I am frequently asked what it takes to become more productive. My answer is simply to become very, very focused.

Focus has always been a powerful characteristic that has served me well in all leadership roles alike. Relentless focus results in aligned priorities, order, discipline, and productivity. That sounds simple enough doesn’t it? Then why is this so hard for executives and entrepreneurs? There are two primary reasons that professionals cannot maintain their focus:

  1. Successful people tend to be energetic, creative, intelligent, and have a bias toward action. That combination of personality traits, combined with the pace at which business operates today, can cause even the best and brightest to lose focus and in turn lose productivity, AND
  2. They lack a programmatic, disciplined approach to maintaining their focus. Like most good things in life, focus doesn’t usually happen by osmosis. It takes a systematic, process-driven approach to maintain high levels of focus on a consistent long-term basis.

I have seen many productivity systems over the years, and for the most part, they all have something good to offer. However, the complaint that I have with most of them is that they are too complicated, and they tend to look too far ahead.

Below is my four-pronged strategy that I have used to maintain my business focus for 20+ years:

  1. Vision: You must always have a clear vision of what is important to you, and why you are doing what you’re doing. It is this clarity of vision that dictates purpose and priority. If you don’t know what you’re playing for, it is very difficult to compete…much less to win.
  2. Tactical Business Plans: I like to keep things to the short strokes. I work off rolling 90-day tactical business plans based upon achieving objectives that move me closer to the fulfillment of my vision. When you consistently string together quarter over quarter progress, momentum is generated and great things happen.
  3. Task Management: Every day for the last 20 years I have gone to work with an updated task list that contains priority items that I want to try and accomplish that day. While I wish I could tell you that I’m able to accomplish every item each day I can’t. But what I can tell you is that those who know me will testify that I accomplish more in a day than most believe possible. The tasks are developed based upon achieving the 90 plan which is based upon fulfilling the overarching vision. Simple, practical, efficient…just the way I like it.
  4. Gut Checks: This is the big one…Many people half-heartedly use task lists, but the key to consistently crossing items off the list is conducting hourly gut checks. Every hour on the hour I ask myself the following question. Am I doing the most productive thing possible at this point in time? If my answer is yes, I press on. If my answer is no, I have a decision to make…I have been known to end meetings, phone calls, re-calendar appointments, etc. solely based on the outcome of my gut check. It’s okay to spend time on items that don’t meet the gut-check test, so long as you are aware that you’re doing it. It is the people that think they’re being productive when they are clearly not that have trouble.

This system has served me well for more than 20 years and I challenge you to put it to the test. I can guarantee you only one thing…If you don’t try it you may never know the power that focus can bring to bear on your life.