For many years, I was a sales and marketing manager. I loved it, but it was also one of the hardest times of my professional life.
That wasn’t due to the people I worked with or the business I worked for, nor did it have anything to do with the industry – it was simply because there was so much to do.
Don’t get me wrong – I know that’s the case for virtually any job, but as a manager, you need to balance your own to-do list with overseeing those of others, and that calls for some pretty immense productivity skills.
Here’s what I learned about the ‘p’ word during that time:
1. You can always do more than you think
Most days, I’d wake up, take one look at my to-do list and wonder how on earth I was going to complete every task on it.
I soon realised, however, that I could. More importantly, I discovered that I could actually do more. I simply needed to learn how to schedule my tasks correctly and not promise myself I’d complete a list of things that I knew, deep down, would be impossible to do in a single day.
By combining this with the tools and processes my department needed to be successful, the ability to get more done than I thought possible soon became contagious.
2. Exercise makes a massive difference
I’m a big fan of the gym, and that’s almost entirely a result of my focus on being as productive as possible at work.
I won’t refer to the countless studies that have been conducted on this subject, but the fact remains that exercise is an incredibly good thing for both your health and brain. During my time as a manager, I found that regular tips to the gym refreshed my outlook for the day and ensured I returned to my desk bursting with productive energy.
3. Putting off the hard stuff means it never gets done
We’ve all done it.
There’s three tasks on your to-do list you desperately don’t want to tackle, but know you need to at some point. So, you console yourself my promising you’ll do them – tomorrow.
Only, tomorrow arrives, and the same thoughts arise. So, you reschedule them. Again.
This never works. Those three tasks will spend their entire life moving further and further down the pecking list until they become a real problem.
As a manager, there were plenty of jobs I didn’t want to undertake (tricky staff appraisals, complex board reports – that kind of thing), but I soon learned that simply diving into those tasks was the only way to get them done. And you know what? They were never as bad as I’d expected them to be.
4. Forming habits is very hard
The habits that create a positive approach to productivity are very hard to form.
Regular exercise, eating well, getting enough sleep and the aforementioned desire to tackle the hard stuff first aren’t easy things to get good at. But that’s for good reason, because if they were easy, the world would only contain productive people.
To become one of the productive few, you have to work on this stuff, no matter how hard it is.
5. Making mistakes is a really good thing
I made so many mistakes as a manager, and while each one crushed me at the time, with hindsight, I know they were some of the best things I did.
It’s a cliché that we learn from our mistakes, but it’s absolutely true. To become more productive at your craft, you need to break stuff – sometimes badly. The more things you get wrong, the more you learn, and that means you can apply that knowledge to every single working day to get as much done effectively as possible.
I love being productive, and I can thank my many years as a manager for the approach I now take to every working day. I hope some of my learning above will help you do the same.