The Enemies of Your Today Are Real

The Gist:

  • Some enemies of your “today” are self-imposed, like lacking a plan, goals, and priorities.
  • Other foes include the distractions and interruptions that you allow to steal your time.
  • Disciplines that keep you on point, like weekly and daily planning, will ensure you overcome the threats to your productivity and your goals.

A good many enemies of your today, the things that will prevent you from being productive and moving towards your goals, are unforced errors—things that you do that make it more difficult to have a successful day.

image of unsuccessful businessman feeling stressed after failure

The Enemies Within

No Plan: Starting without a plan will prevent you from being as effective as you could be today. The time it takes you to decide what to do is time lost, never to be recaptured. Hyper-scheduling your week before Monday morning invades is critical, helping you be as productive as possible and make the greatest possible contribution.

No Goals: Without a goal, it doesn’t matter what you do with your day: without a destination, there’s no reason to start the car. One of the things that makes goals so powerful is that they provide you with a deadline, requiring you to achieve something by some future date. Without a goal, there is no urgency—and when nothing is compelling you to act, you can lose days and weeks and months. Writing down your goals each day will remind you why you need to get moving.

No Priorities: Not everything that you need or want to do is of equal value; some outcomes simply make a greater contribution than others. Without a set of priorities to guide you, you can spend valuable time on work that makes little or no contribution. In sales, we call people who do this work “form-makers,” since they spend their time designing a new form instead of doing work that moves the needle. Winning the day means prioritizing the work that makes the greatest contribution. If you have to put aside a task until tomorrow, make it something that isn’t critical to your success.

Attitude: Your mindset is an incredibly important variable for a successful day. A poor attitude will prevent you from focusing on the things you need to accomplish to reach your short- and long-term goals. It readily allies with poor energy, which will stop you from giving yourself over to your work. Do whatever it takes to maintain a positive, optimistic, and future-oriented mindset, one that creates the positive attitude necessary to do good work.

Energy: Early to bed and early to rise really does make you healthy, wealthy, and wise. A lack of energy will not only reduce what you can get done in a day, but it can also dilute the quality of what you do get done. Maintaining your energy requires that you take care of yourself, with good sleep, hydration, exercise, and nutrition.

No Discipline: When I provided an editor with the manuscript of my first book, The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need, he complained that the first chapter covered the topic of self-discipline. He couldn’t understand why that would come first in a sales book. Your results largely depend on your ability to will yourself to do your work—especially when you don’t feel like it. Discipline means learning not to negotiate with yourself.

Boredom: This is my greatest foe when it comes to my administrative tasks and duties. I dread work that I find boring, as I would much prefer doing something creative. Boredom is what allows distractions and interruptions to capture your attention, and it will make your day something less than it should be. Treating everything you have to do as a project that you need to improve can engage the part of you that is creative and disrupt your boredom.

Apathy: A lack of care or concern will find you staring out the window—or worse, into your browser window. It’s important to find meaning in purpose in your work, something that won’t happen if you don’t give yourself over to it, even the parts you don’t particularly enjoy. When you are apathetic, break free by doing something that makes a difference for another person—a client, a co-worker, or some stakeholder who needs your help—to remind yourself that what you do makes a difference to others.

image of Shot of Advancing Army of Viking Warriors

Barbarians at the Gates

You might have expected to see a lot more external factors on this list. It’s easy to tell yourself that you would get more done if people would just leave you alone, but that isn’t true. Being effective means believing that everything is your fault because your results are your own.

Distractions: No one could blame you for having trouble focusing now, with so much going on in the world, creating a sense of anxiety. Still, allowing yourself to be distracted will weaken your results. Ensuring a successful day means removing and eliminating the things that will take you away from your priorities. Whether it is an inbox chirping for your attention, a hot take on the news of the day, or a person on your team who just likes to chat, block out anything that would take your attention away from your priorities.

Interruptions: Most people invite others to interfere with their workday, especially their clients. Because our clients are important to us, we want to be available for them, but by being always available for anyone and everyone, you lose your ability to make progress on what’s important. A better way to think about the time you block is that your client would not be able to reach you if you were in a sales call, and neither would anyone from your company. In most cases, they can wait the ninety minutes you need to focus on something important to make your day successful.

Do Good Work:

  • Which internal enemies of today most prevent you from being productive and making your greatest contribution?
  • What do you need to do to prevent the external enemies from stealing your time and your results?
  • What guardrails can you put in place to win the day and make a bigger contribution?

Filed under: Productivity

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