To learn more about the art of productivity, I spoke to Jim Stovall, who is the author of Ultimate Productivity: A Customized Guide to Success Through Motivation, Communication, and Implementation. Stovall has been honored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as the businessperson of the year, and is the president of the Emmy Award-winning Narrative Television Network (NTN). He is also the author of the best-selling book “The Ultimate Gift” which is now a major motion picture from 20th Century Fox starring James Garner, Brian Dennehy, and Abigail Breslin. In the following brief interview, Stovall talks about the daily habits of productive people, how to set the right goals, handling distractions, and how he remains so productive.
Dan Schawbel: What types of daily habits do you have to create to be ultra motivated and productive?
Jim Stovall: In order to be motivated and productive, you have to set aside time each day to read or listen to material that energizes you. Then you must identify the critical element of your job or business and focus on it daily. You must measure the thing that matters. If you are a sales person, calling on prospects is what matters. You must have a daily goal of calls or presentations and keep track of your success.
Do the first thing first each day. The most vital and productive tasks must be a priority.
Schawbel: How can people set the right goals that they can actually achieve? Which types of goals should you avoid?
Stovall: You must set goals that are realistic and attainable but also goals that cause you to stretch. There should be a short-term, medium-range, and long-term aspect to your goals. You’ve got to know where you want to be in a decade, where you’re going to be in a year, as well as what you’re going to do today.
Avoid goals that you do not control. We can only control our effort and our attitude. Goals that are dependent upon other people’s performance, cooperation, or involvement should be avoided. Take full responsibility for your goals and the performance of the tasks that will help you reach them.
You cannot control how many people buy your product each day, but you can control how many people you approach as well as the quality of your presentation.
Schawbel: Can you give us some advice for handling distractions and remaining focused as you do work?
Stovall: Different people have different tolerance for distraction. I can take calls, handle brief interruptions, and get right back to the task at hand. Other people need to eliminate these distractions as they get them off-track and punish their production.
You’ve got to know your own talents and temperaments. I recommend taking the free productivity profile at www.UltimateProductivity.com (access code 586404). If you know your motivation, communication, and implementation styles as well as that of everyone you work with, you can put everyone in their own productivity sweet spot. Learn how to say, “No,” to unproductive distractions, and remember “No” is a complete answer. You don’t need to explain why or justify your priorities to other people.
Schawbel: What are some attributes of people who are very productive and how do they best manage themselves so that they are making things happen at work?
Stovall: Productive people keep their eye on the goal and the shortest route between where they are and where they want to be. They stay focused on the activities that are going to “move the needle,” and they never confuse activity with productivity. They would rather do nothing than the wrong thing.
Productive people pursue their passion. They are motivated by their goals, they communicate this motivation to everyone around them, and they implement it in the manner that is most productive for themselves while allowing other people to implement differently if it increases overall productivity.
Productivity is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Some people multitask while others are linear. Some people work well as part of a team. Others need to bring their finished aspect of the project to the team after they have completed it on their own. We all must agree on what we are going to do but remain flexible on how we are going to do it.
Schawbel: Tell us about how you remain so productive in everything that you do?
Stovall: As a blind person, I’m only productive when I engage with the various members of our team. This is the way I have chosen to work, and it is very productive for us. I try to only engage in activities that require my involvement. If someone else can do a certain task, they should be doing it; however, you must weigh the time it takes to manage an ongoing project against the amount of time it will take to correct or repair any mistakes.
I do not delegate high-impact items that I have created as they require my own involvement. I take full responsibility for our goals as well as motivating our team, communicating our mission, and implementing our method.