The #1 Thing You Can Do to Increase Your Productivity
June 1, 2020

The #1 Thing You Can Do to Increase Your Productivity

Do you ever look at your to do list and feel completely overwhelmed? If so, you’re not alone. 

My friend and mentor, Matthew Kimberley says that overwhelm doesn’t come from having too much to do; it comes from not knowing the next step. And I believe he’s right. However, sometimes it’s hard to filter through all the “stuff” on your to do list to pinpoint what your next step should be. 

In that case, your next step may be to delete some items from your list. While that can be incredibly hard to come to grips with, the reality is that all those extra little tasks may be keeping you from accomplishing the most important tasks.

Photo by Cadeau Maestro from Pexels

Busy, Busy...But not productive

In our society, there’s a certain pride that is associated with being busy. I like to pay attention to how often people talk about how busy they are. Interestingly enough, these people rarely give any details about what, exactly, it is they are so busy doing. Instead, they just talk about being busy.

I once was  at a wedding where two family members got into an argument over who was the busiest. As I listened to them trying to shout each other down, I kept thinking, “That ain’t right!”

Truthfully, busyness is more of a curse than an accomplishment to be proud of. Being busy often prevents us from achieving the important things we aspire to. That’s why I often remind my friends and clients, “Busy does not equal productive.”

Walt Hampton, the author of The Power Principles of Time Mastery: Do Less. Make More. Have More Fun., likes to playfully remind people about the “busyness trap.” If he asks someone how they are doing and they reply with, “Oh, I’ve just been so busy!” Walt responds, “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. I was going to refer a client to you, but if you’re too busy, I’ll guess I’ll have to refer them to someone else.” 

His point is simple: When we prioritize being busy, we close the doors to better opportunities.

Productivity booster: Just Say No

So how do we stop being “busy” and start being productive? To steal from the anti-drug campaign of the 1980s and early 1990s, “Just Say No.” Really, it’s that simple!

And yes, I get it. Saying no to opportunities is really hard to do! It’s even harder as service providers oriented around helping our clients. With a helpful mindset, it’s all too easy to say “yes” whenever anyone asks for your assistance.

However, if we always say yes, even in an attempt to please others, then we can’t help but fall into the “busyness trap.”

I view productivity as getting the right tasks done, more so than crossing off a bunch of items off your to do list. 

In order to be productive, we must say “No” to some tasks in order to make time for the important tasks.

As Steve Jobs once said:

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I'm actually as proud of the things we haven't done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”

- Steve Jobs -

When you say “yes” to every request, you can’t focus on the truly important tasks. Your day will be consumed by ancillary items. Pretty soon you’ll look at your to do list and be overwhelmed by the amount of tasks on it. And then you won’t be able to identify the really important tasks requiring your attention.

How to Say No to increase productivity

Even when we know that we need to say no, it can be difficult. We feel a moral obligation to say “yes,” especially if we feel like the reasoning behind our “no” isn’t valid enough. Still, we must practice saying no in order to make room for the important “yeses”.

Michael Hyatt provides 5 strategies for saying no:

  1. Never say yes on the spot. This provides time to consider the opportunity and its impact on your other priorities.

  2. Don’t feel the need to give a long list of excuses. A simple no is all that is required; you don’t need to justify your decision to others.

  3. Limit your commitments. Hyatt suggests limiting yourself to one major and one minor volunteer opportunity at a time.

  4. Remember that you don’t have to say yes just because you are capable. Just because you can perform a task well does not mean you are obligated to pick the opportunity up.

  5. Hit the delete button when guilt sneaks in. You are the only one that knows what’s best for you, your family, and your business. Others don’t know that as well as you do. And remember, you don’t have to justify your decision to them. Stand firm in your polite no.

While saying no to others can be difficult, using the “positive no” strategy can help. Hyatt describes the positive no as a “yes-no-yes” response:

  1. Start by saying yes to yourself and protecting what is important to you. It’s also good to affirm the other person in this step.

  2. Provide a matter-of-fact no that has clear boundaries. Don’t waffle around by saying “maybe” -  if even it’s along the lines of “Maybe I can say yes in the future.”

  3. End with a yes that affirms the relationship and offers another potential solution to the person’s request. You can still provide help and value without accepting the burden of a new request, and isn’t that why we have troubles saying no?

Instead of focusing on how to make money for your business, focus on how you can serve your clients. 

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Putting your new productivity helper to work

By focusing on our priorities, we can accomplish the things we want. That means saying yes to the right tasks, and saying no to everything else. And yes, that can be hard. It takes some getting used to in the beginning.

When I work with clients, we work on several areas to bolster their productivity levels:

  1. Clarify direction. You can’t say yes to the right things if you don’t know what they are. So we start by getting crystal clear about your desires and goals.
  2. Strategize actions. Once you know where you want to go, you’ll need a plan to get there. Strategizing your actions gives you that plan.
  3. Upgrade skill sets. Sometimes, once we strategize actions, we realize that we need to develop or improve certain skills in order to get there. For example, many clients need to enhance their “saying no” skills. So we identify the skills they’ll need and put actions in place to develop those skills.
  4. Optimize your environment. Your environment drives a lot of your success. Optimizing your environment may include finding commitments that we need to release. It can also include simpler tasks like decluttering and outsourcing.
  5. Master your psychology. Nothing gets in our way more than our own psychology, especially our fears and doubts. Conquering those thoughts and mastering your psychology will catapult you to success.

Applying your new productivity goals

Do you need help achieving your goals? Sign up for a LiveYour RV Lifestyle Session, we will:

  • Bring clarity to your vision of living the RV lifestyle
  • Breakdown your “why” surrounding the lifestyle
  • Breakthrough your fears to build the foundation to your success

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