beginning of this year, I have been learning as much as I can about the speaking industry. I've always enjoyed being able to mentor and coach other like minded individuals, speaking has given me a way to do this on a multiplicative level.
There was just one problem — I couldn't get enough contacts out quick enough to really drive it as my main business. I didn't have time to do the leg-work — calling people, pitching, cold calling, and emailing. So I set out to find someone who I could pay a generous commission salary to based on their ability to get me booked. I couldn't afford another a full time employee, but I could to pay someone well as long as I knew the money was still going to keep coming in. I discovered that I could apply this to market research and product development as well. I discovered that people are picking up more of these type of jobs in order to supplement their existing income during this tough economy. I've learned that both my commission based consultants and myself can benefit highly from this flexible model.
2. You've got to have your personal life straightened out before you can focus on work.
Transitions can be messy, whether it's preparing to move to a new city (like me), or going through a sort of 'mid-life' restructuring. I've found that I am not as effective at getting things done or producing quality work if I have personal problems on-going. There are two things I think that must be recognized as a result of this. 1) You cannot control everything that happens in your personal life, you can only do your best to act and respond to it as adeptly as possible. 2) You must find a way to place the two in near perfect synergy if you are to really drive your business forward.
What is most important to you? Make a list – both personal items and business items. As entrepreneurs we are usually struggling to maintain a balance between the two, but I will be the first to say, the most effective model might not always be a complete balance.Â To really push my business forward I had to make personal sacrifices in some areas and new commitments in others.
3. If something doesn't contribute to your end goal — say NO.
I would love to be able to attend every event where someone wants me to speak for free. I used to up until very recently. But then I realized that they weren't being fair and respective of my time, my career, or my services. Some people try to get as much as they can from you for free and expect you to be okay with it. I don't think those people should be on your short list of business partners. You owe it to yourself, your family, and anyone else you are helping support, to respectively decline these solicitations.
You should never rip people off, but people must understand that you are trying to make a living too. Strive to compromise on prices for speaking, consulting, and general business assistance. And don't expect to be able to make everyone happy, because the fact is, you won't always be able to.
Lastly, and most importantly for many of us. Get things done. Anything that has the potential to be more than an hour or so quick diversion respectively decline. I would get people asking me to make websites and I'd take hours in a day out to help them out, this pulled me away from my personal goals. You have to set limits, and if you're going to help someone for an on going basis, figure out if there isn't something that they can do to help you in return. Work linearly, work effectively.
4. Evaluate yourself regularly — Evaluate your strategy constantly.
I put the things I need to do in a task management program called ThingsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾. It's a great little program that allows me to see how things should be executed in order of their priority ranking or due date. If I miss a deadline it tells me how many days I'm over due and re-ranks accordingly. As I get things done I check them off, I also spend 30 minutes each Saturday going back over what I still need to do for the next week and ensuring that the things I accomplished were properly implemented and proved to be effective. I want to know if their effective because if they weren't, say for example a Google Ad Words campaign, I don't want to keep on running it.
The best entrepreneurs are able to constantly react to a changing market, changing customers needs, and changing delivery methods. If you're not making money after a few months of your current strategy, don't think that the business will miraculously pick up in a few more weeks. Spend your time re-evaluating your strategy and always seek customer feed back. Having regular conversations with peers in your field is also, I have found, an excellent way to keep yourself at maximum effectiveness.
Michael Costigan speaks to teens and adults about effective communication so that they may make better informed decisions together. Read more about Michael here.