When thinking about being busy, the picture that comes to mind is not what I want others to think of me. As we transform busyness into productivity, we should consider the message we're giving to the world and ourselves.
Synonyms for busy such as overwhelmed, drowning, or being on a hamster wheel are not positive. When working with high-performing professionals, it's important to pay attention to how they speak about their time and their way of operating. Constantly saying "I'm busy" sends a negative message to the subconscious and those around them. Instead, we should aim to be productive, not just busy.
This is the image that comes to mind when thinking of a productive individual. This is what we strive for. The connotations of productivity include empowerment, control, being proactive, having a schedule, accomplishing things, and bringing things to fruition. That's the ultimate goal. As we lead our businesses, people, clients, and customers, the message we want to communicate to the world is the goal of productivity.
Does every day look like this? Not necessarily. But it is the objective. In a world where the culture of busyness is accepted as the norm, we must do things differently. We need to speak and present ourselves differently to bring about that change.
The ASCEND Method™ is transitioning from busy to productive, and it includes 6 steps. These steps are best practices, but it's important to consider where you may have blurred the lines, allowed scope creep, or crossed your boundaries. Resetting boundaries and expectations is crucial to present as productive genuinely. Having the right steps in place is essential for functioning productively.
Busyness often stems from pursuing lesser goals or allowing distractions to hinder us. As business owners, entrepreneurs, and leaders, we must ensure we stay focused on our most important and prioritized goals, employing daily disciplines, personal habits, systems, and processes. Implementing these practices in our businesses will have a positive impact on others, creating a domino effect.
Let's consider some statistics that highlight the cost of the culture of busyness. On average, professionals spend over five hours daily checking work and personal emails, excluding creating, responding, or processing. More than 50% of a typical workday is spent reading messages without taking action. Most individuals only have about three minutes of focused time before being distracted or interrupted. It's important to track how often your mind wanders or you've pulled away while working on a task.
Another significant number is 34%. Disengaged employees who frequently check emails or jump in and out of inboxes and Slack channels lose or waste 34% of their salary through decreased productivity and absenteeism. This directly impacts profitability.
These numbers underscore the importance of rethinking time management practices.
Time management is about managing thoughts, decisions, focus, and priorities. We have control over these aspects. While it may seem like time is stolen from us, we actually have command and control over all of them. Time management is essentially about managing ourselves.
There are six areas where you can better manage yourself: time, focus, and thoughts. Some may resonate with you and involve small changes in your behavior, while others may require collaboration with clients, customers, and team members.
"A" is about advocating for yourself. In case of an emergency on an airplane, flight attendants instruct you to put on your oxygen mask first before assisting others.
As entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, and business owners, we often prioritize our business needs over our own for extended periods. However, self-care must be a priority. Before making a positive impact, running a thriving business, and contributing to your community or the world, taking care of yourself is essential.
Advocate for yourself by addressing your physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional needs. Find moments to step back, take deep breaths, and get fresh air. Consider incorporating meditation or gratitude journaling into your routine. Take breaks from constant demands to connect with yourself.
In an ideal world, self-advocacy might involve an hour of daily exercise or a weekly spa visit. In reality, it could be as simple as spending five minutes each morning expressing gratitude before getting out of bed. It could also mean moving or taking deep breaths when prompted by a reminder on your watch.
This fundamental is crucial because without prioritizing self-care, other productivity, marketing, and sales strategies won't reach their full potential. How are you advocating for yourself? What small steps can you take to ensure your oxygen mask is secure so you can effectively assist others?
The second component is simplifying your focus by minimizing multitasking. While attending this webinar, some of you may also be managing a text conversation or trying to send an email. While occasional interruptions are unavoidable, multitasking has become a habit that leaves us feeling incomplete without it.
Multitasking actually weakens the connections in our brains and impairs our focus. Identify areas in your business where singular focus and full engagement would benefit you the most. For example, when coaching a client, it's essential to be 100% present without distractions. Are you truly engaged and present?
Consider the parts of your business where multitasking leads to time loss and mistakes, requiring additional cleanup. In the book "Scrum," a study conducted approximately 30 years ago explored the impact of handling multiple projects simultaneously. The findings revealed that devoting our time and energy to one task or project allows us to utilize 100% of our resources. However, when we add a second task, we lose 20% of our energy, focus, and accuracy due to constant task switching. This efficiency loss worsens with each additional task.
The key is to simplify your focus. Identify areas where you can unlearn multitasking and train yourself to tackle one task at a time, fully engaging in it. Don't expect to accomplish multiple things simultaneously.
The "C" in ASCEND Method™ is communicating boundaries. Leaders and individuals growing their businesses often feel pressured to be constantly available, which is not healthy for anyone involved. Communicating boundaries means establishing times when you are available and times when you are not expected to be accessible.
Reflect on your team—do you have mechanisms that foster collaboration while respecting individual boundaries? Can you confidently share your availability while encouraging others to express their boundaries?
In many cases, we have allowed boundaries to blur by making exceptions like taking calls on days designated for deep work or accommodating requests that don't align with our best interests. It's essential to reassess and determine what works best for us, as it ultimately benefits our customers, clients, and team members.
The "E" in ASCEND Method™ is eliminating distractions. This relates to the statistic showing that we experience distractions or interruptions every three minutes. Distractions often arise internally, such as when we remember an unanswered message during a meeting and feel the urge to respond immediately.
To manage these distractions, we can develop a reliable method to quickly capture the information and return to the task at hand. Shifting our mindset from "I must do it now or else I'll forget" to "I'll address it once I finish what I'm currently working on" helps maintain focus.
On the other hand, interruptions come from external sources. To minimize them, create a work environment with fewer interruptions and communicate your availability to your team. For example, you can let them know that you're accessible in the mornings until noon but require uninterrupted deep thinking time from noon to three. These strategies work together to manage distractions and interruptions effectively.
Implementing systems and processes to minimize interruptions allows for fully completing tasks and ideas. We have more control over this aspect than we realize.
Many of us have worked in a time before instant access to one another, and we know that we were still able to be productive and accomplish our work. Remembering this can inspire us to take control and eliminate distractions to regain focused productivity.
The next one is navigating priorities proactively. How do you stay ahead of your plan? Do you have your week mapped out by Sunday evening? How do you ensure that you're not solely working out of your inbox and that by three o'clock in the afternoon, you can address your own priorities?
What are your daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly rituals and routines that help you plan ahead? "Plan the work and work the plan." Where do you successfully implement this? Perhaps you have a team meeting every Monday with a solid plan. However, you may find yourself being reactive once you get home.
Acknowledge proactive areas and give yourself credit for them. Then, identify how you can replicate that approach in other aspects of your life. Maybe you're highly proactive with your team but feel reactive with clients and customers. Creating a unique plan tailored to your circumstances is crucial.
At the very least, make it a daily discipline to map out your week and plan your day before diving into the first meeting, opening emails, or addressing requests. Incorporating these practices into your routine will make a significant difference. Start with the present moment.
Many businesses find that dedicating about five to 10 minutes every morning and approximately 20 to 30 minutes before the week begins allows them to establish their plan, be proactive, and know what to expect in their workday and workweek. Adapt these timeframes to your needs and establish a proactive approach that works for you.
Finally, let's talk about developing systems. All the previous fundamentals require more than temporary effort. They need to become habits and behavioral changes. You might do a great job for a day, a few days, or a week, but without a supporting system, you'll start from scratch again when the next Monday or month comes around.
Developing systems means creating best practices and establishing routines ingrained in daily, weekly, and monthly activities. As a leader, ensure your team executes proactively too. Transform the five fundamentals into systems, not just temporary strategies. Define consistent ways of doing things. This is the process we follow every day, week, and month because it's effective, efficient, and streamlined.
Scaling your business requires scaling your processes first, then extending that scalability to your team's work. Avoid reinventing things constantly. Establish systems to focus on refining and fine-tuning, rather than starting from scratch.
Remember knowledge comes from action. Change doesn't have to be drastic overnight; small steps and incremental changes can have a significant impact.
Consider what you need to stop doing. Are you accommodating clients excessively or neglecting your own needs? Reflect on these aspects and frame your approach: What will I keep doing, start doing, and stop doing? Set a specific timeline for implementation, whether tomorrow or next week.
Lastly: "Productivity is not just about doing more; it's about creating more impact with less work."
It's important to shift our perspective from being busy to being productive. The concept of busyness carries negative connotations and sends a detrimental message both to ourselves and the world. Instead, we should strive for productivity, which brings empowerment, control, and the ability to accomplish meaningful goals.
By implementing the ASCEND™ Method, we can transition from busy to productive by advocating for self-care, simplifying our focus, communicating boundaries, eliminating distractions, navigating priorities proactively, and developing systems. These steps require consistent effort and behavioral changes, but they lead to more effective and streamlined processes. Scaling our businesses and achieving long-term success requires us to prioritize productivity over busyness.
By taking action, making small changes, and focusing on creating impactful results, we can redefine our approach to work and achieve greater fulfillment and success in our professional lives.