Killing the killers


Last week I spoke about productivity killers. In my opinion, all of them are subtle, insidious, and a general pain in the ass.

The good news is that there are specific action steps you can take to do away with these productivity killers, so that at the end of the day you can bask in the satisfaction of having been productive, effective, and efficient.

1. Commit to making progress, not just checking tasks off your To Do list.

People who get sucked into what I call “pretend productivity” are often more concerned with activity than with progress; as long as they’re busy doing something (especially if they’re efficient at it), they can tell themselves they’re having a productive day.


Peter Drucker once made a painfully on-target observation: “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”

When you review your To Do list – or, better yet, when you create it – ask yourself before listing any task: “How will this activity contribute to my important goals?” If you can’t answer quickly and easily, guess what? That task has no place on your list or in your day.

Asking this question depends on your effectively applying the second weapon in your productivity-killing arsenal.

2. Know what outcome you want to create.

Without a clear sense of your desired outcomes, you’ll find it all too easy to drift with the tide, react to urgent activities that have no real importance, and generally waste your time.

But when you really know what you want to accomplish and why it’s important to you, you’ll have an almost infallible litmus test to apply to any activity that clamors for some of your time.

The test questions are simple: “Which goal does this activity apply to? How will it move me toward that goal?”

Again, if an answer is not readily apparent, ignore that activity; it doesn’t deserve a chunk of your precious, limited, irretrievable time.

By doing this, you’ll ensure you’re effectively implementing the next strategy.

3. Do what will get you what you want.

It’s sometimes really tempting to do a task because you can, rather than because there’s a compelling reason to do it. This is a very, very good temptation to resist.

If you were still an employee, chances are you’d be getting paid primarily for being in the office. Unless you’re a really big-time slug, the paychecks come every two weeks, no matter how many measurable results you do or don’t produce.

Entrepreneurs don’t have that luxury. If something’s not contributing to building your revenues or cutting your expenses, you can’t afford to waste time on it.

So adopt a ruthless attitude about doing tasks that will contribute to you getting what you want, while simultaneously ignoring those that are simply fun or feel-good tasks. This is far easier to do when you apply strategy number four.

4. Be conscious.

Many people, including entrepreneurs, go through their days being oblivious. They’ve either never heard of or choose to ignore the admonition of American spiritual teacher Ram Dass to “be here now.”

But obliviousity (yes, it’s a word – now) is a choice and a habit. You can, at any time, make a different choice and develop a different habit that serves you better.


Awareness is the first step on the road to success.


If you’re ready to move into the ranks of truly butt-kicking entrepreneurs, one of the best ways to do this is to be meticulous about observing what you’re doing and why.

Be especially careful to notice tasks you’re tempted to avoid because of the discomfort associated with doing them. I’ve found that this discomfort is often a clue pointing to a high-payoff activity.  With this awareness, you’ll be able to pull yourself back into productive mode when/if you wander off on a time-wasting track. This awareness is both a cause and an effect of tool number five.

5. Focus.

You’ve heard it so many times: Focused attention boosts output.

Is it a habit yet?Focus is essential to productivity.

If not, maybe it’s time to get ruthless about choosing to apply some of the strategies you’re already aware of, such as removing distractions (physical, mental, emotional) or working away from your home office.

Another tool I’ve recently discovered is music scientifically optimized to boost concentration and focus, offered at FocusAtWill. This music, based on neuroscience principles, is designed to make it easier for you to get into the concentration flow and stay there. It works “by subtly soothing the part of your brain, the limbic system, that is always on the lookout for danger, food, sex or shiny things.”

When I took advantage of the free trial, I found I really did focus better on writing projects, so I opted to purchase a year’s worth of access. It might be worth trying to see if it works for you.

When you’re focused on an important task, it will probably be easier to implement strategy number six.

6. Keep an eye out for rabbit holes.

It’s so easy to get trapped in them: those chains of events that seduce you away from the important task at hand.

One of the most common ways to get pulled completely off track is to click on a link in a blog post, because you’re very likely to find another link beckoning to you from that article. If you’re consciously working to be present, focused, and resistant to distractions, you’ll catch yourself fairly quickly and ask yourself, “How is this information serving me? How am I going to apply it to improve my business results?”

Naturally, there will be occasions when there’s a clear and compelling reason to pursue the information represented by those links. You can still keep yourself from getting totally lost in this unanticipated new endeavor by setting a timer. This way you can still pursue the unexpectedly valuable links you’ve come across AND ensure that you get back to the important activity you originally identified and starting working on.

This type of ongoing self-monitoring is an example of the power of the final tool for killing the productivity killers.

7. Question yourself.

This is a technique you want to apply very purposefully, because – done sloppily – it can do far more harm than good.

The idea is to question yourself, not from a position of judgment or second-guessing, but from one of neutral curiosity. The latter is empowering and will move you forward, while the former will do nothing more than shake your confidence and self-esteem.

When you monitor your choices and behaviors, you’re putting yourself in control of your time and your outcomes. Instead of reacting, amoeba-like, to outside stimuli, you’re instead responding to input by making informed, conscious, strategic decisions that will propel you toward the outcomes you want.


Which of these approaches resonate with you? How can you see yourself implementing one or more of them as you move forward?

Or are you having a tough time choosing which to focus on? Do they just feel like more additions to an already overwhelming Too Much To Do list? If so, I have some ideas that might help with that wild-eyed feeling.

I work with entrepreneurs who are burdened by too many activities that are generating too few results. I show them how to toss aside what gets in their way and implement the actions that will get them what they want.

Are you curious to know if that’s something we could work on together? If you are, let’s set up a no-commitment, no-charge, get-acquainted call. During this time, we can ask and answer some questions so that both of us are comfortable in deciding whether or not we’d make a great productivity-enhancing team.

The easiest way to set up your call is to grab a spot in my calendar.  We’ll have our chat and see what shakes out. I promise you, we’ll stay focused, on task, and efficient.

(BTW, do you like the image of the “Robin Hood” arrow-in-the-arrow? I did that myself a couple of years ago. It was accidental, but still worth a picture.)

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