Let's Face It, You Can't Work Harder

I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt that if you’re a regular reader of mine, or of anybody’s for that matter, then you’re putting in above average effort when it comes to developing your selling skills.  Most people just aren’t that interested in getting any better, so count yourself among the dedicated.

No, It’s Not About Efficiency

Don’t kid yourself.  Chasing infinite efficiency is a fool’s errand.  You’re a human being, not a robot.  The water cooler is not the only reason you don’t put in eight productive hours at the office.  Attention spans wander.  Interruptions and distractions are real.  Working remotely is only kind of a solution.  Sure, the freedom is nice and it eliminates the commute… But by removing that time constraint, do you really get any more done or do you just take longer to do it?

How many times have you essentially locked yourself in a room for six hours to meet a project deadline?  It’s probably been awhile (maybe college?), even though you’d essentially get two days worth of productivity out of the exercise.  It sounds like torture though, doesn’t it?

It’s one thing to pull a lever on an assembly line for eight hours, and even those workers get regular breaks.  It’s another thing entirely to do the challenging mental and creative work in order to succeed in business today.

Manage Your Expectations

“Just one more thing…”  Sure, you can squeeze that in…  Then you’re late for your next meeting.  We’ve told ourselves the story for a long time now, that if we’re just able to do more than the next person, we’re more valuable to the team.  That’s true to a point, but that task list soon becomes counterproductive, and actually negatively impacts your ability to perform those tasks.  That’s a problem.

You’re an optimist.  I get it, you really want to help.  But you have to take a good assessment of your capabilities to make sure that what you’re doing is really what needs to be done.  That means not only understanding what your priorities are at the moment, but setting appropriate boundaries around those activities.  This means saying ‘no’ more often.

Consider Your Core Values

What do you really believe in?  What is it that you’re working for?  You have to consider these things with almost every task you perform.

“Is what I’m doing right now going to help me to get to where I want to be in the future?”  We agree to do so many things that don’t pass this simple test, and that saps our energy and ability to do the things that really matter.

I’m not saying that you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.  It’s more likely that you’ll actually do more of the things that you’ve been putting off.  Let’s face it, how many times is anything that comes across your desk more appealing than the project that is very important but not so urgent?

Just because you crossed a bunch of items off a list doesn’t mean you got a lot done.

Align Your Ethic With Your Ethics

It’s not that you aren’t capable of better.  You need to rethink the concept of ‘doing more,’ and say ‘no’ more often.  Believe it or not, firm boundaries will help you get more done.  You have to be disciplined enough to tune out distractions, and reconsider how many of them you subject yourself to.  Ultimately, you need to remember what’s really most important, and then act accordingly.

There are a handful of accomplishments you have in mind each day.  We all have them.  The goals you know will make you feel productive at the end of the day.  The goals, if left unachieved, leave you feeling like your day was a failure.  What are those things?  Make it a point to take care of those things immediately.  If you can’t do them first thing, schedule them and stick to that schedule.  Delegate any interruption or new project until after these five things are completed, either to another person or to a later spot on your schedule.

Give this a shot for a week and tell me how much more productive you were.  It’ll seem like you’re doing less.  That may actually be the case.  But what would it look like if the only things you accomplished were the most important things?  What would that do for your performance at work?  Your performance at home?  You’re not going to be able to eliminate everything, but with your focus in the right place you’ll be able to be more disciplined and get more things done without working any harder.

Now go out and be great.