My number one idea for unleashing personal productivity

personal productivity

Many people ask me how I have so much personal productivity. “Don’t you ever sleep?” I was recently asked!

If you observe my social media stream you could certainly get an idea that I’m a workaholic.

And yet I feel I have a high degree of personal productivity with a fun and balanced life.

  • I spend a lot of time with my family and also take a considerable amount of time to mentor inner-city children.
  • I exercise regularly, including hiking, biking, kayaking, and tennis.
  • I take a lot of vacation time, including the entire month of July last year.
  • I recently took up watercolor painting. Here’s one of my favorites:

personal productivity

So … how in the world do I get this all done and not go crazy?

I follow one simple rule.

Personal productivity: Focus on the core

Before I get to my one big tip for crazy personal productivity, I have to explain the three core functions of my business:

1. Content

Marketing begins with awareness and for me, awareness begins with content. I’ve built a highly successful business without spending a dime on advertising over nearly 12 years.

As I write in my book KNOWN: The handbook for building and unleashing your personal brand in the digital age, content is the fuel for a personal brand.

Increasingly (and certainly in my case), the personal brand IS the brand. So, I spend an enormous amount of time on my blog, podcast, and books because this is is my reputation in the world. Creating content also includes workshops, speeches, and webinars, and occasionally content for other publications.

2. Customers

Sometimes balancing customer time and content time is tricky. Client work (whether for marketing or speaking) always comes in surges. When they need it, they need it and you better respond.

When I face customer deadlines I do what I have to do and sometimes that means clearing the decks and making time for what my customers urgently need.

Fortunately, most of my client work is on strategy development and that normally does not require a tight deadline. I also do one-on-one personal branding coaching and one-hour consulting sessions open to anybody.

To anticipate surges in client work, I always have a backlog of blog content on hand to fill in for those busy times.

Focusing on clients also means I am very hands-on with any personnel helping me on a project. It means making leadership a priority.

3. Classes

Teaching workshops and college classes is important to me. Teaching at the grad level means I need to stay at the top of my game. I’m teaching experienced experts so I better know my stuff.

Being ready for that high-level engagement and answering their smart questions feeds my work with content and customers. Classroom work can also eventually lead to consulting and speaking work. So it all works nicely together!

Now, the idea behind personal productivity

These three things — content, customers, classes consumes my focus and my time.

If work comes across my desk that does not serve one of these three core functions, I either outsource it or say “no.”

This is an extremely important discipline because sometimes this means turning down stuff I LIKE to do, like tweaking my website, participating in a lot of free events, or digging into some analytics.

The main idea here is that to achieve maximum personal productivity, you MUST focus entirely on the three main core functions of your business, whatever they might be. Then, get rid of everything else, as best you can.

Here are examples of stuff I have to do to run a business but choose to outsource:

  • Travel arrangements
  • Accounting
  • Customer service
  • Calendar scheduling
  • Podcast editing and posting
  • Web development
  • SEO
  • Some blog and social media admin
  • Research

Here are things I have to say “no” to:

  • Guest posts
  • Most free events and webinars
  • Round-up posts (usually)
  • Offers to be an unpaid “influencer”
  • Offers for product demos
  • Anybody who wants to “chat” without a well-defined idea in mind (hear that LinkedIn spammers?)

By the way, I do all my own social media engagement. When you see a comment from me, it’s really me. I don’t consider being real “admin.”

Applying this to your world

This is a very simple concept but it all starts with identifying the three critical components of your business. And keep it to three. This was something drilled into me over years of statistical process control training and I find that it works. No business really has more than three main drivers.

Now comes the hard part. Saying “no” to that other work.

I realize that if you’re bootstrapping a new business you have to wear every hat. But I once heard about a model that becoming a successful entrepreneur means giving away those “hats” as soon as you can.

There are plenty of virtual services out there to help you and great companies like B Squared Media to assist with social media and outsourced customer care if that’s not a core function to your business.

Don’t engage in activities that do not create direct value to the business. Focus on value-creation, not administration.

Following that simple idea has made my life extremely productive … and a lot more fun.

What’s that you say? You want to see one more of my paintings? Well, OK. Just this once.

Mark Schaefer painting


Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions. He is the author of several best-selling digital marketing books and is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

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