Is Your Smartphone Your Employee – or Your Boss?

WatchHow many hours a day (or should I say, minutes a day) are you actually productive?

For even very successful executives, the number is surprisingly low. One study of Fortune 500 CEOs found that they averaged 28 minutes per day of productive work. These are top performers!

The rest of their time was consumed by interruptions, mundane paperwork, telephone calls, meetings, dealing with employees and other “busy work” that could have been better managed otherwise.

Obviously, time management is a MAJOR issue, which most entrepreneurs completely ignore. They spend their time as if it is an unlimited resource, the result being that very little productive work gets done on a daily basis.

This is as true, or more true, for work-from-home entrepreneurs as it is for Fortune 500 CEOs, so let’s talk about it.

Productive Work vs. Busy Work

You’ve probably heard the saying that there’s a big difference between being “busy” and being “productive.” Most of us are busy. Few of us are productive in the true sense of the word.

I define “productive work” to be time spent working on something that is the most likely to produce the most income in the most efficient manner. In other words, the most bang for your time buck.

I think you will be stunned at the differences in your business life if the first thing every day you spend 15-30 minutes identifying areas of “productive work” for the day, and then make it a point to focus on and apply your efforts to that “productive work” rather than to whatever “busy work” might pop up on your radar that day.

Obviously, no one has the luxury of being able to spend 100% of the time on productive work as I have defined it.  There is a certain amount of administrative busy work built into the schedule of even the most time-efficient among us.  But for most of us, we are nowhere near the “efficiency threshold.”

Who’s the Boss Around Here?

Productive work has a natural enemy in this age of technology, and it comes in the form of devices that accommodate instant messages like email, texting and phone calls.

It is no exaggeration to say that most of us have literally become slaves to these devices. The little chime goes off and with Pavlovian compulsion we feel that we are required to go and see who it is, what they want, and render an immediate response.

Let me ask you something: how often is it something truly important that warrants interrupting productive work?

Isn’t it almost always a spam email, or some other message that could easily be ignored until your productive work is completed?

And once you are interrupted, you know what happens next. Idle surfing. Flakebook (thanks Ben Settle), and YouTube here I come – productive work and more income be damned!

Let me share a quote from Dan Kennedy with you. He is speaking of interruptions by telephone, but the thought applies equally to emails, texts and all manner of electronic interruptions:

If you take inbound calls as they come, you are constantly stopping work on a task of known priority in favor of something or someone of unknown priority. You are turning control of your day over to the unknown. And at the end of most days, you’ll be worn out, but you won’t have gotten to do most of the things you wanted to do.

Mr. Kennedy is spot on. Do you want to control your day and destiny, or do you want to be a slave to others’ whims?

Turn That Thing Off!

May I suggest that if you sincerely want to be productive and make money rather than stay busy with Pavlovian obedience to the sirens of a never-ending stream of mundane, mostly unimportant, would-be interrupters, TURN THE DEVICES OFF AND GET TO WORK!

And, spare me all the usual objections like “what if there’s an emergency,” “what if my mother calls,” “what if it’s my most important customer.” Yadda, Yadda.

What if it is? How many real emergencies actually arise, and how much difference does it make if a response is delayed for an hour or two?

If you are concerned about your kids or elderly parents having a true emergency, there are work-arounds for those situations.

I know it’s incomprehensible to younger people, but not that long ago telephones didn’t travel with us every waking (and sleeping) hour. They were attached to a wall. If we went to the grocery, a ball game or just out for a walk, we were incommunicado.

Guess what – we and our loved ones survived.

If you choose to be a slave to technology, that’s your choice to make, but the price you are going to pay is dramatically reduced productivity – and income.

And, may I suggest that if you have not read Dan Kennedy’s book, No B.S. Time Management for Entrepreneurs: The Ultimate No Holds Barred Kick But Take No Prisoners Guide to Time Productivity & Sanity, that you interrupt what you’re doing immediately and go read – no, study – that book.

That’s an Amazon affiliate link, but if you don’t want to use it, fine. Just go to Amazon on your own or to your library. If you’re truly interested in managing the most valuable asset you have, your time, read the book.

If you read the book and apply what you learn, it will change your life! I don’t think that’s an exaggeration. I read the book after numerous successful entrepreneurs recommended it, and the time spent reading it was unquestionably “productive work.”