Practice One: Increase the Outputs That Matter
If you want to become extraordinary, you need to figure out the productive outputs that matter in your field or industry.
High performers have mastered the art of prolific quality output (PQO). They produce more high-quality output than their peers over the long term, and that is how they become more effective, better known, more remembered. They aim their attention and consistent efforts toward PQO and minimize any distractions (including opportunities) that would steal them away from their craft.
This point seems almost universally lost in a world where people spend over 28 percent of their workweek managing e-mail, and another 20 percent just looking for information. People spend eons of time on worthless activities – say, creating folders and organizing their e-mail – even though these have nothing to do with real productivity.
Part of your job is to figure out what “relevant PQO” means to you. For the blogger, it might mean more frequent and better content. For the cupcake store owner, it might be discerning the two best-selling flavors and expanding distribution on just those two flavors.
Figuring out what you are supposed to produce, and learning the priorities in the creation, quality, and frequency of that output, is one of the greatest breakthroughs you can have in your career.
One of the great realizations of life can come from discovering that the outputs you are being compensated for are not exciting or fulfilling. When that realization comes, it’s time to honor that truth and make a change.
I chose to quit and begin my career as a writer, speaker, and online trainer. I saw the outputs of those efforts – creating content for inspiring and empowering others – as something that would be meaningful to me. The issue was, I had no idea how to start or what, specifically, to do. Like a lot of people new to the expert industry, I thought I had to figure out the writing industry, the speaking industry, the online training industry. I made the mistake of going to dozens of conferences to try to figure out each of the industries, without realizing they were all the same career of being a thought leader and had similar outputs that mattered most.
What changed the trajectory of my career that day was deciding, on a single page, what my PQOs would be. If I was going to be a real writer, then my productive output needed to become books. … I decided that if I was going to be a professional speaker, my PQO would be the number of paid speaking gigs at a certain booking fee.
I knew that if I was going to be an online course trainer, then my PQO would be curriculum, training videos, and full online courses. As I shared in the chapter on clarity, I stopped trying to learn every new marketing technique that came along, and put my full effort into creating and promoting online courses.
I cannot overemphasize the importance of this strategy. … No matter what topic or type of deliverables [you] decide to get productive toward, [you should] reorient [your] entire work schedule toward that endeavor. As quickly as possible, I want [you] spending 60 percent or more of [your] workweek oriented to PQO.
- The outputs that matter most to my career are …
- Some things I could stop doing so I can focus more on PQO are …
- The percentage of my weekly time I will allocate to PQO is …
and the ways I’ll make that happen are …
Practice Two: Chart Your Five Moves
A lot of highly driven people think they don’t need well-defined plans. They have talent, so they just want to get in the game, hustle, wing it, and see what happens. That might work when they’re just starting out and everyone on the field around them is also uninformed. At that point, perhaps their innate, God-given talent can help them get ahead. But the advantage dies quickly. As soon as the other teams and players have actual experience and plans – they know the X’s and O’s, the routes and play calls – you don’t, you’re toast.
This is terribly difficult for high performers to hear. I can’t tell you how many high performers lose their perch at the top because of the inevitable distraction that comes from unfocused efforts. I’m not talking about the lazy kind of distraction. High performers are making things happen, all right. … But when they start making a lot of things happen with no unifying trajectory, they begin losing their power.
And so, after all that we’ve discussed about finding the area where you want to create prolific quality output, it is now time to plan. Think of the most ambitious dream you’d like to take on, identify what you really want, then ask yourself: “If there were only five major moves to make that goal happen, what would they be?”
Think of each major move as a big bucket of activities, a project. These big five projects that move you toward achieving your dream can then be broking down into deliverables, deadlines, and activities. Once you’re clear on these things, put them into your calendar, scheduling the bulk of your time in protected blocks during which you do nothing but make progress toward the activity that the specific block is dedicated to. So, if I show up at your house and say, “Show me your calendar,” I should readily see the major projects you are working toward. If I can’t discern from your weekly and monthly calendar what major moves you are working toward, then you’re not optimizing your time and you’re at risk of getting sucked into a life of reaction and distraction. That, or you’re just going to have to take years getting a result that others could do in months.
High performers plan almost everything more than underperforms do: from workouts to learning, from meetings to vacation time. It’s easy to get confused at this point, thought, and become lost in tasks and overplaying. Lots of people will overcomplicate this. So let’s pause here and remember that the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. Know the big five moves that will take you to your goal, break those moves down into tasks and deadlines, then put them in a calendar. If that’s all you did, and you made sure these moves aligned with your PQO, you’d be ahead of the game.
Here’s a public example that I’m amazed worked so well. … I discovered that to get the results of a number one bestseller, all that really mattered were these five basic moves:
- Finish writing a good book. Until that’s done, nothing else matters.
- If you want a major publishing deal, get an agent. Or just self-publish.
- Start blogging and posting to social media, and use these to get an e-mail list of subscribers. E-mail is everything.
- Create a book promotion web page and offer some awesome bonuses to get people to buy the book. Bonuses are crucial.
- Get five to ten people who have big e-mail lists to promote your book. You’ll owe them a reciprocal e-mail – meaning you agree to promote for them later, too – and a portion of any sales they might make for you on other products you may be offering during your book promotion.
That’s it. I know it’s less inspiring than a “find your truth and write each day with magnificent passion and love for the audience whose hearts and souls you will impact forever” kind of thing. but these were the five major moves that most of the authors told me about. These were the ones that mattered most. I was stunned. And scared. I had no idea how to do any of these things.
It doesn’t matter whether you know how to achieve your Five Moves at first. The important thing is that for every major goal you have, you figure out the Five Moves. I you don’t know the moves, you lose.
It’s a simple process that my clients have used over and over again to achieve equally impressive results:
- Decide what you want.
- Determine the Five Major Moves that will help you leap toward that goal.
- Do deep work on each of the major five moves – at least 60 percent of your workweek going to these efforts – until they are complete.
- Designate all else as distraction, tasks to delegate, or things to do in blocks of time you’ve allocated in the remaining 40 percent of your time.
- The biggest goal or dream I have that I need to plan out right now is …
- The five moves that would help me progress swiftly toward accomplishing that dream are …
- The timeline for each of my five moves will be …
- Five people who have achieved that dream who I could study, seek out, interview, or model are …
- The less important activities or bad habits I’m going to cut out of my schedule so that I can focus more time on the five moves in the next three months include …