The Productive Mindset

It’s guest post Monday! This post is written by Aaron Morton who is the creator of The Confidence Lounge. A platform where you can discover how to turn your ideas into reality. Aaron works with individuals who want to earn a side income using the skills and talents they already have or have the confidence to leave their job and go solo. Go to www.theconfidencelounge.com for a more articles and a free report on how to handle Fear. If you would like to have a post featured on my site then click here.

So you want to lead?

One of the consequences (both positive & negative) of being a leader is the demand placed on your time from multiple directions. Think about the most powerful leader in the world, Barack Obama. With the world looking over his shoulder every day, Obama has multiple decisions to make knowing his answers will have a large impact in the future of, not just America, but the world.

Despite this, he describes in an interview in Vanity fair, how he still makes time for a 45 minute workout in the morning.

What does it mean to be productive? For me it involves 3 entities;

·         Fulfilling what you set out to do,

·         Within a certain timeframe,

·         That moves you closer to a specified outcome.

As you think about the times when you were highly productive and compare them to times when doing work was as slow as running through a pit of honey, you will notice a difference in the mindset of how you approached the task. Productivity starts in the mind.

So what can you do to ensure you are a productive leader?

Associate importance to it.

If there is no real importance assigned to particular aspects of your work, what is the incentive to getting it done? In knowing what to associate importance to, you have to look at your outcome and ask yourself:

 “What are the main acts that need to be accomplished in order to bring me closer to my outcome?”

Deadline it.

Deadlining creates an urgency that is frequently required in getting work done. You elicit a focus that is rarely present when you leave a task open ended. There is a difference in focus if the deadline is in two days than if it was ‘sometime in the next few weeks’. Ask yourself:

“When does this work need to be completed by?”

 Know what you are going to do before you do it.

Every evening I spend 5-10 minutes working out what I am going to be doing the next day. I started this simple strategy when I realised that I was wasting too much time in the morning. Assign 10 minutes and think about what can get done the next day asking yourself:

“What steps do I need to take tomorrow?”

Outsource ‘low level’ thinking.

As a leader, you are best served playing to your strengths. Know what your weaknesses are and look to outsource it. If you are not good at design, hire a graphic designer. If you still don’t get Twitter, work with someone who does. By freeing up all this ‘space’ in your mind, you allow yourself the freedom to focus intently on the important work of creating. Ask yourself:

“Who would be better suited doing this?”

 Review frequently.

As a leader, it is important to review your work and your vision frequently. There are times when changes need to be made. I make it a practice to review, at least weekly, my goals to see whether I am doing what I set out to do and whether it is still a path I want to take. Ask yourself:

“What went well? What needs attention?”

Question: What did I miss? How do you stay productive like a leader? 

 

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Thanks for sharing this post Aaron. THe first tip is probably the most important tip to productivity and life in general. What matters to you, what do you value in something? If we can figure that out in all situations,, then we’ll do tasks quickly and by deadline or ignore doing the task completely. Knowing the value of it or attaching more importance to something can help accomplish a task quicker. If we don’t know why we’re doing something, why would we do it?

    On your second point, deadlines scare me:) but it must be the secret to high productivity. Productive people get stuff done by the date they agree to get it done by.

    • Hi Vishnu,
      There is a great quality to being scared in the fact that it must be important for you to be scared! That can be enough fuel to get going if framed in the right way in your mind.

      So what you are working on Vishnu, what matters to you about it? What do you value in it?

      I’ll look forward to hearing your thoughts.

      Aaron

  • You make some great points Aaron. Productivity can be a hard mindset to adopt at times. Especially for those who are more inclined towards an unproductive bent (I’m guilty). Importance and deadlines have always been key for me. But then, self-set deadlines are just so easy to push back . . .

    Cheers!

    • They are indeed Trevor and a valuable exercise to engage in is find someone who has similar interest to you and is passionate about pursuing a goal like yourself and agree to email your daily intentions each day. At the end of each day you send another email explaining how you have got on that day. Find someone you have good rapport with so the act of emailing becomes pleasant like you are emailing a friend!

      Thanks for contributing Trevor.

      Aaron

  • I get twitter, I just don’t have time to tweet often, so I’ve decided I’m a slow, quiet bird. Good post, Aaron. Deadlines are important, but as a writer I leave general at first, then more specific as I get the first draft completed.

    • What is more important is what works for you Dan. It is better to create a strategy that gets you closer to your outcome rather than following blindly the latest advice.

      Thanks for sharing Dan

      Aaron

  • Great questions for a leader to deliberately cultivate a productive mindset. Just being intentional like this and creating a habit of assessment is half the battle of productivity.

    • Absolutely Kari and then you can implement the ‘techniques’ of productivity.

  • Good post. I find that after time, this leads into all aspects of life. I think you alluded to this when you referred to outsourcing the things we’re not good at, but passion is king and perseverance is queen I think…

    • Love what you said – passion is king and perseverance is queen – great thought

      • Yes, that’s a great statement Floyd! Thank you for reading and sharing.

  • Great thoughts, Aaron. I’ve watched so many apps pop up to help people do more and plan out and schedule their days. Then I watched two crucial members of our team at the end of each day. They pull out an old spiral mini-notebook from a suit or shirt pocket, check off some things, circle others, flip to the next page and make a list for tomorrow. Rather than ignoring or “snoozing” the reminders on their chirping smart phones, they perform this five-minute-tops ritual each day and get it all done.

    • Hi Justin, Sounds like they’ve created a workable system that has allowed them to take out the thinking process and got things done.
      Have you taken their cue and have a system in place Justin?

      Aaron

      • I use Google Calendar for time-sensitive tasks and a full-sized notebook for projects and goals. Writing out plans and action lists is still more effective for me, but it is helpful to have a digital nag for those things that need timely attention.

        • good strategy Justin and one that takes into consideration short term process focus and long term outcome focus.

          Aaron

  • Great post Aaron. I find that the more specific my questions are about what I am to do and how I am to go about doing the things I have on my list, the better I will be at focusing on what truly is important. The questions you mention in this post are excellent. Thanks for challenging me to work harder at being more productive.

    • Thanks for sharing Darin. More and more evidence is coming forward about the use of using questions to direct our thinking when needed. Its great you are being challenged!

      Aaron

      • Yes, thank you Darin for sharing. It’s always good to hear from you.

  • I think you covered it! It’s cool that this process looks different for everyone. Thank you for the reminder to stay focused! I have a goal to read and comment on 3 blogs every day. Some days, I let that goal float around in my head all day, and I get distracted. Today, I decided to complete it first thing. I feel better already! Have a fabulous day!

    • Great comment Lauren. I can understand where you are coming from. When intentions float around, things constantly get in the way. It is only when you make an intent concrete by specifically allotting time for it that you know exactly when to stop and do it without anything else getting in the way.

      A good way to do this is asking ‘what time each day would i be able to set aside 45 minutes to read and comment on blogs?’. Soon enough you will find a felt sense that nothing else feels right at this time APART from reading & commenting on blogs.

      Hope that helps Lauren.

      BTW: it would be criminal to not shamelessly plug my blog to a lady that wants to read a blog (apart from this one) ! http://www.theconfidencelounge.com/blog

      • Shameless! I totally agree about the sense of nothing else feels right for that time. I’m creating more of those moments.

  • DS

    Lots of good stuff here Aaron. I like the know what you’re going to do thought process. Here’s a great resource that might be helpful – http://www.highperformanceacademy.com/HPA-1pageproductivity.pdf

    • Glad you enjoyed the post. Thank you for sharing the resource.

  • You covered it pretty well. The only thing I’d add is prayer. I do alot of that! Prayer helps me focus, it shows me things I can let go of as well as renews my mind/spirit. Prayers a great energy boost for me as I let go of stresses and enjoy tasks, knowing my God has it all under control.

    • It is not something I subscribe to TCAvey, but it is great you have found a method to help you focus.

      Aaron

      • I understand Aaron, thanks for respecting my beliefs.
        Have a wonderful day!

  • I like your thoughts on productivity, it’s definition. those three thoughts simplify things a whole lot : ) I’d second TC on prayer.

    On outsourcing, am at a place where i can’t outsource some things that take up my time. I’ve learned that some things might have to take the back burner (as in it doesn’t HAVE to get done now) while others i have to keep plodding along until i can afford to outsource. Still a it’s a good thing to know what needs to be outsourced.

    • Ngina, thank you for contributing! I’d like to add 2 things to what you have said:

      1. I’d got check out places like Odesk & Elance anyway. I was amazed how good value some things are that i thought were going to be out of my price range.

      2. Not everything does or should be outsourced. There are something that can be outsourced that I wouldn’t. For example I could save myself a lot of time by outsourcing my article writing to someone and then get another person to do my social media. Some people do, but I won’t because they are your voice and no one can speak your voice with as much passion about your projects than you can!

      Thanks
      Aaron

  • I’m not sure what you missed, but I know you mentioned one I really need to do: set deadlines! I work much more effectively if I have a deadline, but for some reason I keep forgetting to set them. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Take 30 minutes and map out a system Barb. Once done follow it until it becomes habitual.

      Thank you for contributing Barb!

  • I like you point to outsource low level thinking. I never really thought of it that way. I need to bite the bullet and hire someone at odesk to do some of my fiddly stuff for sure. I’ll have to research that. I want to play to my strengths and there is not enough time in the day to do everything. blessings, Amy

    • Hi Amy – It takes a period of acceptance within everyone who starts a project (business, book, website etc) and then decides to bring people in. Marshall Goldsmith wrote a book called ‘What got you here won’t get you there’ and the premise is in order to get to the next stage there are some things you have to do that you didn’t do before.

      I’d love to get an update on how you decide to do that Amy.

      Thanks for commenting
      Aaron

  • Aaron, thanks for the helpful points. My biggest problem is the deadlines. Even if I set them I can still have a problem achieving them. I’ll eventually get it done by usually a day or a week after the deadline I set.

    • Maybe you should consider more of a realistic deadline one where you can accoplish your goals in the time frame you want. So the things you want done maybe you should give yourself more time to complete them. At least your setting goals/deadlines and are completing them even though it’s not as soon as you might like. Thank you for reading and being open.

      • You’re right Dan, I probably should be more realistic with my deadlines. In the past regular reminders of upcoming deadlines have also helped me a lot.

        • It’s something I struggle with as well. I set unrealistic or big goals then get frustrated when I don’t reach those goals.

  • I give myself zones of super concentrated focus and then take breaks when I reach a certain level of completion. So I’ll work feverishly on a task and when it’s finished, I’ll take a ten minute break, check email/FB/whatever, get up, walk away for a bit, then come back and tackle the next task.

    • Thanks jason, yes this is a method of some super productive people so I imagine it is working well for you.

      Thanks for commenting

      Aaron

    • I use that same method Jason. It seems to work well for me. Thank you for sharing.

  • Excellent, excellent post. I have a 2 part strategy and then little ways to make it more productive which you touched on. I have a blocked schedule. Each day has a purpose and each block in my day is to fulfill that daily goal. Of course this gets side tracked from time to time but this is what I would like my preferred day to look like. In each block I use a task manager to sort out what needs to be done to accomplish that days goal. I block out distractions and do my best to focus on one thing at a time, but that can be difficult.

    • Great strategies Nate, the blocked schedule is a brilliant addition to anyones time management protocol. Similar to the pomodoro technique it creates an incentive to stay focussed for that period of time.
      Thanks for your input Nate.

      Aaron

    • That’s great Nate. I’m sure your productive because of your “blocked schedule.” I generally have the same schedule but could get better about planning my day and being focused on specific goals/tasks. Thank you for sharing Nate!

  • I like the thought of deadlining it. Very important to make a deadline to stay productive. I call is Phase 1 in what I do. I have to always be doing the things that are going to produce results.

    • That’s an important aspect when it comes to accomplishing our goals. That’s a good phase. Thank you for reading and sharing.

  • Great thoughts Aaron! I know that last set of questions is important – remembering to ask both “what went well?” AND “What needs attention?” can be a challenge. Sometimes it can be too easy to side one way or another. Excellent reminder!

    • I agree, that’s a great question. thank you for reading and adding to the discussion.

    • Thanks Jonathan glad you’ve seen the value in questions.

      Aaron

  • I heard Dr. Henry Cloud during the Chick-Fil-A leadercast say something like – those things you tell yourself you are going to do (get up early and exercise, diet, etc) and never do – you probably never will. So you need to get help to move forward in those areas. Great post – thanks for sharing.

    • yea. When that tends to happen it is a clue the process hasn’t been mapped out – “what are you going to do in order to get this done”

      Aaron

    • That’s very true. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  • One thing regarding your point “Outsource ‘low level’ thinking.” I absolutely agree that we should further build on our strengths, but we should also try to mitigate our weaknesses, especially if these weaknesses are critical competencies needed such as communication. We probably shouldn’t over-invest our time overcoming our weaknesses since we’ll since a diminishing marginal returns.

    • Hello Paul,

      It’s really important for leaders to focus on their strengths while delegating areas of weakness. It’s why we need to have a well rounded team. Thank you for taking the time to read and add to the conversation.

    • Hi Paul,

      There are certain factors you shouldn’t outsource, at least initially. I work with a lot of individuals at the early stages at having a business. You will NOT find someone more passionate than you to communicate your business. Even if you are online, like me for example, I am not a natural born writer but there is no chance I am going to outsource my article writing to someone on Elance or Odesk. Some people do, but they wont convey the voice I have to my own product.

      But things like Finance, whilst it is good to have a overall grasp of what it is all about, outsourcing to an accountant is not only wise, but can save you a lot of problems down the line!

      Thanks for commenting Paul!

      Aaron Morton

  • hi Aaron and Dan

    This is a great post. Being a leader does bring so many demands on our time. I have been at the head of several businesses in the past and I know there were days when I would get to 6 PM and realize I had not done anything I wanted to do that day. I so often ended up on someone else agenda. I had to work on that one!
    I am very good at delegating so had that handled but I felt forever pulled by people. Now in my home based business I still am getting used to having more to do myself.

    Great advice Aaron

    Sue

    • Hello Sue,

      Being able to delegate, especially when we have a lot of responsibilities, is so essential. Leadership can be demanding and take a lot of our time but it can produce great benefits. I hope you learn how to better use your time and energy when it comes to your own business. Thank you for reading and adding to the discussion.

    • Great feedback Sue. If we work 364 days of the year, you know that 10% of that is going to be a complete write off. Intent was there but stuff just got in the way and I think we just have to accept and let it go.

      Home based businesses are interesting in the fact that you have to separate the work from home life. Some people do this by having their office in the garage, so even though the walk is 20 seconds, they have a separation ritual between home and work. If you don’t intentionally make this separation, there is a chance you’ll be doing your washing when you planned on making sales calls!!

      Thanks for commenting

      Aaron

  • Hi Aaron,

    This was a wonderful guest post! Dan, thanks for introducing us to Aaron.

    Aaron, I think you included some excellent ways a leader can use to stay productive. I would like to add one other point to what you wrote about associating importance to tasks. What I do is to prioritise activities so that I spend minimal time, if any on those activities, which are not really contributing to the overall goal. I know in the past, I’ve got involved in activities, which seemed important when in reality they were not.

    Thank you.

    • Hello Hiten,

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Great point about spending little if any time on the things that are not allowing us to achieve our desired goal. This can be hard when it comes to making sure we don’t spend a lot of time on social media or surfing the internet. Which are a couple of my struggles when it comes to staying focused on the most important goals. Thank you for reading and adding to the conversation. I appreciate it.

    • Great addition Hiten – yes in some circles that is called knowing the economic driver of your business – “what are the set of actions that if you DIDN’T DO would grind your business to a halt” then focus your time on doing those actions.

      Thanks Hiten

      Aaron Morton

  • I can vouch for the pre-day planning, it get’s the ball rolling before the day even starts! Although instead of writing out a to-do list, I prefer to make a massive action plan, where I write down my goals, why I want to achieve them and the things I’ll do that day to bring me closer. Thanks!

    • Great idea Nick. having a massive action plan can allow us to stay focused day in and day out. Writing them down is also very important. Thank you for reading and adding to the discussion.

    • Brilliant Nick, I’ll be keen to know what your working on at the moment.

      Aaron

  • Very true! When I deviate deviate from the steps listed I feel like I am running in a jar of honey.

    • Hello TJ Trent,

      Ha, I hear you. Great analogy. Thank you for reading and sharing.

  • Mansal

    I know it is good to take all of these seriously, but the first one is HUGE in my opinion. If you aren’t putting all of your dedication into something because you value it / place importance on it, then you’re going to have huge problems. Excellent post!

    • Hello Mansal,

      I totally agree with you. That’s so important. Thank you for reading and sharing.

  • I think review is the missing key for so many people. Most improvements get made as a result of a crisis or a large breakdown instead of intentional and regular correction.

    • I totally agree Loren! It’s important to take the time to reflect and review. Great addition. Thanks for reading and adding to the conversation.

  • “outsource low-level thinking is definitely a power point”. Thanks for sharing. What else is missing? I’ll have to chew on this and add to it. Many great ideas have been contributed

    • Thank you for reading and commenting. I hope you enjoyed the post:) Talk to you soon.