How to Combine Strategy With Productivity to Reach Your Goals

Recently, I've published a lot of content about productivity. Productivity is important, but let's make sure we don't put blinders on, here.

Productivity alone is not enough.

You can be super productive, squeeze many hours of work out of every day... and still make zero progress towards your goals.

Today, let's take a look at how you can combine productivity with strategy, to make sure you aren't just spinning your wheels real fast.

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What the Heck is Productivity Anyway?

Let's briefly define our terms, here.

Productivity, as I see it, is your ability to get things done. It's being able to set out a series of actions you want to take and then actually taking those actions, with little to no time wasted.

Strategy, is about how you lay out that series of actions in the first place.

This is why it's so critical to have both of these components.

Productivity without strategy is just busywork. Strategy without productivity is building castles in the sky. Productivity + strategy is how you reach your goals.

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Much can be said about how to be more productive and how to create the right strategy (and I cover this in great detail in my course). For this post, I want to give you a simple approach you can put into practice right away.

The Strategy Part

How do you create a strategy? My favorite tool for this is writing.

Step 1

Grab a pen and paper, fire up Evernote or use whatever your preferred writing tool is. Then, start writing about what you want your near future life circumstances to look like. What do you want to be different from how it is now? What do you want to change? Improve? Quit?

To make this writing session useful:

  • Be specific in your descriptions. The more detail you include, the better.
  • Focus on actions, experiences and character. More "I want my day to look like this, I want to be this kind of person" and less "I want these things".
  • Use the question "why?" to dig deeper and uncover more detail. E.g. "why do I want this?", "why is achieving this important to me?"

Writing is a way of active, deliberate thinking. It's a way to turn vague ideas into concrete plans.

Step 2

Once you've gotten a clear picture of what your goals look like, pick one. Yes, just one.

Ask yourself: "what are some possible ways in which I could reach this goal?"

Write about that. Do some research. Whatever goal you want to achieve, you can readily find examples of people who have achieved something similar and write about how they did it.

The purpose of this exercise is to connect the dots between where you are right now and where you want to be. The plan you lay out doesn't need to be perfect. It just needs to be a series of actions you can take, that you can reasonably expect to lead to the outcome you want.

The Productivity Part

I've created an entire course about productivity and even if I wanted to, I couldn't boil it all down into a single, simple piece of advice.

What I can do is give you a single, simple action that adds a "productivity" piece to the strategy we've just laid out: get your calendar and mark 1 hour each day, which you reserve for working on your goal.

Schedule this time in your calendar and block it off from other appointments and tasks you have. Truly reserve one hour per day, to work on this one goal you picked out.

This doesn't guarantee success, but it makes success likely.

If you do both of these things - lay out a strategy in writing and work on it 1 hour a day - you're miles ahead of the curve from most people.

Up Next...

The comments on previous posts inspired me to explore this topic a bit further, so in my next post, I'll expand on the method I laid out here. We'll add another piece to this approach, which further increases your chances of success.

Stay tuned for that post, coming soon!

If you have any questions or feedback, leave a comment below!

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About the Author Shane Melaugh

I'm the founder of ActiveGrowth and Thrive Themes and over the last years, I've created and marketed a dozen different software, information and SaaS products. Apart from running my business, I spend most of my time reading, learning, developing skills and helping other people develop theirs. On ActiveGrowth, I want to help you become a better entrepreneur and product creator. Read more about my story here.

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  • David Moran says:

    Have finally narrowed down to just one idea, much appreciate the good clear instructions, will follow your lead

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Great to hear! Narrowing it down to the one most important thing can be a big obstacle in itself.

  • Raul says:

    Thanks for the video post. Yes, if I look back to the past 5 years, probably the most hurting mistakes are related to strategy. And having issues to stick to the “one thing” rule. But not blames here, as it is indeed complex to find the simplicity. By the way, here thrive leads is of great help for faster growth.

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Sticking to the one thing is also a challenge I fail at more often than succeed, I have to admit. But the more I stick to it, the more progress I make.

      I’m glad to hear that Thrive Leads is doing good work for you. :)

  • Rick Ellwood says:

    Thanks for creating this video, I love the simplicity of this and only the other day as I was thinking about the task of getting organized for the not too distant future with all of the things and projects that I would love to get done.
    What I thought would be a good idea may be to create a Time-Table as we had at school?
    Somehow we managed to attend 1-hour classes on a daily basis and then take exams at the end of term with some revision it worked for most.

    Your video today sort of relates this kind of system right?

    Cheers,

    Rick

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Haha, good point.

      Yes, I think organizing your tasks in a time based way is very helpful. Especially for large projects, it’s easier to do X hours of work on it every day than to think about “I have to finish this entire thing”.

  • Jim Markley says:

    Helpful, thanks!

  • Tim Burns says:

    Thanks Shane for a very simple yet effective way to set and reach goals. I have often spun my wheels and used a scattergun approach, which accomplished nothing. Other times, I’ve scratched around for the “perfect” approach as I prepare to start, but then never get going. This gives a handy aim as well as a process. I’m setting aside my one hour tomorrow.

    • Thanks for your comment, Tim! I’m happy to know that this inspired you to take action. :)

  • Molly Martin says:

    This is such an important point: productivity gets you nowhere without a good strategy. I appreciate the summary at the end. I took a screenshot. It’s in my Evernote to use as a reference as I start writing out my goals and how I intend to get there. I’m talking your Focus&Action course and downloadable PDFs summaries of your videos would be awesome! Loving the course. Thank you Shane.

    • Thank you for the suggestion! I’ll keep that in mind and when I’ve done the main lessons, maybe I can create some PDFs to go with them.

  • Johan says:

    hi Shane, thx for this video. I concluded that I have been working o lot on productivity throughout the years. Unfortunately I didn’t focus on the strategize part. That hurts me now cause I found that I build a product (cfr. website) but have no business. But am working on it. Thanks for the tips you gave in the video.

    • Thank you for your comment, Johan! It’s good that this video sparked something for you. Upwards and onwards!

  • HI Shane,

    Yes, I’m going to try out your strategy for productivity. I believe in being consistent, even though one may be “green” at attempting to succeed at one’s objective…you can learn along the way. One thing always leads to another. I am still working on the theme that I purchased from you for word press. I am making slow progress, even though it’s advertised that you can build a website in one hour.

    I do want to take the productivity class from you, because I believe you must have some great ideas to share and that you can produce some good strategies to make it happen. Thanks for the short video. I enjoyed it.

    • Thank you for your comment, Carol.

      Indeed you can learn along the way. I’d even say that learning as you go, learning as you do the real work, is the best way to learn. I always find that a “theory first” approach to learning is very ineffective. For me, anyway.

  • Gabriella Kozma says:

    I already have that stubbornness (you mention) in me… :) According to my experience you need to see and understand what this stubbornness means, not only with your mind, but deep down in your whole being. It is difficult to describe this with words, because the process is beyond the mind and beyond words (tool of the mind). In this sense, it is impossible to define it it, because it has to be done and experienced first so that one can actually fully comprehend it. However, we need to start somewhere…I don’t know what the best definition of this stubbornness is, but I find this the most suitable nowadays: “I know that I CAN do it, but I am also aware that this path is full of failures. Successful people don’t fail less times than the unsuccessful ones. The difference is that successful people stand up after every failure”.

    What helped me to move from understanding this (with the mind) and actually doing it, was doing/learning different therapies aiming at resolving emotional and mental blocks and restoring one’s self-esteem. Without a healthy self-esteem every failure will trigger the “I am not good enough” program and the person falls victim to their own negative emotions, which of course keeps them off-track from success.

    • I’d go even further in this and say that successful people fail far more often than unsuccessful people. I think that’s something many people who meet me now (people who only know the “successful Shane”) don’t realize. They probably look at me and think “this guy has succeeded a lot more than me”. I may have had a little more success than you but you can be damn sure that I have racked up massive amounts of failures. I’m pretty sure I’ve failed at more things than most people ever attempt.

  • Justin Shane Ritter says:

    I agree… one without the other is useless. We apply the same methodology when going Offshore Fishing. Time on the water is precious and goes by quickly, so being productive on the fishing grounds is imperative.

    That all starts on shore with our core strategy… Watch the weather buoys and altimetry for good/bad patterns > Prep the boat and all the gear > Check safety gear and ditch bag > Get the right bait and rigs for the species we are going to target > Decide which spot to hit first targeting which species…

    We always strategize for a couple of days before hitting the water and that makes our time on the fishing grounds very productive. We are usually the envy of the marina because we catch a lot of big fish… Strategy and Productivity go hand-in-hand indeed!

    This leads, over time, to a Repeatable Process where we simply adjust for the variables of the day or weekend. Everything else follows our SOP Strategy.

    For me, so many things in business are just like fishing… just a different type of fishing!

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