So why aren’t people as productive as they could be and how can you overcome those reasons? The first reason is that a lot of people are not so good at setting goals. Not just as it relates to business and entrepreneurship, but also in their everyday life. If we go through our own lives not being able to set clear goals for the things we want in our personal lives, then how can you expect to jump in and set a clear goal when it comes to a business? It just doesn’t make sense because you’ve already created the habit of poor goal setting, but the good news is that you can start today and right now in this very moment with setting better goals.
1) Goal Setting.
“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” It is absolutely essential to have a plan if you want to get things done and feel productive. Without one, your subconscious mind won’t be thinking of ways to achieve and solve problems and create the life you want and deserve.
Creating S.M.A.R.T. goals. Specific (identify a goal that is very clear to understand). Measurable (how you will know if results changed because of the actions specified in the goal). Attainable (don’t set goals that are too conservative or impossible to reach). Results-Based or Research based (describe how you will know when your goal has been met). Time-Bound (assign a timeframe in which you will achieve the goal).
Examples. So I’m just going to take 4 entrepreneur related examples that I found online in an article about SMART goals, which I posted the article to the Facebook group if you’re interested in reading it, but the goals are as follows:
Example #1. Broad Goal: I want to start a business.
- Specific: I will sell handmade cards through Etsy.com.
- Measurable: I will be ready to take my first Etsy order within four weeks, and I will aim to sell a minimum of five cards per week.
- Attainable: I will get set up on Etsy first. Then, I will build an inventory of 30 handmade cards to sell. Finally, I will promote my business and build customer relationships through word of mouth, referrals and local networking.
- Relevant: Selling handmade cards will allow me to benefit financially from my favorite hobby.
- Time-Based: My Etsy store will be up and running within four weeks, and I will have an inventory of 30 cards to sell within six weeks.
SMART Goal: Within a month, I am going to get set up to sell handmade cards on Etsy, which will allow me to benefit financially from my favorite hobby. Within six weeks, I will have an inventory of 30 handmade cards to sell and aim to sell a minimum of five cards per week, building customer relationships through word of mouth, referrals and local networking.
Example #2. Broad Goal: I want to grow my business.
- Specific: I will acquire three new clients for my consulting business.
- Measurable: I will measure my progress by how many new clients I bring on, while maintaining my current client base.
- Attainable: I will ask current clients for referrals, launch a social media marketing campaign and network with local businesses.
- Relevant: Adding additional clients to my business will allow me to grow my business and increase my revenue.
- Time-Based: I will have three new clients within two months.
SMART Goal: I will acquire three new clients for my consulting business within two months by asking for referrals, launching a social media marketing campaign and networking with local businesses. This will allow me to grow my business and increase my revenue.
Example #3. Broad Goal: I want to write a business book.
- Specific: I will write a book on social media that is a minimum of 150 pages.
- Measurable: I will write one chapter per month, or 3-5 pages per week.
- Attainable: I will work on the manuscript first, and once that is completed, I will begin to search for a publisher or explore self-publishing.
- Relevant: Writing a book on social media will help me establish myself as an expert.
- Time-Based: My manuscript will be completed and ready to be published in 10 months.
SMART Goal: In order to establish myself as an expert, I will write a 150-page book on social media by writing one chapter per month (3-5 pages per week). The book will be completed in 10 months, and then I will search for a publisher or explore self-publishing.
Example #4. Broad Goal: I want to become a well-known expert.
- Specific: I will become a well-known expert on the topic of small business accounting.
- Measurable: I will be successful if I am asked to speak publicly on the topic at least once a month, receive interview requests every week and write one article per month for a top industry publication.
- Attainable: I will accomplish this by acquiring the services of a PR/publicity firm and launching a publicity campaign.
- Relevant: Establishing myself as a small business accounting expert will reinforce my 20+ years of experience in the field and allow me to reach more small business owners who need accounting advice.
- Time-Based: I want to be considered a small business accounting expert in two years.
SMART Goal: I will acquire the services of a PR/publicity firm and launch a publicity campaign that will help establish me as a well-known expert in small business accounting who is asked to speak publicly on the topic at least once a month, receives interview requests every week and writes one article per month for a top industry publication. This will reinforce my 20+ years of experience in the field and allow me to reach more small business owners who need accounting advice.
2) Stop trying to multitask.
Many people say that they are good at this, but I find this so hard to believe. For one, I have not seen any research to suggest that the brain can focus on more than one thing at a time. If you have seen research like this, send me a link to the research and I will definitely go over it. This is NOT something you want to be proud of. If you really want to accomplish goals, focus on one at a time before moving on to the next because that’s what you’re doing ANYWAY when you are supposedly trying to multitask. Let’s say you have two things going on at the same time; maybe you’re watching television and reading a book, but you’re switching back and forth between the two so you claim to be multitasking. Your brain literally focuses on whatever task you’re working on in that moment so it’s not like you’re doing two things at once. When you come back to the book, you will likely have to re-read over some of the lines that you have already read! You’re actually sacrificing your own time and comprehension by doing things this way. Finish one goal and move on to the next. What happens when you try to “multitask” is that you prolong how long it would actually take to accomplish a goal. So if I wanted to do two things at the same time, I have to keep switching my brain on to do task number one, then switch it off of task one and then on to task #2. You have to re-focus on the new task. This re-focusing might happen quickly enough that you don’t even notice. If you actually finish a goal you can feel so much more accomplished in your day and even in your journey towards whatever goals you have set. Be effective in one task and then move on to the next instead of performing sub-par on multiple things at the same time. The brain can only truly focus on one thing at a time.
3) Avoid F.O.M.O.
F.O.M.O. stands for the fear of missing out. We, as a society, are always looking to distractions as if we are missing out on something. We check our phones every few minutes to see if someone has sent us a message or an email or did something on facebook or if something happened in the news or if someone posted a new picture on Instagram. We find ways to distract ourselves from the present and it becomes a habit that gets hard to break later down the road because we have essentially programmed it into ourselves. This is likely a contributing factor to this attention deficit disorder type of diagnosis in people or the random statistics on how long someones attention span is. If you are going to operate at your maximum efficiency you have to let go of this FOMO mentality and adopt a habit of focusing on the task at hand without welcoming distractions from things like your phone or the internet or news channels. Simply wait until you finish your task and then go check the news or your text messages. Exercise restraint and discipline because that is really what it comes down to. Discipline yourself to focus and I can just about promise you that you will improve your productivity level.
Meditation can allow you to focus better, but it’s often overlooked by many of us. So from a perspective of someone who has a lot of thoughts running through their mind at all times, I know that I can be easily distracted by a new thought when I’m supposed to be thinking about something else. When most people think of meditation, they may think sitting on a floor indian style, back erect, eyes closed, for like two hours of the day. Most people don’t have two hours to just sit around and focus on their breathing. But meditation is more so about focusing on where you are mentally in the present so that you can then slow yourself down to focus on one thing at a time. So this really goes back to the multitasking aspect in some way.
You don’t have to be in the lotus position to meditate. Lower abdominal breathing triggers parasympathetic nervous system response. So your nervous system is a binary type of system, it can either be in fight or flight mode (sympathetic nervous system) or relaxed mode (parasympathetic nervous system), right? From a nervous system perspective, your body cannot tell the difference between being stressed in a death threatening situation and you stressing over an abnormally large cell phone bill or you getting mad at someone cutting you off in traffic. So the normal biochemical mechanisms within your own body are disrupted more often on a daily basis in today’s society than ever before and most people don’t usually restore this balance to their body. So by using certain techniques of meditation, you can force your mind and body to work on healing, relaxing, building muscle, recharging, or whatever. These are things that you should be doing at some point of your day every day, but most of us are not and then wonder why cortisol levels are causing us to store fat or even become sick.
If you’re interested in reading more about meditation, I’d suggest two books: “Urban Monk” by Dr. Pedram Shojai. And “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind” by Shunryu Suzuki.
5) Invest in improving your reading speed.
So this is a different one that many people don’t talk about very much, but I feel is a very important topic to touch on. Reading speed is a skill and as we know about any skill, they can be acquired. You are not born with it. It’s something you practice until it becomes a habit of yours. If you learn to read faster and actually retain comprehension, you will accomplish so much more in the time that you have and almost instantly feel more interesting to others and yourself.
There is this fear or misconception that “oh, I don’t have enough time in my day to do XYZ” when in reality that is something that you can change. So the average adult reading speed is somewhere between 200-300 words per minute, but there are people who can read 500 and 600 or more words per minute. How much better would your life be if you could double or triple how fast you read and understand material after your first read? That could allow you to read books on a lunch break or two or read one or multiple books in a weekend. I do a lot of reading in a scientific field so it allows me to read difficult technical material faster and feel more accomplished. If you were a college student or a law student or medical student or whatever, reading through your textbook material faster would have instantly made you feel like you have accomplished more and you may have even felt slightly better about studying.
Every field of work can be improved by you learning to read faster so I definitely recommend that you either go through a speed reading course or even find a book that guides you through learning the various speed reading techniques. But if you do this, you HAVE to put forth the effort and consistency that is required if you want to see results. I can’t stress enough the consistency portion of that because you cannot create a habit without being consistent with whatever task you’re putting effort into.
So to summarize this episode, we’ve been talking about why most people aren’t as productive as they could be and how they can possibly change that. We’ve gone through setting clear and specific goals, why you should probably stop trying to multitask, avoiding the fear of missing out, meditation, as well as possibly investing in speed reading.