5 Things You Can Do Today to Become More Productive

Carla Turchetti by Carla Turchetti on March 27, 2014
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Do you feel like your to-do list and the clock are engaged in constant battle? Kevin Kowalke, a mortgage broker and business strategist, believes you need to examine what’s working and what isn’t — and then strategize how to be more productive.

“You have to make the choice to want more control of your business and your life,” he advises. “Start with a new thought process and it will lead to the desire to implement new actions, which is the only thing that creates new outcomes.”

Of course, shifting your behavior won’t necessarily be easy. “In order to achieve a different outcome from years past,” Kowalke says, “it requires you, the business owner, to make uncomfortable changes that will result in more effective and productive efforts.”

Here’s his five-step plan for getting more done:

1. Eliminate tasks. “Take a quiet moment to reflect on your life. Admit to yourself what needs to be eliminated in order to remove significant resistance that is holding you back from being more effective in all aspects of your personal and professional performance,” Kowalke says.

Make a list of things to let go. “Your get-rid-of list should include tasks and distractions that hold you back from doing what will produce more meaningful results,” he says. “Business professionals fill their days with busywork because it makes them feel like they accomplished something after the 5 o’clock whistle blows when in reality all they did was make their tomorrow even more difficult.”

Consider delegating mundane tasks that sap your time but can be outsourced relatively inexpensively. Your get-rid-of list should also include anyone who brings unnecessary drama into your life. “People around you tend to be the biggest time thieves,” Kowalke says. “Choose to seek out people who are on the same mission as you are.”

2. Envision your ideal scenario. Imagine exactly what you want your life and work to be. Even if you don’t believe you can achieve all of your goals, try to picture what it would be like if you did.

“This thought process refocuses your mind to gain energy and momentum, so you can identify the reason why you want to put forth all the effort,” Kowalke says.

3. Narrow your focus. Stop wasting time by chasing less-than-ideal opportunities. The classic example, Kowalke says, “is when you accept an invitation to go to a coffee or lunch appointment with someone you have not qualified.” By “qualified” he means determining whether taking the time to meet with the person could lead to a mutually beneficial relationship.

“Why not start out with a 10- to 15-minute phone call vs. giving someone an hour of your time over lunch, plus 20 minutes [each way] driving back and forth to the office?” Kowalke asks. “That is one hour and 40 minutes of waste. You could have made five to eight phone calls during that time.”

In his business as a mortgage broker, Kowalke has made the conscious decision not to do business with customers who are simply shopping around for the best deals on interest rates. The formula that works for him is developing long-term relationships with clients.

“Not every prospect should be your customer,” he says. “Be more selective and stop allowing people to steal your time and energy.”

4. Examine your wins and losses. Kowalke believes you can see your own pattern for success. “Document your wins, so you can duplicate your efforts faster and with more predictability, which will cut down on your prospecting time,” he says.

Do the same thing with the business that got away. “Debrief on your losses, so you can enhance your message and delivery and create your perfect sales presentation,” he says. “That will lead to more winning, executable strategies.”

5. Unplug. Take technology breaks as a way to get more done. “Turn off all technology once a week for [three to four hours] and start something,” Kowalke suggests.

“Work on an existing project that needs care and attention. Start a new project that will enhance your marketing efforts. Start the process of reworking your customer experience to wow them,” he recommends. “Call your best customers ‘just because.’ Make that one phone call you have been putting off that will lead to new relationships and new business.”

Carla Turchetti

Carla Turchetti is a veteran broadcast, print and digital journalist who is passionate about small businesses and the stories behind them. Carla is a small-business columnist at the News & Observer, the regional daily newspaper in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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