Patrick Baynes gives us his three best exercises in productivity and staying focused.
In the chaos of building a business from scratch it can be easy to lose focus on the right things; particularly when it’s just a few people doing the work of many. This makes it exceedingly difficult to achieve the important goals and set yourself up for long-term success. When things start to ramp up it’s easy to slip into a mode of “trying to get everything done”, versus working smart and working on the right things, first.
One thing that keeps me level-headed, productive, and heading in the right direction (or doing my best to) is a fairly simple exercise in productivity and time management. It’s all about knowing what’s worth your time, how much of it, and when. These are a couple of simple tactics I use to stay on track and get things done:
Data dumping and list building; then organizing; and then prioritizing.
How: I do this digitally so it’s easier to sort and edit (versus on scratch paper, which works better for others) and I can update it as often as needed.
When: Definitely once per week, sometimes daily. It helps me to identify things that can be delegated, deleted, prioritized, or just left alone – which also enables me to block time to accomplish things.
“Low Hanging Fruits and Home Runs”
Using a decision-making matrix to identify and prioritize marketing and other opportunities worth pursuing (from the book Scale).
How: Draw a 3 column table with ideas and 2 columns to check LHF (the gimme’s) and HR (the good stuff). Put a check by items that are both Low Hanging Fruit and a Home Run. Do those first.
When: Whenever I need fresh ideas or approaches to enable sales or drive leads, but I’m sure it has other applications.
The “To-Do” value; decide how valuable each impending item on your to-do list is.
Is it 1X, 10X, or 100X work/value? Seek out the 10-100X projects that have big returns. Always prioritize those and make sure your best people know the difference between 1X and 10X work so they can do the same.
How: Think about the potential return of each activity. If it’s 1X work, but needs to be done, put it “in a box” – i.e. write up the process and teach someone else how to do it. That becomes 10X work if it frees you up to now go after new customers.
When: All the time, particularly if you catch yourself (or others) spending too much time on 1X work. Know when to move on and see the bigger picture.
I rely on the above tools, the people around me, and a sense of achievement and growth that keeps me going. At the end of the day it all comes back to the people, starting with you.
Patrick Baynes was an early employee at LinkedIn, and is the co-founder of PeopleLinx and UpdatesCentral. His experience extends across business functions with a passion for building repeatable success and scale through systems and processes. Patrick serves as an Entrepreneur in Residence at Benjamin’s Desk, helping new and existing members solve their business challenges.