“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” –Peter Drucker
One way you might improve your results is by being consistent, using self-discipline to do the same thing repeatedly. Some of the most successful people you will ever meet have benefited from their consistency. Once you burn in a practice, your habits take over and the need for self-discipline fades away. But beware of consistency’s downside: it can drive both success and failure, providing rewards when you follow positive habits but doling out punishment when you consistently keep your negative habits.
Hitting Snooze on Success
The problem with consistency is that humans are often just as consistent (if not more so) with the negative patterns they deeply burn in. For instance, most alarm clocks have a customizable snooze button, theoretically so users can grab just enough extra sleep when the alarm goes off. But it’s far too easy to keep hitting snooze, breaking the promise you made—if only to yourself—about when you would get up.
The people who complain that they don't have enough time are often the same folks who hit the snooze button three times a morning, unwilling to leave the warm comfort of their beds. The more consistently you hit the snooze button, the more you burn in a negative habit. You would be better off to set your alarm for thirty minutes later, then make sure your feet hit the floor a few seconds after you wake up.
Inflating the Importance of the Inbox
One question I ask job candidates is how they spend their time, including the time they wake up and what they do with the first few hours. You can learn a lot about a person from their morning routines. But I rarely hire anyone who admits that they start their morning in their inbox. In my experience, that usually shows that the individual doesn’t have a plan for the day, so they’re looking for tasks to react to instead of blocking off their calendar for goals and priorities.
No matter what time you check your email, it’s easy to inflate the importance of your inbox, believing that others’ tasks for you are more important than any goal you might pursue on your own. Most people spend the whole workday with their email open, desperately trying to keep up with a never-ending onslaught of asynchronous communications. Tell me how much time you spend with your inbox closed and I'll tell you how productive you are.
Avoiding Problems and Conflict
In The Only Sales Guide You'll Ever Need, you will find a chapter on self-discipline and “me management,” the idea that you have to will yourself to do what is necessary for the results you want. One strategy I recommend there is called "Worst First," doing your most difficult or unpleasant task or conversation first each day. The reason you do hard things first is because you will have better energy for these conversations in the morning than later in the day.
The reason people push difficult things off until later is because they want to avoid them. Occasionally, they have the good luck of some difficult situation resolving itself before they have to address it. Most of the time, however, problems don't age well. Avoiding them only postpones the inevitable conflict, often creating a larger problem based on others’ perceptions that you don't care enough to deal with it.
The negative consistency of avoiding hard things and harder conversations will lessen your overall effectiveness, while also increasing your stress and anxiety as the number of issues multiply. I keep a list I call "The Fire Board," with all the brush fires and raging infernos that need my attention. Consistently putting out your own fires quickly and without hesitation builds a habit that improves your effectiveness.
Form Your Habits to Form Yourself
Peter Drucker was a very good thinker, an observant and insightful person who was also very effective. A good starting point for reading Drucker (who wrote 53 books) is The Effective Executive, particularly the anniversary edition—Jim Collins’ Foreword gives you a sense of Drucker that you’ll find nowhere else. Drucker’s observation that you should not do efficiently what should not be done at all suggests that he encountered a lot of hard workers, but that many of them worked consistently on the wrong projects.
When you form your habits, they return the favor. It is easy to find yourself with bad habits you didn't intentionally develop, and even with alert discipline it’s much more difficult to eliminate or replace them. So let Drucker's advice guide you, and avoid making the wrong choices consistently.
Recommended Reading on Positive Consistency
The Building Blocks of Sales Enablement, by Mike Kunkle. Mike is a systems thinker and a map maker. While we often look at one part of enablement, we rarely see the connections that impact results. This book will provide you with a map.
Virtual Training, by Jeb Blount. If you train people, Jeb's latest book will provide the deepest of all deep dives into how to create and deliver a world-class and unrivaled experience, one that will ensure people look forward to your next training.
Tech-Powered Sales: Achieve Superhuman Sales Skills, by Justin Michael and Tony Hughes. I like it when people write books I could not have written. Justin Michael cares deeply about technology and its uses in sales. Tony Hughes, another friend, collaborated on this book. The two have done a wonderful job making sure that the book is about augmenting instead of replacing humans.
Really Care for Them: How Everyone Can Use the Power of Caring to Earn Trust, Grow Sales, and Increase Income, No Matter What You Sell or Who You Sell It To, by Mareo McCracken. Mareo is one of the best-read and most generous people you will ever meet. In The Only Sales Guide You'll Ever Need, I included a chapter on Caring. Mareo's book is the only sales book I am aware of that includes the word "care." It's a very fast and very sharp read. I applaud Mareo for having the courage to add a useful guide on something important.
Pick Up the Phone and Sell: How Proactive Calls to Customers and Prospects Can Double Your Sales, by Alex Goldfayn. You know this one is close to my heart. People are just catching on that the phone is still powerful. But Alex added another equally important component to his book: making calls proactively.
Sell Different! All New Sales Differentiation Strategies to Outsmart, Outmaneuver, and Outsell the Competition, by Lee Salz. This book is the sequel to his book Sales Differentiation. Lee has condensed fifteen big ideas into a fast-reading and actionable guide for selling differently.
The Velocity Mindset®: How Leaders Eliminate Resistance, Gain Buy-in, and Achieve Better Results—Faster, by Ron Karr. Ron hits a lot of good notes in this book, but I especially liked the chapters on Vision and Tasks vs. Purpose.