Success means different things to different people, but whatever your personal definition, I am willing to guess you want to (regularly) feel the thrill of achieving your goals, making measurable progress and being respected as a leader in your industry. The good news is that, barring outlier emergencies, we are in control of how we will schedule and navigate through our days and consistent action dictates where our businesses, brands, and relationships go. Here are five guaranteed ways to step up your game or change it entirely.
1. Respect your own time
Anyone who has ever lost valuable time finger-skipping around Facebook or responding to an overwhelming number of emails knows there is a big difference between being active and being effective. Productivity is the backbone of success and its kryptonite is burnout which, studies have shown, leads to far more than a just a bad day: It can change neural circuts and lead to neurological dysfunction. Rushing to respond to every email and text message in real time is overwhelming and chasing a never-ending "to-do" list will exhaust your psychological resources. Sit down and get a clear understanding of what you need to do. Then write out and group tasks on piece of paper or upload them to a task management system like Wunderlist or Trello. Break down your duties to a maximum of five each day and set aside a 90-minute block to work on each of them, placing your most pressing task to the top of the list. (see more about the 90-minute ru. Be sure to schedule time for outside daily distractions such as grabbing coffee, looking at Facebook, texting, and responding to emails. Rescue time is a great program for getting a realistic idea of how much time you spend on various digital tasks.
2. Think clear, concise and kind when communicating
The exchange of information is one of the most powerful tools you have when building a successful business or relationship, and yet many people toss out words in rapid-fire quickness in order to simply "get it out" without thinking about their tone or following up to ensure the person they are speaking or writing to has understood what they have said. This often leads to misunderstandings and chaotic email threads that leave everyone cc'd stressed and confused. Successful leaders make effective communication a priority by thinking about the message they want to send and then coming up with a clear, concise and kind way of letting those listening know what they need, how it needs to be done and then giving feedback on how satisfied they are with the results of the exchange.
3. Even if you know it all, don't do it all
We live in a globally-connected world where other talented, creative and interesting professionals are more accessible than ever before. Why then are some business owners still micromanaging the talent out of highly-skilled team members who could make their business better if given the space and trust to do their best work? Successful entrepreneurs like Richard Branson value the skills of their team members and aren't afraid to delegate. As Branson points out, even if you are a specialist in every area in your business from design and social media to accounting and sales, the reality is that you are only one person and cannot do it all alone. An added bonus of delegation? Your team members will feel empowered and respected which will make them more productive.
4. Be Known for reliability
The definition of reliable is to be "consistently good in quality or performance [and] able to be trusted". You don't need a detailed explanation as to how having your own name associated with this kind of statement will benefit your reputation and career. Best of all, reliability is easy once you commit to it. Be where you say you will be (five minutes early), do what you say you will do (to the best of your ability) and do not overcommit, overpromise or overcompensate. Simple.
5. Stop networking and create valuable and meaningful relationships instead
The first thing I tell my mentees about networking is not to network. It's much better to identify individuals who are on career paths that interest you as opposed to "reaching out" to impressive titles. Once you have someone in mind, do your research and find a way to offer them something before you ask for anything. Perhaps you have a skill they can benefit from, know a great contact who might be good for a partnership or have an idea as to how they might effectively update their website. The point is to think about creating an exchange that will make you both better for it. Show respect for other people's time by being punctual and prepared, follow-up with a thank you note and check-in by asking about how their projects are moving along instead of sending unsolicited updates about your own progress. Making exchanges about them not only allows you to get to know them, it makes them more interested in you.