We attended the organizational kick-off meeting for the team with whom our 14-year old son will be playing travel baseball this year. The organization is run by former MLB pitcher Brian Rose and one of the memorable things he said at this meeting was, “There will always be someone working harder than you.” He said, “If you take a day off, someone else will be still be working” and, “If you want to be the best you have to work harder than everyone else.” Mark Cuban said, “Work like there is someone working 24 hours a day to take it away from you.”
I’ve always outworked everyone in my own companies so both of these quotes resonated with me. At the same time, hard work alone isn’t enough. You must also be smart and efficient about what you work hard on. For the second article of 2017, I thought it would be helpful if I shared how I get more done than anyone else I know.
Like many CEO’s of small companies, I wear many hats. As the CEO of Kurlan & Associates & Associates, a global sales consulting firm, I run the business, produce revenue, handle accounting, meet with the leadership team, have some personal clients, conduct some of the training, and do some keynote speaking. As the CEO of Objective Management Group (OMG), the leading provider of sales force evaluations and sales candidate assessments, I am the chief innovator for product development, select firms that will represent OMG outside of the Americas, coach OMG’s partners, meet with my leadership team, and do some keynote speaking. Running two companies isn’t a 16-hour a day load, but 12-hour days are common. So how do I get it all done? Here are my top 10 keys to outworking everyone:
1.- Say no. One of the important things I picked up from business guru and Gazelle’s CEO, Verne Harnish, is that you must identify 3 things that you won’t do anymore. I carry that theme forward on a daily basis and as opportunities, events, projects and tasks are presented to me I say no to those things that don’t support either the business goals, core offerings, or personal goals and values.
2.- Calendar. A functional calendar allows me to visually see my day, week and month. I manage the calendar myself and don’t let assistants anywhere near it. Not only that, but entries are color-coded so that I can quickly and easily determine whether I am maintaining a balance between the two companies, between sales and delivery, and between work and family. This is very important: I block out time, in advance, for getting work completed in between calls, appointments and meetings. In addition to the color coding, my calendar is synced between my iPhone, iPad, Macbook Pro and iMac computers. I use Google’s Calendar syncing as the engine and on my mobile devices I have the Readdle app, and on my computers I use CalendarPro for Google.
3.- Automation. I save time and aggravation by using an online scheduling tool. Instead of going back and forth with someone to identify a time that we can meet or talk, I provide them with a link to my calendar. I write in an email, “Would you mind using this link to my calendar to find and schedule a mutually convenient time for us to talk/meet?” I embed a link to the scheduling tool which, in this case, is an app called ScheduleOnce. You have no idea how easy this is, how much time it saves, and the thanks I get for making it so easy.
4.- Lists. I believe that my mind is sharper than it’s ever been. Sharp doesn’t necessarily mean that I can remember everything I need to do each day, week and month, and you can’t arbitrarily decide which things to write down and which things to remember. So I have a no exception policy where everything I need to do is committed to a list. As with the calendar, I use a list that syncs between my computers and mobile devices and my choice is the Wunderlist app. I use Wunderlist because it has folders, an unlimited number of lists that can be included in each folder, and each list accomodates a sub list, notes and attachments. I also utilize the due date and reminder options and sort the items in my lists by due date. I would be lost without Wunderlist.
5.- Auto Responder. I turn on my email’s auto responder whenever I will be unable to respond to emails for 6 business hours or more. I don’t want to appear unresponsive and my message tells people who they can contact in my absence and when they can expect to hear back from me. I don’t have to apologize when I finally do respond and that saves unnecessary typing as well.
6.- Rituals. In order to be productive, I know that I must wake up at the same time each morning. My default is 5:30 AM, which gives me an hour to respond to emails that came in overnight. I usually have a number of emails from OMG’s overseas partners, as well as CEO’s who choose to work late rather than start early. Most of my articles are written during this one-hour window in the morning as well.
7.- Anti-Meeting. Most meetings are time wasters so I don’t schedule many. I have two 10-minute morning huddle calls, one for the leadership teams of each company, at 8:15 AM and 8:30 AM and most of what needs to be communicated in either direction is accomplished during that time. I have a weekly product development meeting for OMG, a weekly sales/client projects meeting for Kurlan, and monthly and quarterly leadership meetings for OMG. Less is more.
8.- Anti-Travel. Some travel is unavoidable but most of what I do can be done by phone, video conference, file share, internet based collaboration and more. Everyone is busy, travel wastes enormous amounts of time and money and it takes you away from family. Travel is a last option, not a first option.
9.- Email. To limit incoming email that requires responding, there are a few things that help a lot. First, unsubscribe to everything that creates noise. Spam is impossible to unsubscribe from but if that’s the only stuff in your junk folders you can do a quick review and mass delete each day. In order to do that, it’s crucial that you first add senders that you want/need to hear from, but that might end up in your junk/spam folders, to your safe sender list. With that accomplished, you should utilize the Rules function of your email to automatically move emails that you receive every day, like newsletters, to a newsletter or subscription folder. I also have folders called “Waiting” and “Action.” When I am waiting for a response from someone, I blind copy myself and move it to the waiting folder, and when someone is waiting for me to do something that email gets moved to the action folder and added to a list. I never save emails in my inbox. Instead, there are folders for every client and partner, for marketing, accounting, tools, subscriptions, etc., and emails that need to be saved are moved to the appropriate folder. Having thousands of emails in your inbox is not efficient!
10.- Family. Nights and weekends are for family. Family dinners and watching our son’s baseball and basketball games are my number 1 evening priority – not work. If I am behind, I may take an hour or two to catch up at night, but not until after we have spent quality time together at dinner.