Successful people are results-oriented. That means they measure their success on whether they have achieved their desired results or not. They set a goal and that becomes their desired result. They then go to work on tasks that will move them towards that goal. It’s the result that matters. The rest is just a means to that end.
In contrast, people who are not results-oriented measure their success on how many hours work they have done. They spend hours on tasks that are either unrelated to their goals and objectives or on tasks that will make very little difference. They say things like “Success is a journey, not the destination.” The problem with that mindset is it doesn’t drive you forward with any urgency. You’ll just end up meandering along aimlessly, doing the tasks that you enjoy but which have little effect.
I first got interested in becoming more results-oriented after reading “The 10x Rule” by author and entrepreneur, Grant Cardone. By following the advice in that book, I have significantly increased my productivity and income. Check out my review of the book.
Being results-oriented is a 5-step process:
Set a clear overall goal
A clear goal is one that can be measured. It must be quantifiable so that you know without doubt when you have achieved it. For example, one of my overall goals is for OnlineSuccessTalk.com to get to 100,000 visits per month. The goal is crystal clear and I have the analytics software to measure my progress. It is therefore simple to know when I will have achieved it. Being results-oriented means that the goal of 100k monthly visits is what I measure myself by. I am not going to be congratulating myself for the number of hours I work or the number of articles I write or for how pretty my logo is. I know exactly what I am aiming for.
Identify the tasks that will move you towards the goal
Once you have your clear goal, you must identify the tasks that will really “move the needle”, ie have the biggest effect on achieving that goal. Write these tasks down in a notebook. Coming back to the example of my goal for this website, there are lots of tasks related to managing a website that I could be doing. In fact, I can think of about ten tasks. However, there are only two tasks that will significantly increase the traffic and get it to 100,000 sessions per month:
- Write content (blog posts)
- Get backlinks.
That is it! Nothing else matters, at least not at the beginning. All of the other 7-8 tasks related to managing a website – changing themes, designing a new logo, researching the competition (aka procrastinating by reading other people’s content), social media, networking, graphic design and configuring plugins will have a small but mostly insignificant effect. In other words, 20% of the tasks will be responsible for 80% of the results. And the opposite is of course true – 80% of the tasks have little value and they will only be responsible for 20% of the results. This is known as the Pareto principle.
A key to success in any area is to ensure that you are only working on the few tasks that bring in the biggest results. You should ignore all other tasks. It sounds obvious but it’s so common for people to do the opposite. The reason is that often the most important tasks (I define “important tasks” as the 20% of tasks that move the needle) are often the hardest ones that people don’t like doing. Since they are the hardest tasks, they are the tasks that people are most likely to procrastinate on, preferring instead to work on the other 80% of tasks that are more fun and interesting to do. Unfortunately, those are the unimportant tasks that do not move you towards your goals. There is no bigger waste of time than doing an unimportant task really well! But yet that is what many people do.
Coming back to the example of growing a website or blog, the fun and interesting tasks are at the beginning of the project: Coming up with a website idea, choosing and registering the domain name, choosing a web host, installing WordPress, installing and configuring a theme, installing all the plugins, designing a logo, designing the site structure, categories, tags and menus. Then comes the process of planning what articles you’re going to write. This usually involves some keyword research and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to come up with a list of topics to write about. Most new website owners with big aspirations find all of these tasks fun because they’re at the start of a big exciting project and each of the tasks are different.
All of those tasks can take a month or even more. They are only “important” in so much as they must be done before you can write any articles, but in terms of real results, all of that work means nothing in terms of traffic. All you have at the end of all that is an empty website. You now must concentrate on doing the real nitty gritty work. – The true important tasks of writing articles on the new website and getting backlinks. What often happens is that people will write a few articles then lose interest and get bored with writing and go back to tinkering with plugins, themes, logos, color schemes etc. Subconsciously, you know what you should be doing – writing content – but it’s so much more fun to do keyword research and to dream about getting 5,000 clicks per month on an article rather than actually writing it! What eventually happens after a few weeks of procrastinating on writing is that you have another amazing idea for a website that you know will be a huge success. The next day, you start researching domain names, the process starts again and off you go down another rabbit hole.
So, it is essential you identify the 2-3 key tasks that will have the biggest positive impact on achieving your overall goal.
Work on those key tasks every day
Once you have identified those key tasks, you must create a daily routine and manage your time so that you are working on those tasks as much as possible. Your key tasks are now your number one priority. Do not do small unimportant tasks first “just to get them out of the way.” – That is just a form of procrastination. Do them last or not at all. Do your key tasks first when you have the most energy and time to complete them.
For example, my key tasks are:
- Writing content
- Getting backlinks
Writing is currently the more important of the two. Therefore, my daily routine is designed to get me in front of my PC every morning at about 9:45 am. I allow myself 15 minutes of “non-work activities” to read the news, sports pages, check my personal emails etc. Then at 10am, my alarm on my phone goes off, I stop what I am doing, close down all windows, open a notepad text file and start writing. I write until about 12:30pm then I have a 1-hour lunch. After lunch, I’ll do another couple of hours writing. I refuse to get distracted by anything other than writing.
Track your daily progress
There are 2 types of goal that you should track. The first is the daily goal that measures your daily work output. Since your daily goals should be quantifiable (they are in number form and therefore they can be measured), tracking your progress involves entering data and then analysing it. Example: If your goal was to make 20 phone calls, how many did you make? Enter the data and then compare it to your goal.
As mentioned above, I write every day for approximately 4-5 hours. My goal however is not to spend 5 hours per day writing – The goal is to write 2000+ words. It just so happens that it usually takes me 4-5 hours to do it. But if it takes me less time, I’ll finish early for the day and if it takes longer, I’ll finish later. The goal is not time-based. Each day, I write down in a spreadsheet how many words I have written that day. I don’t lie or cheat or try to put explanations. I put the number. The numbers don’t lie. They keep me accountable.
This comes back to the idea of being results-oriented. I want to produce. I am only interested in the output. I want results and that means words on the page. If my daily goal were to “write for 4 hours”, then there is no urgency to that goal. I could spend 4 hours doing “research” for whatever article I’m writing and end up getting distracted by YouTube, social media, reddit and all the rest. I’ve been there and done that and it doesn’t work. No, you must have a daily goal that is based around the actual result you want, not the process. At the end of each day, ask yourself “What did I produce today? Did I achieve my daily goal? If not, why not?” The objective is to consistently improve your daily routine.
Track your overall progress
Your daily key tasks have only one purpose – To help you achieve your overall goal that you defined in step one. So, on a longer time-scale, you should also measure your progress on your overall goal. This is what it all comes down to. At regular intervals, you should be asking yourself: “Have I achieved what I set out to achieve? Am I on track?” For me, it’s “How many monthly visits is my website getting?” I then compare the answer to my goal of 100k. Have I hit my goal? If not, keep going! If I identify a reason why I am not making as much progress as I should, I will then make adjustments.
It’s all about focus
Being results-oriented means that you know exactly where you are going at all times. You know exactly what you need to do to achieve your overall goal and you make sure you do it every day. You must have the discipline to focus 100% on your 1-2 key tasks and to refuse to be distracted by anything else.
Story time: When I was at Bordeaux University, a friend of mine never used to revise for exams at home. She always used to go to the library to study whereas I preferred to study alone at the apartment. One day, I agreed to go with her because I was curious. She took about 30 minutes to actually pack her bag with everything she needed – books, pencils, pens, paper, something to eat and drink, cigarettes, money for coffee. The walk to the library was about 20 minutes and then it took 5 minutes to find a seat and then about 10 minutes to get all her books, pens and paper out. Then her friend arrived and they got up to go for a coffee and cigarette for 15 minutes. They eventually came back and started “studying”.
The library was pretty busy. Every few minutes, someone would either be arriving or leaving creating lots of noise and a big distraction. The whole situation was ridiculous. It was impossible for me to concentrate. When I observed my friend “studying”, I couldn’t really work out what she was doing. She was continuously looking around the room or getting things out of her bag. Every now and again, she’d write a paragraph and then highlight a few words with a bright yellow highlighter pen.
The library closed a couple of hours later and so we got up, packed our bags and did the 20-minute walk back to the apartment. The whole process took about 5 hours from start to finish and I had got nothing done. Later in the evening, I asked her “So what did you learn today?” After a short discussion, it was clear that the answer was nothing. Her daily “five hours of study” at the library was actually only 2 hours of study and those 2 hours were spent just reading or-rewriting some notes. No new knowledge had been acquired and no information had been memorised. That is what happens when you are not results-oriented. You waste a huge amount of time and you kid yourself on what you have achieved. Saying “I went to the library for five hours” means nothing.
A results-oriented approach to study would be to clearly define what you want to achieve before you start the study session. What topic do you want to learn? What do you want to memorise? If you are working on an essay, how many words do you want to write? Then define what you’ll need to do to achieve that goal and plan the session. At that point, it would become clear that the best way to maximise your time is to study at home. Then you sit down and focus on doing it. Finally at the end of the day, compare your output with your goal. By being results-oriented, you will start getting things done and start seeing real tangible results.
Work smart not hard
By focusing only on the key tasks that matter and comparing your progress to your goals, you will find that you get more done in less time. By working only on the 20% of tasks that will really make a difference, you will be able to finish work earlier each day and you will reach your overall goal in a much shorter time.
Recommended reading to increase productivity
As I mentioned briefly above, billionaire Grant Cardone talks about the importance of being results-oriented in his book, “The 10X rule”. Since reading that book and implementing his advice, my productivity has skyrocketed and so has my business. It’s a very good book. If you have trouble getting things done, you should read it. Check out my review of the book here.