A Productivity Breakthrough for Small Business Owners
Colin Campbell Thursday, November 2, 2017
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Have you ever had a day where your level of stress reached a point you thought you may break? On June 30th, 2017, I had one of those “too much work, too little time,” anxiety meltdowns that forced me to design a new system for managing my priorities.
What I discovered made the following 90 days a more productive than I’d ever been. I wrote two books, finished four ghost-writing projects, wrote copy for two product launches and spent lots of quality time with my girlfriend in Sedona, Arizona. In fact, July 1st to October 1st was my most productive quarter ever. So, I’m excited to share what I learned with you. I call this system the (4)90X Calendar. If you’re looking for a great way to simplify your life while accomplishing more: this system will serve you well.
Let’s first talk about the problem. What causes us to lose productivity?
Imagine getting in a plane, sitting at your seat and hearing the pilot say, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. Welcome aboard Unproductive Airlines flight 000. I’m not sure where we’re going or how long it’s going to take but I’m a pilot so it’ll all work out fine.” Then the plane’s engine starts and you begin moving down the runway. You’d likely feel overwhelmed, out of control and maybe even downright frightened for your safety.
Luckily, in real life, pilots say something along the lines of: “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. Welcome aboard Productive Airlines flight 101, non-stop service from Toronto to Los Angeles. Our flight time will be 5 hours and 22 minutes, (etc.)…” The pilot knows exactly where he or she is taking you. As a result, you feel safe. You get a pack of peanuts, get a drink, recline your chair and enjoy watching Minions. Five hours later, you’re enjoying the sun in LA.
The two airline examples reveal something important about being productive. Knowing where you’re going is the key to productivity. When we know our destination we feel safe, at ease and collected. When we don’t know our destination we feel unsafe and out of control.
In 1956, Earl Nightingale wrote and recorded The Strangest Secret; an album that eventually became the first spoken-word recording to achieve Gold status. In the recording, Nightingale says: “People with goals succeed because they know where they’re going.” So the first key to the (4)90X Calendar is defining what you want.
How to Define What You Want
There’s a scene in the movie Walk the Line where Johnny Cash and his band are auditioning for Sam Philips of Sun Records. After a few verses of the first song, Philips cuts the band off and rejects the music. Cash and Philips have the following Dialogue…
Philips: We’ve already heard that song a hundred times. Just like that. Just… Like… How… You… Sing it.
Cash: Well, you didn’t let us bring it home.
Philips: Bring it home? All right, let’s bring it home. If you was hit by a truck and was lying out there in that gutter dying… And you had one time to sing ONE song. Huh? ONE song that people would remember before you’re dirt. ONE song that would let God know how you felt about your time here on Earth. ONE song that would sum you up. You’re tellin’ me that’s the song you’d sing? That same Jimmy Davis tune we hear one the radio all day; about your ‘peace within,’ and how it’s ‘real,’ and how you’re gunna ‘shout it’? Or… Would you sing somethin’ different… Somethin’ real… Somethin’ YOU felt? Cause I’m telling you right now: that’s the kind of song that truly saves people. It ain’t got nothin’ to do with believin’n God, Mr. Cash. It has to do with believin’n yourself.
Cash then plays an unpolished version of his song “Folsom Prison Blues,” and Philips leans back with a look of pure satisfaction on his face.
Eliminate the Unessential
& Connect with Your True Passion
Philips challenged Cash and essentially said, “This is not YOU. Show me who you are underneath the mask you’re attempting to fool me with.” That’s the first step to define what you want. It’s eliminating what isn’t you from the equation. It’s like Michael Angelo creating David by chipping away all the unessential.
“What tasks am I currently doing that steal massive energy from me?”
“What sucks life from me that would be a relief to be free from?”
Imagine how much time you’ll gain as a result of that free space.
Then, ask yourself that age-old personal development question: “If money and time didn’t exist and I could accomplish anything, what would I do?” It’s a good question that helps you identify a passion or “soul’s calling.”
When I was a carpentry apprentice fresh out of high-school I asked myself that question. The answer was “Become a writer and make music.” The next day, I quit my job and pursued the new career. The experience was liberating.
While you consider those questions, make sure you allow your mind to wonder. Forget about how you’ll accomplish anything. Prevent your rational mind from interfering with your heart. Explore and play with this process as if you were a child again.
The ideal result from this is to feel relieved and inspired. You allowed yourself to – as Sam Philips did for Johnny Cash – eliminate the parts of yourself that are not YOU… and then you filled that empty space with a new-found inspiration.
Dreaming is a critical part to being productive because it connects your daily tasks with a higher level meaning. It helps you live each moment on purpose, instead of being productive for the sake of getting things done.
However, how many people do you know with a list of intentions that remain in the spin-cycle simply because they didn’t execute their master plan? The next part of the process is to take a bit-sized chunk of that ideal life and transform it into something you can move toward over the next 90 days.
Turn Your Ideals into Goals
Dan Sullivan, founder of Strategic Coach, asks a question of the entrepreneurs who enter his coaching program. The question is called The Dan Sullivan Question.
Dan asks: “If we were having this discussion three years from today, and you were to look back over those three years to today, what had to happen, both personally and professionally, for you to feel happy about your progress?”
The layers to that question are too deep to break down in this article so consider getting a copy of Dan’s book The Dan Sullivan Question. From my perspective, it gets your mind focused on a specific outcome you want to achieve in a set period of time. Instead of, “three years,” you may ask yourself “90 days.” So we might change it to this…
“If you were reading this article 90 days from today, and you were to look back over those 90 days to today, what had to happen, both personally and professionally, for you to feel happy about your progress?”
The ideal result is that you have a list of goals. It may look something like this:
Complete book content.
Follow-up with Mary Anne and make offer about (xyz service).
Get booked on 5 podcasts.
Finish auto-responders for lead-magnet.
The thing you want to notice is how those goals relate to your bigger dreams. If you feel a sense of pure motivation you’re on the right track.
Summary so far: You eliminated unessential tasks that suck your energy, you connected to your passion and you derived goals from your passion to work toward over the next 90 days. NOW you want to structure those goals into a 90 day calendar.
The (4)90X Calendar
The traditional annual calendar has always looked clunky to me. One month has 28 days and another has 30. This month ends on a Tuesday and that month ends on a Friday. We agree a calendar-year consists of 365 days, 52 weeks and 12 months. Yet, 52 and 12 are not evenly divided into 365 (that’s why we have “leap years”). Look at the last quarter of 2017:
What an awful mess!
The traditional calendar obviously has benefits. It brings order to civilized society, in spite of its imperfections. For instance, it enables us to coordinate with other people’s schedule because we can say, “Let’s meet on November 5th at 12PM.” For me, however, the traditional calendar did not help me stay on track with my goals. So, I designed the (4)90X Calendar to make a visual layout of time that I could understand better.
Check this out:
What if the calendar only had 360 working days, instead of 365?
360 is perfectly divisible by 90.
It gives you (4) 90-day runs at an annual goal.
90 is also perfectly divisible by 3.
It gives you (3) 30-day runs per quarter.
With four, perfectly even quarters -- each with 90 days in them – the calendar looks like this:
What happens to the other 5 days?
Take them off at the end of your year near the holidays! You’re an entrepreneur; you can do as you please with your time.
Placing Your Goals into the (4)90X Calendar
It’s important to note this calendar is only for goal-setting. It’s a way for you to visually layout what you want to do in a year, split into even increments to track your progress.
Implementing this is easy.
On July 1st I took a 90-day grid, printed it out, wrote my goals beside the grid and tracked my progress daily. It looks like this:
Each day I scratch out the day that just past with a pencil. I use the spot on the right as a place to put sticky notes for “Today’s Objectives.”
This simple layout makes it simple to see my targets and plan.
Implement the (4)90X Calendar
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