Drinking straight out of the firehose is something we entrepreneurs love to do.
At least, we convince ourselves we love to do it.
We hear terms like “Rise and Grind” and we think that success is derived from living a coffee-and-Red-Bull-fueled life of no sleep. 15-hour days and a constant state of attacking to-dos as if we’re Black Panther fighting Thanos’ army of Outriders in Avengers: Infinity War.
Too many entrepreneurs have bastardized the term “productivity” to mean “doing more stuff,” when in reality it’s actually about doing less to achieve more.
You’re in Denial
“My schedule has no ‘fat’ in it. No bullshit. It’s pretty streamlined.”
I hear those claims frequently from people who have asked me to coach them because they feel overwhelmed from a workday that is “too busy” but not productive enough.
So when people tell me there’s no waste in their day, I simply don’t believe them.
Most of the people with whom I work are entrepreneurs or C-level executives, and they either are trying to pack too many “to-dos” into their day, spending time on tasks that should be delegated, and/or spending way too much time on tasks in general.
They come to me for help because they know something’s wrong. And, despite their claims that their schedule is fat-free – we’re always able to identify the waste that is causing them to spin their wheels.
Productivity Does Not Mean More Activity
There are way too many people who think the term “productivity” means cramming more tasks into your day.
They think it means coming into work earlier and/or staying later.
That’s not productivity, it’s simply more activity.
The actual definition of productivity is, “The effectiveness of productive effort, as measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input.”
The rate of output per unit of input.
In other words: Do less to achieve more.
When you think of those days in which you feel like you actually got some big things accomplished; days in which you feel like you weren’t just spinning your wheels — these are days in which you did take a straight line to your outcome.
Unfortunately, what I’ve discovered is that most people’s days feel more like a squiggly line (or an endless maze of right and left turns) than a straight line.
Despite all the activity, that maze often doesn’t even lead to your desired outcome.
That is certainly not productivity.
Audit Your Inputs
Your straight line is distorted by inputs. Some inputs are good, some are bad.
Many inputs are total B.S. Take, for instance, most meetings, conference calls, emails, social media — all those time sucks that tire you out but don’t bring you any closer to your desired outcome.
You should regularly audit your inputs to identify those 20% of inputs that are bringing you 80% of the results. This is often referred to as the “Pareto Principle” or the “80/20” rule.
Once you identify that 20% — look to see how you can eliminate the other 80% of inputs that don’t move you toward your outcomes.
If this doesn’t work — take a pen and piece of paper and write down a very detailed description of your “perfect day”. This would be a day in which you achieved your outcomes, don’t feel like you’re spinning your wheels, and have a sense of fulfillment.
Which inputs contributed to this “perfect day?” And which inputs did you skip to help achieve this perfect day?
Continuously and radically auditing your inputs to weed out the waste is so vital to achieving truly productivity days and building a life of freedom and fulfillment.
Define Your Outcomes
In my coaching course, we spend considerable time and effort working to clearly define my clients’ Vision Statements — those 1-2 sentences they want to sum up their lives.
Yes, their “Why” … their Purpose.
And then, each year, we work to set very clear, very specific objectives.
Working backwards, we then set very clear outcomes for months, weeks and years, so that each and every day you are moving toward your yearly objective; and your life’s vision.
This all requires living each day with intention. Setting clear outcomes for your day and then defining the straightest line to those outcomes.
Unclog the Drain
Okay, here’s where the “lower your expectations” part comes in: Too many people expect way too much from their day.
Planning the day (if even planning at all) for the best-case scenario instead of for reality.
In short: They are hoping to accomplish way too many outcomes.
Cramming in calls, meetings, memo writing, presentations, commutes, etc. — the list goes on and on.
Even if we assume that you’ve cut out needless inputs, you should still aim to accomplish less outcomes in your day.
Why? Simple — you’re clogging the drain with too much shit.
You try to shove so many outcomes down the drain, that everything simply stops flowing. When that happens, you’re late for one meeting, and then a call, and then your lunch meeting — and next thing you know, you’re getting home at 9 p.m. and you haven’t really accomplished anything in your day.
Turn off the water. Step away. Grab your plunger.
You’re expecting that you can accomplish way too much in the day. You’re setting too many outcomes for the day.
Remember the definition of productivity? It’s not about cramming more stuff into your day — it’s about doing less to achieve more.
When you define less outcomes for your day, you’ll unclog the drain, and you’ll find that you’ll begin to achieve more each and every week.
Live Your Days Intentionally
So, yes, you can still [and should] set big audacious objectives, strive for the best — and do so while defining the right, clear — but less — outcomes for the day.
When you become intentional about your days, and begin to define the outcomes that really, absolutely, positively matter — you’ll find yourself doing less to achieve more.
And you’ll do it in a way that feels a lot more like flowing than grinding.