How can you be better at your job?

   This week, several members on my team approached me with the question, “How can I be better at my job?”

   It’s an important question. One we all have asked at one point in our lives. And the answer is one that can have a profound impact on your entire life.

   The answer, perhaps overly simple,  has only 3 parts.

The To-Do List

   Opening up the notebooks of my team members, the first thing that practically fell out was a seemingly endless list of “To-Do’s”. Each of them, independently, had written down all the balls they were juggling right now. 

   And there were a LOT of items on those lists. No doubt, you can relate. How many things are on your lists? 

   How many times have you thought, “There simply isn’t enough time in the day to get all this done?”

   Trying to help take inventory of what their tasks were, we started putting those To-Do’s into buckets. Grouping tasks by the nature of the work gives a better understanding of what my team was spending their time on.

   Ultimately, we were able to separate these task lists into a few separate groupings, or buckets.

   Batching tasks helps give some clarity over where you are actually spending your time. Take out your to-do list, and group those tasks into buckets of similar items.

Make it Rain

   Putting those To-Do list buckets to the side for a moment, we then looked at what jobs they were each trying to do. Boiling down the job into the most basic metric: what makes it rain?

   Think about your work. What is it that you do in your work that makes it rain? What work do you do that makes money? 

   If you are a software developer, it’s producing working software. If you’re an artist, it’s making and selling art. If you are an event planner, it’s running smooth events.

   In every role, there are a handful of actions that really make it rain. Understanding what those few critical levers are will help you become more valuable. 

   Now think back to that endless list of To-Do’s that you have. Which of the buckets are the same on both lists? The To-Do list tasks that fall into one of your make it rain bucket, those are your money-makers. Do more of those, and do them well, and you’ll become way more valuable.

What The F*?

Focus. 

What the focus.

   Asked separately, both Bill Gates and Warren Buffet gave the same answer. The keys to success lie in your ability to focus on the important things.

   As my team members looked into their To-Do list, they were really revealing their focus. Anything on that endless list was something that was weighing on their mind, and sapping their time and energy.

   By putting more focus on the activities in the make it rain buckets, my team members will ultimately be more valuable to the company. Put another way, by focusing on the real value-add activities, my team members will be better at their jobs.

   You want to be better. Better in your career. Better financially. Better in all aspects of your life. I know you do, because that’s why you show up here each week.

   Understanding what it is that you do to make it rain, and then allocating more of your time to focus on those key activities makes you better. And that difference in performance between you and everyone else? That will, in time, be rewarded.

   Think about these elements this week: What can only you do to make it rain? Are you spending enough time on those activities? Can you increase your focus, time and energy on those money-makers to become even more valuable?

No Zero Days

   What separates a top achiever from everyone else?

   Top achievers know exactly what they want to do, and then spend the time working on those priorities. If you want to find more success in your life, you need to be able to answer the questions:

   How are you spending your time? What are you working on? Is what you are working on a top priority?

   While we all have endless to-do lists, super-achievers understand that it simply is not possible to get everything done. For these elite performers, they have adopted and embody a simple philosophy: No Zero Days.

   A “zero day” can be defined as a day that doesn’t drive the needle on your top priorities, your big hairy audacious goal, the life defining work we all aspire to. Zero days don’t mean that nothing gets done, quite the opposite in fact. On those zero days we work our asses off, clearing out our to-do lists and attending meetings, all working towards someone else’s agenda.

   This week, I challenge you to have No Zero Days. Start by writing down your biggest 3 priorities. Now spend time each day working on those priorities first. You don’t need to devote all your time towards those goals, that would be impossible. But make sure each day you do something to drive the needle forward. Let’s see if we all can go 5 for 5, making meaningful incremental progress each day. 

   Be sure to review your progress at the end of the week - if those small daily wins feel good, strive for two weeks of No Zero Days, then a month. Success is in your reach, one day at a time.

An Apple a Day

An apple a day keeps the doctor away. 

   We’ve all heard the cliche, often spoken by our parents or grandparents. And while apples may not keep us healthy all the time, there is certainly a positive lesson to learn. Making a small positive choice each day puts us in a healthier state. These positive choices add up over time, eventually bringing with them the succulent fruits of success. 

What are your Apples?

   The apple a day helps with our health. We’re selecting a fruit instead of something else, like chips or cookies. This trade-off provides a positive ROI, as we strengthen our bodies through improved nutrition, and stay away from foods that would do us harm. But that’s only one aspect of our lives where we are making a positive choice daily. To truly capture the essence of this advice, we need to find other apples, other positive choices that support all our goals.

   This could be reading industry news to stay abreast of the technological advancements in our careers. Or listening to a positive themed podcast in the morning, putting ourselves in an upbeat mood for the day. These apples help strengthen the important aspects in our lives. Perhaps far more important than goals, these small positive choices are the actions that we can take that lead us to both goal achievement, and the grander vision we have for our future.

What’s the catch?

   An apple a day, that seems so simple. And it is. It is also extremely simple not to do. Staying consistent with small positive choices is essential for reaping the rewards of long-term investing in ourselves.

How do we stick with these positive choices?

   If we consider each daily action like eating that apple, as a choice, then we are destined to fail. The issue here, is that we are allowing our willpower to decide if we eat the apple or the chocolate bar. Willpower is a fickle substance, and cannot be relied upon to deliver the same result day after day. 

   A far superior strategy is to create routines. These routines cost a lot of willpower up front, but then put you on an unconscious path to success. After a month or two, those decisions you used to make? They aren’t there anymore. You’ll find yourself subconsciously reaching for the apple every time that option comes up.

Time to go Apple Picking

   Now it’s your turn. What is your “apple a day”? What small thing, or things, can you do consistently to make sure you are on the right track to success? And how can you build these into a routine to make sure that you follow the path to success without relying on willpower in the future?