Look Around

Many years ago, I’ll bet at least 30 years, I was listening to a futurist speak. If you’re wondering what a futurist is they describe themselves as “being to the future what an historian is to the past.” I’m not sure I entirely agree with that description. A historian documents events that actually happened. It’s usually easy to determine if their documentation is accurate or not. 

A futurist studies current events and trends and then predicts what will happen in the future. They often say things like “in twenty years this will happen.” They get paid for saying those things and I’m betting their paycheck is completely spent before anyone has a clue about whether or not their vision of the future is even close to accurate. 

Anyway, this particular futurist said that by the year 2010 the greatest challenge humans would face is determining how to use all the free time that would be created by technology. He predicted great advances in all kinds of technology. Truth be told he was spot on about most of what he said. 

But the “free time” prediction was a huge swing and a miss. While much of the technology has no doubt been beneficial it has also greatly increased the speed at which we work and live. We now live in a world where “Minute Rice” takes way too long to prepare. We want instant results. 

The lines that used to separate our personal lives from our work lives are very blurry these days. A quick peek at our cell phones during dinner can pull us right back into work mode. If not physically at least mentally. 

Technology has done anything but bury us in free time. It has made us busier than ever. 

But has it made us more productive?

There are an endless list of apps labeled as “productivity apps” available today. I’ve got a bunch of them on my phone and iPad. But I’ve discovered one weakness to all of them. You have to use them for them to be effective. Actually, I can’t say that for sure either since I’ve never really used them but I’m taking the app developers at their word. 

There are also a ton of “automation” type apps. Apps that claim to do things for you, like turning off your lights, and starting your coffee maker before you’re even out of bed. Some of my favorite are the reminder apps. They are effective at reminding me of all the stuff I once thought it would be good to get done. 

There’s even a brand new app that helps you “reboot you age” and help you live as if you’re 50 years younger. I’d imagine that’s not recommended for people under 50?

But not one of those apps can help anyone who doesn’t want to be helped. Not one of those apps will have the influence on you that the people you spend your time with will.

So if you truly want to be more productive and successful then look around. Who are the people around you? Who are you listening to? Who are you allowing to put thoughts into your head? Who are you modeling yourself after? 

There are likely two main groups around you, those who promote your purpose and those who pervert your purpose. The first group helps you be more successful. The second group is, frankly, an anchor around your productivity. They are holding you back. Their influence robs you of both productive time and free time. 

The people in your life who pervert your purpose do so because they have not identified a purpose for their own life. The only way they can have “friends” is to hold them back at their level. 

If you want to achieve your full potential then you need to recognize which of the people you’re hanging around with are promoting your purpose and which ones are not. When you surround yourself with supportive individuals then your productivity explodes. You accomplish more in less time. You have a chance to become who and what you were born to be. 

I don’t know if technology will ever create more free time for us but this much I do know. When your productivity increases so does your free time. You will discover you can do more in less time. You’ll discover that you do in fact have time to spare. Time to do what you wish. Maybe even time for yourself. 

It would be nice if an app could one day do that for you. But for now it’s up to you and it begins by choosing the people you allow into your life more wisely. You are very much a compilation of the five people you spend the most time with. 

Choose those five people very very carefully. 

On a another note… Everyone can use a “nudge” towards success. I’m trying something new on Twitter. It’s called “Super Followers.” For $5 a month, that’s 17 cents a day, people can follow a part of my Twitter stream that is for subscribers only. It features short videos of me discussing leadership topics, sales tips and ideas for better overall relationships. I’m assuming there will be far fewer Super Followers than the million or so people who regularly follow me on Twitter. That will give me the opportunity to answer questions more throughly than I can on regular Twitter. Most of the answers will come in the evening cause we all have day jobs, right? Think of it as ”mentoring on demand!”

My goal with SuperFollowers is to build a better connection, one where I can help more and have a greater impact. I’m hoping it gives me a chance to mentor to a wider audience. It’s still new, we’ll see how it works. It’s a $5 dollar investment that may be the extra “push” you need to get to where you want to be. I’d be honored to be able to help get you there. 

You can find more information by clicking the Super Follow button on my Twitter profile page IN THE TWITTER APP. http://twitter.com/leadtoday Give it a try if you’re so inclined, and if you are, be sure to let me know how I’m doing and how I can be of even more help.

Good Habits, Bad Habits

Do you have any habits? Let me help you with the answer to that question. Yes, you do have habits. If you’re a normal person you have both good habits and bad habits. 

It has been said that people create their own futures. That is not exactly accurate. What people create are habits and those habits create their futures. 

Just so we’re all on the same page a habit is a routine behavior that is repeated regularly and tends to occur subconsciously. The American Journal of Psychology defined a “habit, from the standpoint of psychology, as more or less a fixed way of thinking, willing, or feeling acquired through previous repetition of a mental experience.”

So basically a habit is stuff we do repeatedly, most often without even thinking about it. 

But I’m going to ask you to stop doing anything without thinking about it for a week. Think about EVERYTHING you do. Take note of everything you do during each day of the week and track it on paper or in your phone. At the end of each day honestly look at everything you did that day and ask yourself six questions. Why did you do it? Did it need to be done? Was a productive? Did it add value to my life? Add value to the lives of the people around me? Did it benefit my employer in any way?

Be honest with your answers or don’t bother doing this exercise. 

How many of the things you do each day do you do without even thinking? How many do you do simply because you’ve “always done them?” How many of them are you struggling to assign any value or benefit to? 

How many of them would you define as good habits vs bad habits? Remember the honest part. 

Now, which of the bad habits are you willing to part with? I’ve been told that cracking open a Diet Coke at 4:30AM is a bad habit. Mind you, this is being told to me by people drinking their 4th cup of coffee which they apparently consider to be a health drink. It doesn’t matter to me whether it’s a bad habit or not, the Diet Coke ain’t going anywhere. 

If you choose to hang onto a bad habit that’s fine, but you need to be aware that you’re doing it. You also need to be aware that the more bad habits you hang onto the less room you have in your life for good habits. 

The bottom line here is this…think about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. That’s hard to do all the time but very successful people make a point to do it at least now and then. I’m willing to bet it’s entirely possible you’ve haven’t done it in a long long time.

So do it now!

When Slowing Down is the Fastest Way Forward

Steve Jobs said, “Details matter, it’s worth waiting to get it right.”

Everyone I know is busy. Some of them are even productive. The most successful people understand that those two things, busy and productive are far from being the same. 

Surprisingly many busy people are huge procrastinators. Productive people rarely delay doing what needs to be done. Busy people are frequently masters of becoming very proficient at doing things that don’t need to be done. Productive people can tell you exactly what needs to be done and why. They specifically know the return on their investment of time for almost any activity they undertake. 

Busy people also tend to get things done faster than productive people. They are even faster the second or third time they redo something because their imagined “efficiency” causes mistakes. Busy people are the rabbits in the race. 

Productive people know that they can often finish first by coming in second. Their first effort may take longer than a busy person’s but their first effort is their only effort. They are not afraid to sacrifice a bit of efficiency for effectiveness. Productive people are the tortoises in the race and they are not a bit embarrassed by it.

John Wooden, the Hall of Fame Basketball coach from UCLA asked, “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?” 

It’s a question that busy people should ask themselves before they rush to complete a task solely for the purpose of completing it. They may find that slowing down is the fastest way to actually complete anything. They will find that doing something right the first time is alway faster then doing it two or threes times and still not doing it as well as the productive person did it. 

So which type of person are you? Busy or productive? If you’re the busy type then when you’re short on time you tend to speed up even more. That’s counterproductive. If you’re a productive type then you know that when you’re most busy it’s best to take a breath. It’s best to plan your course of action and make sure that whatever you’re trying to accomplish you can complete it on your first attempt. 

The pace of the world has never been faster. It’s perfectly okay to let some things, like busy people, wiz past you as you’re being productive. Don’t worry about the people running past you, you’ll see them again when they finally reach the finish line where you’ve been waiting for what seems like forever. 

Last Second Sam

There are people who claim to believe that procrastination helps them be more successful. To them I would say that once you become comfortable misleading yourself you can, and most likely will, mislead anyone. 


Procrastination will kill your opportunity for success. Maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow but eventually it most definitely will. That much is certain!


People who believe procrastination helps them because they think better under pressure are not being honest with themselves. People who believe they are more productive when working under stress are fooling themselves. 


Approaching deadlines do not make people smarter, calmer, more productive or more logical. They make everything more challenging.


The real reason many people procrastinate is that they see low value in the task. It’s either not fun enough or they see no reward for doing it. Some people procrastinate because they do not have confidence in their ability to complete the task. Fear of failure is a driving force behind many a procrastinator’s behavior. 


For some people procrastination is part of their personality. They are just more impulsive than other people. These are the people I call last second Sam or last second Sally depending on…well you know what it depends on.


One of the most effective tools for overcoming the tendency to procrastinate is a Prioritized Daily Task List. A prioritized task list is a to-do list on steroids. You list all the things you need to accomplish on a given day but you list them in order of importance. You DO NOT do the second most important thing until the most important thing is accomplished. 


Don’t worry about working on one thing all day if it’s truly the most important or most productive thing you could do that day. You’ll still be better offer than if you spent the day doing a bunch of unimportant or unproductive things. 


Many procrastinators put off doing things that are quick and easy to do. They don’t see a lot of fun or reward in doing them so they just put it off. Answering an email is a good example. A quick answer might take only a minute but they still open and read the email several times before answering it. 


So here’s a good rule of thumb to help stop at least some procrastinating. If a task takes a minute or less to do then do it immediately. No delay, no hesitation, and NO PROCRASTINATING! You will be amazed at how many things you do in a day can be completed in under a minute. 


Don’t kid yourself into thinking being a last second Sam or Sally has one ounce of benefit. You will not find even one very successful person who will tell you their success is due to putting off until tomorrow what should have been done today. 

And you’re highly unlikely to be the first.

Understanding Success – Part Five

Successful people get it. They simply understand some things that less successful people seem to have a hard time grasping. The things they understand are the “it’s” of success. 

This is the fifth post of a who knows how long series on those “it’s.” They will be short posts, each just long enough to give you time to focus on one “it” of success until the next post arrives. I’m not certain just how long this series will go it it’s beginning to look like an eight post series.

Successful people have a bias for action, they seldom procrastinate. But they also understand that all action is not created equal. They know that being busy and doing lots of “stuff” does not necessarily mean that they are productive.

Successful people understand that being productive requires that you act with a purpose and with an end goal in mind.

It’s that “end goal” that will ultimately determine whether or not you were productive. The most successful people in the world have goals, well thought out, plan full, written goals. They also have an executable plan on how they will achieve them.  

They know that unwritten goals are really just dreams and while some dreams may indeed come true, “dreamers” have little control over their future. Goal setters on the other hand have substantial control over their lives and their future. They know what they want and they know that to get it they must have as many productive days as possible. 

Successful people understand that if they didn’t get closer to at least one of their goals at the end of each day then they may have been busy but they were not productive.

That being the case then it stands to reason that if you don’t have goals, true written goals, then you simply cannot be productive….no matter how busy you think you are.

Goals are your roadmap to the life you want. Well thought out goals give you direction and purpose. The goal itself becomes your motivator and helps you push on when “goal-less” individuals have long given up the pursuit of their dreams. Goals give YOU control of YOUR life. 

Decide what you want out of life then set your goals and develop your plan for how you WILL achieve them. The more specific you are the more likely you are to reach your goal so no generalizations are allowed. You need to know exactly what you want out of life or you’re probably going to settle for something less than you could have.

Focus on being productive and leave the busy work to the people in your rear view mirror. 

Are You Truly Productive?

imageAre you truly productive? That’s a question you may want to ask yourself with some regularity. We… you, me and everybody else has the uncanny ability to trick ourselves into believing that we are incredibly productive when in fact we’re merely busy.

Busy and productive are two entirely different things!

Busy is about doing stuff. Productive is about doing stuff for a purpose. Busy is about looking like your accomplishing something. Productive is about actually accomplishing it. Busy is about wondering what happened to the hours in your day. Productive is about knowing exactly how you used your time.

Busy people hope for a productive day. Productive people plan a productive day.

Their plan is based on their goals and objectives. They determine what they will do and when they will do it based on priorities that come straight out of their goals. They strive to be doing the most productive thing possible at any given time.

Here’s they most amazing thing about highly productive people: they have more free time to do as they please. They earn this free time by not wasting time being busy. They simply get more done than very busy people.

The key is effective goal setting. Once you invest the time required to have meaningful goals in specific areas of your life you’re halfway to being productive. To finish the job you must develop a detailed plan around how you will achieve each goal.

Specificity is vital here. If you allow wiggle room you’ll use it to fall into old, busy looking habits.

Share your goals with someone to whom you truly matter, someone who will hold you accountable to your plan. This is where a coach or mentor can really make a difference. People who have a coach or mentor are generally more productive and more successful. That is not a coincidence. Coaches and mentors make a major difference in the lives of those they work with.

So don’t be so busy you never stop to ask yourself if what you’re doing is actually productive. That little gut check can be the difference between getting something accomplished and wondering why you can’t.

Busy Isn’t Always Productive

Are you a busy person? Are you always “on the run” from the time your feet first hit the floor until your head finally returns to the pillow? Is there always “stuff” left to do at the end of the day?

If you answered yes to those questions then there’s no doubt about it; you are indeed a busy person.

Now let me ask you a completely different question. Are you a productive person? Does your busyness lead to a result. Put simply, do you get stuff done? Do you know how you got it done and most importantly, do you know why it should have been done?

If you answered yes to those questions then you are likely a productive person. You are also very likely to be a successful person. Merely busy people are seldom truly successful; productive people almost always are.

Busy people are always working; productive people are always working towards something. That something is usually a goal or at minimum a desired outcome or result.

Here’s the deal with goals, if you don’t have goals, written goals, along with a fairly detailed plan on how you will achieve each one, then you don’t have goals. Not true goals anyway. Not goals you’re likely to achieve.

The most successful people have written goals, goals based on their core values. They work towards their goals every single day. Sometimes they take big steps towards a goal, some days it’s a tiny little step but virtually everyday it’s something.

Successful people know that if they didn’t get closer to a goal then their day may have been incredibly busy but it was not productive.

Goals allow you to have focus and focus is a key to success. That’s why the most successful people don’t buy into the folly of multi-tasking. Multi-tasking makes you busier, and less productive all at once. Few things actually waste more time than multi-tasking and few things save more time than focus.

I know there are multi-tasking people out there who will vehemently disagree with me on this but all the statistics and research are on my side here. Few things waste more time than multi-tasking. We use it when we’re “stuck” on something or there is something else we would rather be doing. We use it to distract ourselves from more important but less enjoyed tasks.

Here’s an interesting question to ask yourself a few times during each day: “Is what I’m doing at this very moment the most productive thing I could be doing?” If you answer honestly you’ll be shocked at how many times your answer is no. You might be doing something you like to do, you might be doing something that’s easier to do, you might even be doing something very productive, but that’s not the question. Is it the most productive thing you could be doing?

Now, take a breath. I understand that no one can answer yes to that question every time. In fact, I’d estimate that even the most successful people can answer yes less than half the time. But asking the question makes you more aware of how you are using your time. You won’t have to wonder “where the day went” anymore. You’ll know why you didn’t get done what really needed to get done.

One more thing, as you ask yourself that question keep in mind the words of U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower who said “What is Important is Seldom Urgent and What is Urgent is Seldom Important.”

When deciding if you’re just busy or actually productive it helps to know the difference between merely urgent and truly important. That difference is found in your true goals.