It is one thing to be busy and quite another to be productive. These two ideas are mostly diametrically opposed. When you are busy, you are working on many things, often things with different and disjointed outcomes. The many and varied things that make you busy are not often what moves the needle when it comes to producing big outcomes. When you are productive, you focus on producing a single outcome—and one that will produce a real impact.
The implications of this idea are that some activities are worth far more than others, and productivity is not a measurement of how much work you do but instead a quantifying of progress made towards something that makes produces an important result.
Do More of This
Opportunity Creation: If you are in sales, then creating opportunities is one of the highest value activities in which you might invest your time and energy. Creating new opportunities, be them in your existing clients or your prospects, is a prerequisite for winning new business. Prospecting, in all its many forms, is the activity that leads to opportunities.
Nurturing Relationships: One of the activities that enables opportunity creation is the nurturing of the relationships in such a way—and over a period of time—that it is easy and natural for the prospects you are pursuing to engage with you. You need to be known as a value creator and someone who can help your dream client move their business forward.
Neither of these two activities produces results right away, nor do they tend create any sense of urgency.
Sales Calls – Meetings: There are not too many activities in which you might invest your time that exceed the value of face-to-face sales calls (or video face to video face, or ear-to-ear, if that is your approach). The progress you make towards creating and winning opportunities occurs during sales calls (an idea that sounds simple, but is of-ten ignored, with many believing email can accomplish more than the evidence shows to be true).
There are activities that are necessary and sometimes even important that might keep you busy without producing or even contributing to the results for which you are being measured, judged, and compensated.
Do Less of This
Email: As it goes for time wasters, email reigns supreme as the world dominating and undefeated champion. Most of what shows up in your inbox is “for your information,” a request for information, or a notification of some change to something. While it’s true that there are also communications from your clients and your prospects, the number of time wasters vastly outnumbers important client communications. Email will keep you busy, if you let it.
Transactions, Not Outcomes: In sales, you are accountable for the outcomes you sell your clients. If you promised them a certain result, you must ensure they produce that result. You also have other results that you never explicitly promised, but that are inferred. You didn’t promise a correct invoice, but you owe your client a proper bill, which does not in any way indicate that you should retype that invoice. You also never said anything about tracking down missing order, even though it is to be expected that someone on your team should help your client find their orders. You are responsible for making sure these things happen, but you are not responsible for actually doing this work.
If you are in your inbox and chasing down lost orders, who is creating opportunities, nurturing your future clients, and making sales calls? Surely not your operations, customer service, or accounting departments. While important, these activities make little to impact on your results.
If you are not busy and still not productive, then I have a strong—and well-informed opinion—as to why this may be true.
Severely Limit This
The Internet and the Small Screen of Infinite Distractions: In the entire history of human beings, there has never been anything as distracting as the Internet, least of all anything that has been enabled by a tiny device with more power over human behavior than Kings and Governments. It chimes, your head bows in obedience to its command. It keeps you busy while eliminating any chance to be productive.
No matter what you decide to do, if you want to produce results, you have to invest a disproportionate amount of time and energy in those few things that produce your most important desired outcomes, stripping time and energy from things that, while keeping you busy, do nothing to move you closer to your goals.
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