How Productive Are You?” Let’s face it, productivity is the standard by which most of us are judged in the business world. At the end of the day, in most business environments, your destiny is likely to come down to a “what have you done for me lately” type of evaluation.

My question to you is this…Are you as productive as you think you are, or even as productive as you used to be? Would your co-workers agree with your assessment? In today’s post, I’ll share my thoughts about any number of different things that can adversely affect your ability to produce, as well as some of the key items that can leverage your ability to optimize productivity.

Even though entrepreneurs and executives are typically bright, talented, and motivated people known for being highly productive, studies have shown that most professionals, when objectively assessed, are found to view themselves as being more productive than they really are.

This is even true with the classic over-achieving type “A” personalities. So, what separates the productive from the non-productive? In working with countless CEOs and entrepreneurs, it has been my experience that those professionals who like to cover a lot of ground, and consider themselves masters of multi-tasking, are not nearly as productive as those who have an ability to focus (see the previous post entitled “The Power of Focus“).

Okay, let’s examine an all too common scenario: You have 30 minutes before the beginning of a strategy meeting which you are facilitating, and as you start to prepare your final thoughts you receive an e-mail from legal asking you to review the latest version of an important contract before you go into the meeting. As you begin to redline the contract you receive an IM from a board member asking for your immediate attention on a key issue. As you start to respond to the board member, your assistant informs you that an important client is on the phone and needs to speak with you immediately…As you begin to take the phone call you glance out your window only to see a small line forming outside your door, and just then your phone goes off with a 911 from your spouse…

The sad part about the aforementioned illustration is that for many executives this is a standard operating procedure. The pressure to become a multi-tasking phenom is in my opinion at the root of a decline in executive productivity. Multi-tasking in my opinion is choosing to deal with perceived “urgent” matters rather than focusing on truly “important” matters. My father once told me that “part-time efforts yield part-time results” and I have found that with rare exceptions his premise is correct.

In the scenario presented above it is likely that this fictional executive would not have been properly prepared for his/her meeting, missed a key business point in reviewing the contract, sent the board member an indiscernible IM full of typos, upset the important client by not giving him/her the deserved amount of respect and attention, frustrated the employees lined-up outside the door, and more than likely would have ended up sleeping on the couch because he/she forgot to return their spouse’s phone call.

It is impossible to kind-of, sort-of, almost, focus, and still be productive. If you find yourself constantly multi-tasking you are exhibiting a lack of focus, an inability to prioritize, and regardless of what you might think, you are not optimizing your productivity. The first step in dealing with an addiction is to recognize it exists in the first place. Technology can be a beautiful thing but only if you learn to be its master and not its slave. Without question, the most successful executives I know are the ones that can prioritize, delegate, focus, and who understand the difference between a productive “no” and an unproductive “yes”.  Learning to stop trying to be all things to all people while attempting to single handedly conquer the world is what will help lead you toward the certainty of execution and an increase in productivity.