Anyone willing to be honest about their performance and humble enough to ask for help can 5x their productivity by next week.
You have to be honest because you need a baseline to measure where your productivity currently is and after coaching 100s of leaders around the world, I’ve learned that humans are terrible at honest self-reporting. You also have to be honest about how you waste time. Social media, email, and low-level tasks (that feel good to cross off, but rarely create value) all compete for our attention.
And if we have fractured attention, there is no way we can meet our productivity potential, which brings me to my first point.
Ask what can I ignore today?
Distractions are all around us. Social media is designed to keep us on the platform. That’s why I use social media as a tool, not entertainment. Like this post, I will compose an answer and then I will move onto other work that will create value today. If I notice that I’m scrolling any infinite feed, I stop immediately. That’s a poor use of my time. Email is a distraction — it is a list of other people’s priorities for my day. I check email twice per day during specific time slots for 30 minutes each. I do what I can do and then I leave my inbox. During my busiest seasons, I ignore email 99% of my email (The 1% represents clients I work with).
If I put constraints around distractions, they have less influence on me.
Create some mental space.
In addition to distractions, you can ignore less impactful work.
When I think about increasing my productivity, I want to be real about what is my top priority. Everything else I will put in a separate container — a holding place so that the task doesn’t take any of my mental energy and so I can focus on my most meaningful work. I also find it helps to put these tasks on my calendar. If I know that I’ll get to these less impactful tasks later at some point, then I don’t worry about them. If I’m not worrying about all the little tasks, I can really move major tasks forward.
Ignoring less impactful work and putting them in my task inbox with a future date on it, allows me to get more of the right work done.
Here is how I 5x-ed my productivity this week.
My best tip to increase your productivity is to ask for help.
Years ago I built a content creation team for my second podcast, The School Leadership Series (Apple or iTunes). I did this because I asked leaders I coach to question traditions that no longer served them or their organization. I also applied this thinking to my business and realized I had an opportunity. If I cared about women in leadership and leaders of color, where did that show up in my work? I questioned if I even had to host my own podcast. So I formed a diverse team of leaders in education and asked for help. The School Leadership Series is now hosted by myself and a wonderfully diverse team of educators. Instead of creating 52 weeks of content, I create around 8.
I 5x-ed my productivity this week because I didn’t create any of the content that will be released Monday through Friday.
This freed me up to work on other important projects so I probably increased my productivity more than 5x.
And a secondary consequence was just as valuable as my productivity boost: the podcast was instantly better because the team provided more perspectives, stories, and actionable ideas for my audience than I could create on my own.