Recently, I pulled the Filament team together for a day of goal-setting for Q3. I recognize that I’m an aggressive goal-setter and expect a lot from my team, so I pushed them outside of their comfort zone.
One issue that we confronted throughout the session was productivity. As a small, service-based business, how do we create space for creativity, communication, and execution in the midst of the distractions and other tasks that face us every day? Moreover, how do we ensure that our level of productivity is creating enough revenue to support the business, and, dare I dream, make a stellar living for us all?
I don’t claim to have all of the answers when it comes to productivity, but I did push my team to commit to reaching specific levels of productivity in the next quarter.
And it freaked them out.
Over the next week, I could feel some tension, some frustration, some anxiety coming from the Filament office. Was I expecting too much? Was I pushing too hard? As I thought through the situation, I realized that the root of the problem was not fully in productivity – but in time management.
Managing Time for Higher Productivity
Stephen Covey made it his third habit of highly effective people to “Put First Things First.” In The One Thing, Gary Keller asks us to identify the “ONE thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary” and put it first (actually, he tells us to put it second…first comes vacation and time to recharge). Thinking about my own priorities helped me re-think some of the tasks that were being split amongst our team, and re-focus my expectations.
Use A Default Calendar.
This is something that my ActionCOACH, Rebecca, has asked me to be religious about – and I haven’t. Until now. A default calendar blocks time for specific tasks in order to let you get everything done. Created properly, it also lets you put your top priority in first, filling in with all of the other stuff. In a startup situation like ours, it’s important to put your whole life in order, not just your work life.
When I think about what’s most important to me, it’s health. I recognize that without it, I won't have a business, and that I’ve continuously put my health on the back burner as I’ve built this business. This quarter, I’m choosing to put sleep, workouts with my trainers, yoga, and time for meditation on the calendar first. Next, I know that my “ONE thing” for Filament has to be sales and marketing in order to grow. I’ve blocked consistent time every week to be out networking, meeting new people, writing proposals, and closing.
Protect Your Time.
The panic that my team felt when I insisted they hit a specific level of productivity was based on feeling pulled in all directions. They need to be creative, and put a different “personality” hat on for each client they work for in a given day. Starting a project, and then having to stop for a meeting, or even to answer a question from inside the team was creating lost time (and lost time is lost money). We talked about how to carve out uninterrupted time to quiet the brain and work without distraction. We needed to be able to get into “flow” (per Wikipedia: also known as “the zone” flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.”). We agreed to respect each other’s need for this, and implemented a FLOW cone. Silly, I know. But it’s a clear indicator of non-negotiable creative time – just what we needed.
A few other things that I’ve found helpful in increasing my own productivity (but haven’t forced on my team…yet) include:
• Working out with Garrett at Balance Fitness and Karen at RunFit MKE at least once a week.
• Giving myself a little extra time before I leave the house in the morning: 20 minutes of reading and 10 minutes of Headspace meditation make a big difference in my day.
• Decreasing distractions that take away from my most important things – for me this means having Brew City Lawn Care tend to my yard, having some healthy food prepared and in the freezer from businesses like Down to Earth Chef and The Real Good Life, and hiring a service to clean my office and home.
I’m confident that the Filament team will reach our productivity goals this quarter; I’m eager to see how implementing some of these practices changes the way we do business.
Do you have any great productivity or time management tips for us? We’re wide open to trying anything that might work!