Editor's note: This Entrepreneur.com "Best Read'' was originally posted Jan. 22, 2015.
What defines an Elite Performer isn't how they show up when everything is going well. It’s the way they deliver when their best laid plans are falling apart. Peak productivity is less about luck, and more about intention and awareness. Regardless of your current situation, what business you’re in or what your goals are, productivity is crucial to improved results.
One of my favorite definitions of productivity: The use of your time, energy, intelligence, resources and opportunities in a manner calculated to move you measurably closer to your goals. In a time of constant movement, constant communication and continual achievement, the long list of to-dos makes us feel like we're never ahead. It seems like our days are controlling us versus us taking control of our days.
Here are six of my favorite tactics for dramatically increasing your productivity. Don’t try to put these into practice all at once. Rather, pick and choose the ones you believe will make the biggest difference in your business right away.
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In order to really thrive in entrepreneurship and business you must learn to shift from complexity to simplicity. When you get rid of all the noise in your head and focus on the few activities that matter most you’ll gain a new sense of awareness and motivation. Most of the things you do in your business don’t accelerate growth—they just ‘maintain’ at best. Don’t try to be great at fifty things. Be obsessed about the few things that can really move your business forward. You’re a lot more productive when you’re doing your highest value activities in uninterrupted blocks of time.
Related: Give Yourself Space to Think
2. Scheduling everything.
“ The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.”
The “trick” to productivity is deciding what you will work on at some point other than in the moment, and then to practicing that high-value work over and over until it’s natural, habitual and automatic. Here are my favorite questions to ask myself before I start my week.
What did I complete last week?
Did I focus on the 20 percent that creates 80 percent of results?
What must get done, no matter what, to solidify a successful week?
What are the rituals and routines I’m committed to that aren’t negotiable?
Who do I need to reach out to this week to elevate my thinking and move my business forward?
Make sure your commitments are intentional and strategic. Tie them to your monthly and yearly outcomes. The goal here is to invest your past experience into your future preparation.
3. Sell yourself.
The reason most people can’t focus consistently is because they haven't actually sold themselves on the task at hand or the goal they are trying to accomplish. By sold, I mean they have cut out the alternative. They know the importance of what they are doing and the purpose and ideal outcome they are seeking to attain. If you procrastinate, then you haven’t sold yourself on your goal or task yet. Don’t get yourself involved unless you are sold on the activity and its purpose in moving you forward.
4. Seize the day.
“How you spend your days is the greatest measure of who you're becoming.”
Start your day powerful. Focus at the start of each day on getting into a highly resourceful mental state so you can think better, act better and feel better, which in turn will help you make better and more productive decisions.
It’s not the hours you put in, it’s the work you put in the hours that count. Big shifts will happen for you when you stop checking email and messages first thing, and instead invest the first hour in exercise, personal growth and finding your agenda instead of letting others control your agenda. If you don't have a plan to interrupt interruptions then your plans will always be interrupted.
5. Strict deliberate practice.
The more you practice what you know, the better you get. There's the state of passively knowing something and then there's the level of performance you attain when you consistently practice what you know. Professional basketball players know how to shoot a free-throw, but they still shoot them every day, over and over again, because they are committed to reaching a higher level of performance.
Practice what you know consistently and you’ll build your muscle memory. Practice relentlessly and the time will come when you perform swiftly, elegantly and unconsciously. The same applies to your productivity. Practice doing work that matters. Practice sitting in one place for many hours focused on a single result. Practice running rituals and elite performance routines that will lift you up into the realm of world-class.
6. Staying intentional.
Your vision, not your current circumstances or emotions, guide you. Set intentions that inspire you to stay focused and not procrastinate. Make sure they’re congruent with your clearly defined goals. Activities without purpose drain wealth and prosperity.
Create what I call the “One Page Productivity Planner” where you put your vision statement, top five goals for the year and your biggest reasons onto one page. The greatest wisdom of all time is in astutely choosing what not to do with your time. Your one-page document helps you stay focused on what's most important. Don’t be a slave to your phone. Design everything around the lifestyle you want, not for the convenience of other people.