As I’ve been ramping up projects in the new year, I’ve been looking for ways to improve my productivity. And I have a few secrets that I’ve kept tucked away in my back pocket for just this kind of moment!

Many years ago, I listened to an interview with Brian Tracy, who, I think we can all agree, is a mega-successful human being. This past week, I looked back over my notes from that interview and the concepts are just as relevant today as they were back then.

I’ve turned the thoughts Brian shared back in that old interview into five questions to ask yourself- and once you answer these questions, you’ll be able to dramatically improve your productivity (and simplify your life, too!)

Question #1: Are You Ready to Make A Decision?
Let’s face it- if you make a decision, whatever it is- that you’re going to be successful, bring in more clients, learn a new skill- then the first step to making it happen is to make the decision.

The word “decide” comes from Latin for “to cut off,” and that’s what you have to do when you make a decision: you cut off all other possibilities. If you decide to be successful, you have to decide to cut off the possibility of not being successful- more than that, you have to cut off the possibility of being anything but successful.

So, the first question is, “Are you ready to make a decision?” The decision can be about anything you want, however small. But the secret is to make a decision. It all starts there.

Once you’ve made your decision, you’ll want to take a pause for a little strategy:
Make a list of everything you do in the course of a week or a month. If you look at that list carefully, you’ll find that there are three things on that list that are responsible for 90% of the income you create. If you could do only three activities from that list, which three would contribute the most value?

Sometimes the three things on your list that generate the most value won’t be things you enjoy doing. But you really can simplify your life greatly by doing more and more of the three things that bring you the most income- and over time you’ll get better and better at these things and you won’t dislike them so much. Also, remember that often the things we like doing the least are things that bring anxiety, fear or stress. Do more of those, and the anxiety will decrease (tune in next week when I’ll talk about courage in business). So now that you know the strategy to find out what things bring you the most value, let’s get back to the five questions.

Question #2: What should I do more of?
What things count the most? This is where the three most valuable things from your list come into play. What are the three things you should spend more time on? Once you know the answer to that, it’s not hard to start culling your schedule and your “to do” list down to the most essential and profitable elements.

Question #3: What should I do less of?
What things aren’t productive? When you look at the list you made, this is the time to ask yourself which things on your list are things that you don’t have to do- what can you delegate or outsource or just minimize?

Question #4: What should I do that I’m not doing now?
Now is the time to ask yourself what you’re not doing that you should be doing. Should I go to this conference? Read this book? Should I listen to this audio program? There are so many things you can do to improve and increase your business and we forget a lot of them. This includes things like continuing education, expanding your range of knowledge, and connecting and networking with other business owners. What else could you do that you’re not doing?

Question #5: What should I stop doing altogether?
This was the biggest one for me, because I am the queen of distraction. And working from home, I can be distracted by music, television, a phone call from a friend inviting me to lunch when I should be working, errands, laundry, you name it. However, it’s good to remind yourself that every minute you spend during the day not working on your business is a minute you’ve lost money. I encounter entrepreneurs every day who forget that equation. But keeping that concept firmly in mind makes a huge difference, and when you start to shift your thinking in this direction, you’ll see how much more productive you really are.

All strategic planning starts with abandonment. If you’re anything like me, right now your dance card is full. You can’t do something new without stopping something old. You can really only get your time under control by stopping something that doesn’t count toward your goals in order to start something that really makes the difference. And remember that when you weed out something old and ineffective, you create a vacuum to let a new opportunity come into your life.


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