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Reflections on Productivity

24 December 2009

Optimization and productivity have been high priorities in business this year, especially in sales.  Since the end of the year tends to be a time of reflection, I’ve been asking myself how I can be more productive personally next year as well as  how I can manage my consulting business to achieve maximum productivity while helping our clients attain the same. While it may seem counter-intuitive, the answer I keep coming up with is “do less.”

I suspect that my own recent experience is representative of many overworked business owners and executives. For me, the last two years have been whirlwinds of high-volume output and  high-volume activity. Last year I wrote a book.  This year, to promote the book’s Sales 2.0 message, I filled in my calendar with webinar presentations, speaking engagements, and interviews. I wrote articles, blogged, tweeted, and kept my content fresh on LinkedIn and Facebook. In my spare time, I managed my company through the recession and a major restructure. My sleep, healthy eating, and exercise suffered.  My evenings and weekends were spent meeting deadlines rather than recharging and spending time with friends and family.  I am now looking back on the year in an attempt to determine which of these activities had the most impact: in client engagement and success and on my own company’s revenues.    I also now see, in my moment of introspection, that some of my best thoughts, my brightest ideas, my most satisfying realizations have come after a day off, during a long run, or in conversation over a long lunch.

Many of us rush around doing things but don’t measure or contemplate how or if they are contributing to our productivity and ultimate goals.  We don’t take time away from work to learn new things or just let our brains relax and dream of possibilities. As we tell our clients managing sales teams, “increased activity is nice, but ultimately only increased results matter.” In other words, productivity requires a focus on on high value activities (and prospects) and a system or process for understanding how to prioritize.

Furthermore, I believe that down time – time away from our day-to-day work demands – is essential to reaching our full potential. With contemplation and analysis, and time for reading and thinking and exploring ideas with others, we can figure out how to be more productive.  In 2010, I strive to do more of the right activities and fewer of those that don’t produce results.  I am starting by allowing myself to take a week off to further reflect on the past year and create a vision for the new one.

What do you think?  How are you planning to increase productivity in the coming year?