The Business Journals Leadership Trust By Business Journals Leadership Trust Expert Panel®
Business Journals Leadership Trust is an invite-only network of influential business leaders, executives and entrepreneurs in your community. As a business leader, you likely have a full daily schedule and work long hours. However, being “busy” doesn’t mean anything if you’re not making progress toward your goals. You want to ensure you’re making the most of your time and that all of your efforts are worth it — but how can you truly tell?
To help, we asked 15 members of Business Journals Leadership Trust how to determine if your late nights and jam-packed schedule are really helping you reach your goals — or if you’re just spinning your wheels. Here’s how they recommend evaluating your efforts and boosting true productivity.
1. Treat your work like client work.
As a management consultant leader, I treat my work the same way I treat client work. Our clients pay for our service based on the deliverables we produce, which are tangible representations of a solution. Rather than simply tracking activity, I think of my work as individual deliverables that lead to the outcome I am working toward (e.g., a proposal, a meeting facilitation plan or marketing plan), setting a target percentage of completed goals each week. – Robin Stehle, Syntropy Partners, LLC
2. Set attainable milestones.
Often goals for large projects require multiple steps that are difficult to measure or quantify on a daily or weekly basis. Setting attainable milestones within them allows you to see the progression. Milestones should be smaller, individual tasks. As you track toward the end goal, you’ll be able to see progress as you reach and pass each milestone toward the objective. – Jeffrey Bartel, Hamptons Group, LLC
3. List the tasks that will achieve a specific goal.
To be productive, you should have a vision or goal and should list the tasks that are needed to accomplish the goal. Assign each task a weight to prioritize those tasks that bring the greatest value to attaining the goal; the tasks must be objectively measurable. Unproductive people have a lot of tasks, while productive people focus on a few tasks that are constantly updated – Matthew Halle, Lead2Growth
4. Focus on outputs rather than inputs.
It’s critical to monitor your deliverables and to be open and honest about whether or not you are achieving them. Some key things to remember are to limit your promises to what you can deliver and be prepared to make mistakes — if you don’t make mistakes, you are not trying hard enough or being bold enough. – Joanna Swash, Moneypenny
5. Measure yourself within a fixed window of time.
Your mix of daily tasks will depend on your role in the company. The key to determining if you are being productive is by measuring yourself or your team over time to see if you are improving. Select SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timebased) goals that you believe to be obtainable within the amount of time you have set aside to work on them. Then measure every week/month/quarter. – Matt Bratlien, Net-Tech
6. Identify your key metrics.
One way to determine if you’re being productive instead of just busy is to identify the key metrics that are the most important to the business. Then, create a way to track these metrics daily or weekly and discuss them frequently with the team. If your priorities drive improvement in these key performance indicators, then your work is aligned with the desired outcomes. – Vincent Phamvan, Vyten Career Coaching
7. Focus on what only you can do.
When you’re being productive, you’re usually adding unique value and focusing on things that are moving the needle. For me, that means only working on things that are the highest priority. There is always plenty of work to do, but I try to focus on those things that only I can do as CEO and delegate everything else to my team, and I do thiswith confidence because I know they will get the job done. – Jenn Kenning, Align
8. Keep a list of accomplishments next to your task list.
Everyone has a to-do list; few have a list of accomplishments next to their to-do list. Working on tasks and checking off your list keeps you productive but seldom equates to achieving big success. What is the goal of busywork? If the hours spent are not helping you reach an important goal, reevaluate your time allocation. Make that list of accomplishments just as important as the to-do list. – Paul Weber, EAG Advertising & Marketing
9. Always be moving the ball.
I tell all of my employees to make sure they are carrying the ball down the field each day. Every day, with every task they complete, the ball should be moving closer and closer to the goal. If you are not moving the ball, you are engaged in busy work that doesn’t benefit you or your clients. You should ensure that everything you do each day moves your client closer to the result they desire. – Donna Stockham, Stockham Law Group, P.A.
10. Align your activities to a larger business objective.
I’ve found the best way to ensure I’m being productive instead of just busy is to align all activities toward a larger business objective. For example, I used to fill my days with meetings I’d been invited to, but few I’d proactively sought out. With Covid-19 minimizing those, I have focused on my team and our clients’ best interests and I’ve increased revenue, profitability and my own happiness. – Kent Lewis, Anvil Media, Inc.
11. Decide on a fixed number of priorities for each day.
If your daily activities are not driving toward your strategic goals, change them. Then be realistic about what’s achievable in a day or week. I never prioritize more than five things to get done on a certain day, and I do my best to start with those items first. Setting aside blocks of time is the only way to make this happen and take control of your calendar. – Matt Rosen, Allata
12. Revisit and optimize your priorities.
Activity does not equate to achievement. If you are constantly busy working but are not making any progress toward your goals, stop what you are doing, examine the activities that you do and refocus. Being busy doesn’t help you learn any new skills. Revisit your priorities and optimize them for your success. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS
13. Break goals down into measurable activities.
Clarity regarding what you need to do each day to accomplish your goals is most important. Break goals down into measurable activities. Establish what matters most and prioritize your actions against the activity that drives you closer to goals. Get clear on tomorrow at the end of today so you start each day focused. Celebrate the small wins along the way. – Renie Cavallari, aspire
14. Review your progress each week.
Leaders have to tackle or work toward large goals every week, not just do “stuff.” So, to make sure you’re actually productive, ask yourself, “What did I do this week to work on strategic goals for my company?” and “What will I feel most satisfied with accomplishing today?” That way, you can keep your big-picture priorities and work in line. – Sam Davidson, Batch
15. Check in with your team.
One way I avoid spinning my wheels is to check in with my team to make sure that what I am working on this week is what actually needs to get done. Often as a leader you are supporting your team, and nothing slows them down faster than hoops or a boss with a too-busy schedule. I love our project management software, Jira, and our company runs on EOS. Those two things alone guarantee progress toward goals. – Jay Feitlinger, StringCan Interactive