Increased Productivity Requires Focused Attention & Changing Bad Habits

November 2, 2011

In today’s workplace people are working harder than ever, yet the results may not reflect this in a way that shows increased productivity. Part of it may be due to a lack of focus on getting results. And part may be because bad habits keep us from succeeding.

Getting results requires focusing on only that which matters. Self help author and motivational speaker Brian Tracy describes what he calls the “law of three” in business management. According to this law, aside from the three most important tasks or results you want to achieve, everything else contributes just 10 percent of actual results.

Unfortunately, most people spend 90 perecent of their time on activities that contribute very little and then wonder why they are making so little progress.

Tracy suggests you first determine the three most important results you must achieve in order to be successful. Typically, it’s one primary result with two supporting results that are essential in order to succeed in achieving the first. For example, the first could be sales volume, while the second and third would be effective marketing to attract qualified prospects and effective selling to convert prospects into customers.

Next you need to eliminate all the “busy work” you end up doing each day that gets in the way of focusing all your time and energy on these three results 90 percent of the time.

Take a critical look at your job description. Does it acurately reflect what the company needs you to do in order to succeed in your three most important results? If not, see if you can refine it and then present this to your manager. You are not looking to be confrontational, but you want to ensure your time and energy is used to produce results the company wants and needs from you.

The other side of the equation has to do with your own bad habits that may get in the way of reaching results. This is where you have to take an honest appraisal of yourself and identify what you do habitually that keeps you from staying focused on your three results.

“Success and failure are more a result of your habits than anything else,” says Tracy

If you can increase your good habits and reduce your bad habits, you will dramatically contribute to your success in life. This is easier said than done, of course. There is a saying that bad habits are like comfortable chairs—easy to get into, but hard to get out of.

Here are 12 steps for changing a bad habit:

1.      Make a Plan – Write this down; make the bad habit specific and describe what it looks and feels like to be gone.
One at a Time – As tempting as it may be to take on more than one, stay focused so you can be successful with just one habit at a time.
Take a Full 30 Days – There is no research to say exactly how long it takes to break a bad habit, but if this is something you do all the time then    30 days should be sufficient.
Acknowledge Your Triggers – You know better than anyone what triggers your bad habit, so you must determine a strategy to avoid or counter them. And for each trigger, determine a good habit you can use in place of your bad habit.
Avoid Environments/People That Trigger You – If there is a place or person that makes this habit more likely to show up, see if you can avoid it or them for awhile.
Acknowledge Your Obstacles – You also know what gets in the way of changing your behavior better than anyone. So think of a creative strategy to overcome them.
Ask for Help and Support – Don’t go about this without others to cheer you on and help you when you are weak.
Become Aware of What You Tell Yourself – All too often what we say to ourselves can counter what we try to achieve. Be mindful of this inner dialogue and correct it if necessary.
Stay Healthy – Take care of your physical health by eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise and plenty of sleep.
Determine Disincentives for Failure – Make failing to change this habit detrimental in some way that will help you succeed.
Give Yourself a Reward – Acknowledge and celebrate your success with a reward that will continually remind you of why you earned it.
If you Fail, Start Again – Like learning anything new, it may take more than one attempt to succeed. Don’t get discouraged, find out what went wrong, correct it, and start over again.

Bad habits can often sabotage your attempt to focus on the most important work at hand. It takes courage and commitment to remove these bad habits, but once you do, you will be rewarded for a lifetime.

This combination of focused attention on your three most important results and removing habits that get in the way of succeeding are the keys to making your hard work lead to increased productivity.

Prepare to Hire the Right People

August 26, 2011

At a time when the stock market is a frightful roller coaster ride, consumer confidence is extremely low and the US unemployment is over nine percent, it may seem silly to talk about hiring again. But things will improve and you need to be prepared for when it does.

In Jim Collins’ seminal book Good to Great, he stated: “Get the right people on the bus. Get the wrong people off the bus. And then get the right people in the right seats on the bus.” Everything begins and ends with the right people doing the right jobs at the right time.

So just how do you hire the right people? How do you ensure that at a time of high unemployment you sort through the many potential candidates and get the best possible employee?

In most businesses the people you employ are your most important asset. They make or sell your product or service, and they determine whether you are successful or not. Therefore, hire winners. Hire people who are smart, hard working, ambitious and nice to be around.

Be certain you know exactly what it is you’re looking for. Commit this to paper and circulate it to everyone likely to work with this person. Ask for advice and comments from everyone on your team. Make sure you have thought beyond the knowledge and skills of your current people to include all the qualities you are seeking in an ideal candidate.

In Full Engagement: Inspire, Motivate, and Bring Out the Best in Your People, author Brian Tracy suggests the Law of Three in Hiring. He says this technique can increase the quality of your hires to a 90 percent success rate.

The Law of Three in Hiring

  • Interview Three Candidates – Choosing at least three candidates to interview can give you three different perspectives on the kind of people who are available. Don’t underestimate how powerful this can be in helping you identify the right fit.
  • Interview Three Times – Interview the person you like at least three times because with each interaction you will see another side of the person to evaluate. You may also learn further details or discrepancies in the stories the candidate reveals about his or her experience.
  • Select Three Different Meeting Places – This is helpful because people are subject to the “chameleon effect” and often change their personality when you move them around. Meet the candidate in a coffee shop or restaurant to see them in a more relaxed and public setting. You will see different sides of their personality that may be admirable or not so admirable.
  • Have Three Different People Interview the Candidate – This is especially important for the people who will be working directly with the candidate. And be sure to take their feedback seriously when making your decision. Ideally, you’ll want 100 percent agreement on who to hire.

Most importantly take your time in making a decision. This is currently an employer’s market and you have the luxury of taking time for fact checking the resume, contacting references for more than cursory information, and evaluating whether this is truly the right person.

It can cost between three and six times the person’s annual salary to hire someone who doesn’t work out. This cost is made up from the time spent on interviewing and training, the person’s salary and benefits while they are learning the job, and the lower level of productivity in the first few months of any new hire. Employee morale can also suffer with high turnover in your place of business.

Finally, it is important to trust your gut. Your intuition will tell you whether this is the right person and your brain will then logically justify your decision one way or the other.

Take the time and effort to get the right people on your bus.