Productivity. It’s a word that may turn some stomachs. We’ve read countless articles on how to optimize time and get more done. It’s what we’re always striving for, right? To get as much done as efficiently as possible. But it can be hard to know how to start transforming the way we work in order to be more productive.
So what do we do? Many of us just trudge along, working the way we’ve always worked.
At JWMI, we’re developing the next generation of business leaders, and we’re working to arm them with the best tools—tools to take them beyond “the way we’ve always worked.” As part of our efforts, JWMI hosts a webinar series for students and alumni called Leadership Live, which, through its various guest hosts, highlights practical business skills.
One recent webinar stood out to me for the sage advice it provided on an element of productivity that I believe many working professionals—including, sometimes, myself—are getting wrong. Les McGehee, the certification director for leaders of workshops based on the #1 Wall Street Journal and Amazon best-selling book The ONE Thing, began by defining success. Success, he suggests, is “getting what you want.” It follows that to be successful you have to know what you want. You need to know your destination to have a clear path to success.
Once you identify what you’re striving for, you can answer the next question—one that we must ask ourselves in order to achieve success in every area of our life, in any circumstance in which we need direction:
What’s the one thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?
For example, what’s the one thing I can do to support student success or improve my physical health such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?
It’s the most straightforward advice I’ve heard for increasing your productivity and finding success, and it’s all about simplifying what you do and how you think about doing it. Pare your to-do list down to one item—just one thing, one task that eliminates the need for all the others. The rest is just fluff. Whether you’re in finance or insurance, retail or, even, education—identify the one thing that should be driving what you do, and work step by step from there.
If we can answer this question and prioritize how we spend our time, not only will we be more productive but we’ll also have greater peace of mind. Why? Because we can focus on the most important tasks and not be overwhelmed by all the unnecessary ones. We can, as McGehee says, “get rid of busy work, get rid of frustrations, and get results.”
“Success is sequential,” says McGehee, “not simultaneous.” Start by identifying your one thing. Then take the next step. Then the next one. Before you know it you’ll be well on your way to finding success—whatever that means to you.