Top 10 Ways to Be More Productive in 2014

The best ways to be more productive are timeless. It's not about discovering a new secret but about recommitting yourself to the basics. This is a list I used in 2013, and I expect to use again in 2015. As a middle market leader, productivity matters. You have more responsibilities than a large market CEO, and chances are, you've been in your position longer. To stay ahead of the curve, consider these strategies.

Be more productive in 2014

1. Define Your Goals

If you know what you hope to achieve, you'll improve your likelihood of success. You start noticing big and small opportunities to help you reach your goal — once you've declared it. Stephen Covey advised us all to start with the end in mind. Do you want to write a book, read a book a month, lose 10 pounds, give a TED Talk? Write it down.

2. Talk to Your Customers

Very few people talk to their customers except when they're selling something or following up on a problem. Go visit your customers when you don't have to. Find out how they think you're doing, learn what competitors are doing for them, uncover the next problem they need to solve - imagine the ways you can be more productive from these conversations. Why don't we do this? We think we're too busy. But you won't realize the benefits of these expansive and enlightening conversations unless you block out time on your calendar and make them happen.

3. Network

You probably also think you're too busy to network. But making time for breakfast, lunch, and coffee with people in your network gets you out of your routine, keeps you current, and over time, will create more opportunities.

4. Listen Better

Are you listening? Read Mark Gouston's unique book Just Listen. To be more productive in your interactions with customers, your professional network, friends and family, you need to listen with empathy and without judgment or an agenda. You'll take your relationships to another level with all kinds of downstream benefits. Just listen to me on this one.

5. Get a Coach

You probably know what you need to work on to be a better person or leader. What you need next is a coach to keep you honest. You can hire a professional coach, or you can look to a colleague, friend, or family member. In his classic What Got You Here Won't Get You There, Marshall Goldstein suggests a mutual relationship where two colleagues hold each other accountable as they commit to the hard work of behavior change to be more productive.

6. Learn the Technology

Technology is creating some great new ways to be more productive. Take the time to learn a few. Use your network (see No. 3 above) to identify some of the most popular applications. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Rent a car with the Hertz mobile app.
  • Listen to The Economist using their mobile app in a blue-tooth enabled car.
  • Use Expensify to managing your expense receipts when you're on the road.
  • Make every phone call a Skype video conference.

7. Read

Become more productive by reflecting on the great ideas of others. Where will you get the time? Here's how:

  • Listen to audiobooks while you travel or work out.
  • Take at least one book or a Kindle wherever you go.
  • Make the New York Times the home page on your computer.

8. Prioritize

Update your priorities for the day every morning. Enough said.

9. Just Do It

You can't think your way to acting better, but you can act your way to thinking better. If you're thinking about starting a workout routine, just do the first workout, and then another, and pretty soon you'll have a routine. If you're tired of being a chronically late person, just go to the next meeting on time, and the one after that. Pretty soon, people will view you as the person who's always on time.

10. Give Yourself a Break

All this focus on ways to be more productive can wear us out. Part of the reason is to create more time for ourselves. As Alan Weiss has said: real wealth is discretionary time. So enjoy the fruits of you productivity gains and give yourself a break.

Dave Power, an NCMM contributor and president of Power Strategy, has guided growth companies as an operating executive, board member, and advisor for over 25 years. Dave was CEO of Novera Software, SVP Marketing of RSA Security, and a venture capital investor with Fidelity Ventures. He is a Certified Gazelles International Coach and teaches innovation and strategic management courses at the Harvard Extension School. Dave earned an MBA at Stanford Business School. Circle him on Google+.


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