If there is one thing that you can do right now to improve your productivity, it is to stop being productive long enough to plan your week.
You have a choice as to how you engage with the world. You can choose to be reactive, waiting for people and events to act on you and stimulate you to respond. Or you can be proactive, making decisions as to what is really important, what commands your time and focus, and what produces the results you really want.
Most people are continually in reactive mode. It’s an addiction. The reactive person waits for someone to make a request and responds. This reactive mode is especially rewarding when a customer calls with an issue. The reactive person jumps on the opportunity to help manage a crisis and put out some fire. It feels great to make a difference, and then the excitement is gone, and the reactive person waits for the next emergency to draw their attention.
You know the reactive person when you see them. They have their email up in front of them all day, waiting for the real-time demands of others to guide their day.
Proactive people behave differently. They don’t allow the world to make demands of them before they make demands of themselves. They refuse to live in “reactive mode.” Instead, they determine what are the biggest outcomes they need to achieve, and they block the time to do the work that produces the results they want.
The most effective, successful, and productive people plan their weeks. Here’s how you can follow the first rule of productivity, plan your week, and be proactive.
1. Block Time: Block time to review all of your commitments, all of your roles, all of your obligations, and all of the incoming requests that require some action. If you want to be super-effective, block the same time every week, and make your weekly planning a sacred ritual. (I block Saturday mornings to collect everything I need to do, clearing out all of my physical inboxes, my Evernote inbox, and all of my email accounts. Then I plan my week on Sunday.)
2. Use a List of Prompts: Use a list of prompts to remind you of the things that need to be done. Start with a list called “Who.” Who do you need to call? Who do you need to follow up with? Who do you need to spend time with, personally and professionally? “Who” is more important than “what.” Some prompts will include client lists, family members, and professional relationships. Other prompt lists will include sales opportunities, active projects, follow up activities, and routine maintenance (like updating your sales force automation and sending thank you cards). Building this list will help you build a routine that allows you to be proactive.
3. Make (and keep) Commitments to Yourself: Most people believe the calendar is a sacred place to hold only the commitments they make to others. Use your calendar to keep the commitments you make to yourself. Make appointments on your calendar to do the most important work that needs to be done each week. Make an appointment with yourself to do the prospecting work you’ve been avoiding. Make an appointment to make the call to the client with whom you need to have a difficult conversation. Make an appointment to write the white paper or case study you need to help nurture your dream clients. These commitments are as important as your meeting commitments, and putting them on your calendar moves you from reactive to proactive.
Being busy doesn’t mean that you are being productive. Being productive means that you are doing the most important work to produce the your most important outcomes. Plan your week so that you are productive, not busy.
To learn more about the secrets of the most productive sales people, visit salesforce.com, or download the free e-book.