Real Working Hours


We live in an hour-centric society. Everything is measured in units of time – children go to school to learn for a certain number of hours. Millions of people are employed on a per-hour basis. Professionals show up for work for a set number of hours. And when asked how to produce results, the default is to “put in more hours”.

No one is immune to this – it’s the default mindset that modern-day society has instilled in us. Working professionals stuck in a 9-5 are the obvious example. Less obvious, are the freelancers who charge per-hour for their services. Even amongst the lifestyle designers and work-from-home crowd, it’s usually all about the number of hours they put into their business. For some reason, people feel obligated to put in the maximum number of hours possible – even if it’s to their detriment.

Hours are a Bad Measure of Results

Truth time: the number of hours we put into something has no correlation to the amount of work actually done, or the amount of “value” produced by that work. It is entirely possible to spend 40 hours on something and not produce anything that achieves your outcomes (email comes to mind here), or spend an inspired 5 minutes and produce a work of brilliance.

One of the most important productivity concepts is the idea of separating outcomes from output. You want to mentally decouple output (hours) from outcomes (things actually done).

If you work 9-5 in an office, it doesn’t mean that you’re sitting there working for 8 hours straight. You have your lunch break, meetings to attend, time on the phone, time on email, time discussing things with your team… and all the other things that magically turn what should be 8 hours of work into maybe 1-2 “real” hours of work.

This equally applies to those of us who work from home. We have gym time, picking up the kids from school, breaks for lunch, breaks to run personal errands and social activities to attend. And because of the “flexibility” we give ourselves as a result of working from home, these distractions are more common than in an office.

The question is – what can we do to minimize the impact of all this on our productivity?

Get the Most For Your Time

The solution is to focus instead on our outcomes, and to maximize the results of actual work time.

For example, it is better to work at 100% for 4 hours than at 10% for 8.

The way to achieve this 100% is to create a segment of hours where you are able to work uninterrupted, with all the tools and resources you need, and completely focussed on the task at hand. Basically, you want an intense work session where things get done without excuse or unnecessary delay.

Here are two techniques for achieving this.

1. The Silent Cockpit

Silent Cockpit

We’ve talked about this concept before. The Silent Cockpit is a concept from aviation where the takeoff sequence below 10,000ft in an airplane is done in silence – nothing is permitted to interrupt the pilots during this time.

In the context of knowledge work, this means setting aside 1-3 hours for yourself either very early in the morning or very late at night (when the possibility of external distractions and interruptions drops drastically) and working on your most important task(s). The key is to do this when no one else is up and about and you aren’t going to be interrupted.

A lot of writers and bloggers use this technique to write for an hour as the first thing they do every day – ideas are freshest in their mind, and they haven’t started to accumulate other thoughts yet, so creativity comes easily.

2. Better Energy Management

Physical Energy Yoga

Physical energy is the foundation of everything we do (read The Power of Full Engagement for why or watch this video). Simply put, the more energy we have, the “harder” we can work when we need to. In the context of knowledge work, it is more important to be able to sprint than to run a marathon. This is because of schedules and interruptions – no one today can go through an 8-hour marathon of work without at least one interruption, so it is better to be able to sprint for the 20 minutes, 40 minutes or an hour before we are inevitably interrupted.

How do we optimize our physical energy for work? By simply getting our general health in order. This means sorting out your nutrition, your exercise regimen, and getting enough sleep. Thanh and I actually fall on different ends of the spectrum when it comes to nutrition and exercise philosophies – he loves eating raw, vegetarian foods and doing cross-functional training. I love eating red meat, minimizing grains and lifting barbells. Both approaches work for us in terms of optimizing physical energy for work. Instead of debating the (theoretical) merits of a given diet, nutritional or exercise philosophy, the best thing to do is to pick an approach that you are comfortable with and test it out – then you can re-evaluate based on results.

Focus on Outcomes

The number of hours you put into a task or activity don’t really matter. Instead of tracking your day by hours, track it by outcomes instead. Concepts like Agile Result’s Rule of 3 really do work. Simply put, pick the things that you want to get done and focus in on them intensely until they are done. If you find that it takes you less time than you thought, congratulate yourself, take a break, and then if you have the energy left, pick some more outcomes to work on.

This is a huge inner game shift that most people have trouble implementing. The key is to really let go of the need to measure things by hours – in terms of real world results, it really doesn’t matter.

If you’re an OmniFocus Premium Posts customer, have another read of the bonus PDF on Organizing Principles – that goes into this concept much, much deeper.

Next Action

  • Recognize that 8 hours in an office isn’t necessarily as productive as 4 or 14 hours at home.
  • Make the most of the hours you put in: silent cockpit and energy management.
  • Make the inner game distinction of outcomes over output.

This article is courtesy of Asian Efficiency and you can view the original article here.

Tom Costello is the CEO and Managing Director of iGroupAdvisors, a performance improvement firm, that helps hotels and their sales managers grow their business and generate more revenue.

10 Sales Tips, Strategies And Other Nuggets For Sales Professionals


It’s Friday so I thought it would be a good idea to gather some of the articles that I have read this week and shared them with you.  I hope you enjoy them and that you will take some of the author’s wisdom and successfully apply it next week.  Enjoy!

The One Skill You Need In Appointment Setting – Sales skills – this is the one skill that you will need in order to be more effective in appointment setting. This does not necessarily mean the skill to make your prospect buy anything from you, but more along the lines of them needing something from you. If you have good sales skills, it becomes easier for you to deal generate B2B leads. And this is not something that only your sales and marketing team should have.
Read more

How to Keep Your Sales Team Motivated to Succeed – If you work in sales long enough, you’ll eventually have a bad day where you just want to throw in the towel. Over the last few years, I’ve seen many good days and a few bad. One thing I’ve noticed is that depending on the organization; the number of bad days is often directly related to your manager. Read more

Twelve Common Words That Are Costing You Sales – The right words can help us make the sale, while the wrong words can blow it for us. The challenge is, often what we think are the right words are actually the wrong words. Read more

Attack Your Sales Pitch with Tips from The Shark Tank – Developing a sales pitch is both complex and time consuming. What may work for some buyers might not be right for others. Time is money and whether you’re selling a product, service, or a full solution, you need to captivate your audience immediately. Read more

The Social Era Demands Social Selling is a new ebook outlining how sales organizations can leverage social networks to grow business. Shifting the conversation from social marketing to social selling, the ebook explains how salespeople can attract prospects, retain customers, and grow business in the social era. Download the FREE e-here

The Shadow Problems Behind the Problem in Sales – The obvious problem in sales is the first one that comes out during that initial first contact or within the more formal fact finding meeting. And much of the marketing is geared to those plentiful small business problems.Sales Training Coaching Tip:  99.1% of all businesses worldwide have under 100 employees so most firms are small businesses. Read more

The Five Golden Rules of Customer Experience – “Treat others as you would like to be treated.” It’s a rule most of us learned early in life, probably from a parent or teacher trying to resolve a playground squabble. Few would disagree that this maxim is a basic tenant for human decency, no matter how old you are or what conflict you’re facing.
Read more

Why Selling is About Service NOT Sales – If you think success in sales comes down to the product or ideas you offer, you’re wrong. Read more

If You’re Talking, You’re Not Selling – Good sales people talk less. Poorly performing sales people talk more. But the level at which this occurred was very striking. The poor performers used about 7 words for every word the customer spoke. For good performers it was almost the reverse–they only used about one word for every 7 words spoken by the customer! Read more

Networking – How Well Do You Know Them? – It is often said that it is not who you know that matters, it is who knows you. Well I would like to extend this statement by saying that it is not only who you know and who knows you, but how well do you know them and they you? Read more

Tom Costello is the CEO and Managing Director of iGroupAdvisors, a performance improvement firm, that helps hotels and their sales managers grow their business and generate more revenue.

TimeTrade – An Appointment Scheduling Solution To Help Your Business Grow


I am always looking for ways to help you to become more productive and to manage your time more efficiently and effectively and I stumbled upon an online solution while reading an article about networking that can do just that.

It’s TimeTrade, an online appointment scheduling tool for business, that I invite you to take a look at.

It’s always a challenge to arrange appointments with your prospects but in sales, trying to get together with a prospect invariably means spending a great deal of time emailing or calling a prospect over a certain period of time.

Here are some cold hard appointment setting facts.

Out of say 100 prospects only three will agree to an appointment.  It will take you approximately two to 10 calls and/or emails and up to three months of calling and leaving voicemail messages BEFORE the three will agree to meet with you.

That’s a lot of time!

Wouldn’t it be great if you could provide your prospects with a way to make an appointment that is based upon both of your schedules?

That’s where TimeTrade comes in.

To get started with TimeTrade, you can sign up for a thirty-day free trial and select a “Professional” account for yourself or a “Workgroup” account if there are more associates who will be using the solution.  For this exercise I will review the Professional account and how it works.

After you have provided some basic contact information, you are ready to create an email through TimeTrade that you can send to one or a number of prospects. TimeTrade provides tutorial videos that can help shorten your learning curve and after you have viewed them you will have a pretty good idea of how the system works.

Your Dashboard

Screen shot 2013-07-17 at 12.28.02 PMHere is a snapshot of your dashboard where you can send an email invitation, configure your personal information, appointment rules and connect your calendar with Outlook, iCal and Google calendar and a Help section that includes support forums, support topics and general information.

Step #1 – Sending an Email Invitation

Screen shot 2013-07-17 at 12.36.13 PM

Click on the Send an Email Invitation button and you will be redirected to the purpose for your email invitation.  In the drop down menu you can select a number of options that describe the purpose of your invitation.  There are several options to choose from but basically you can invite your prospect to join you in a telephone conversation or a face-to-face meeting.  For this invitation I will use the phone call option to let the prospect know that I am following up with him based upon a previous conversations about one of my training workshop that we discussed last month.  I enter a description based upon the above and click the “Next” button at the bottom of the page.

Step #2 – Compose an Email Invitation

Screen shot 2013-07-17 at 12.43.00 PM

In the Send To field you can type or cut and paste up to 40 email addresses. Since one of your objectives is to get the recipient to connect and make an appointment with you make sure that you have enough time blocked out in your calendar if you elect to send emails to a number of different recipients.  Keep in mind that if for some reason you are not available or can not handle a flood of responses, you could potentially lose a prospect.

In the Subject field simply type in the subject matter behind this email.  It could be anything from a follow up on to a recent email campaign or to discuss a prospect’s site for their next meeting or event.  Whatever the subject matter, make it compelling so the recipient will open your email.  Here are four email fails that you should avoid.

In the upper right-hand corner choose the duration of your call or meeting from the drop down menu, provide the day(s) and time(s) that you are available, and choose the additional options as provided in the the options field.  When you are finished with these five steps and have composed your message, click the send button.

Once you have sent the email you will be redirected to an activity page that will show you the results of your email invitation, when it was sent and which recipients have or have not replied to your invitation.

Screen shot 2013-07-17 at 1.18.58 PM

There are other appointment scheduling tools that are available such as Genbook, FullSlate, Acuity Scheduling, BookFresh and Appointron that also may be viable options to help you to better manage your appointment scheduling needs.

What appointment scheduling tools are you currently using?  Are they providing you with the type of client engagement that you anticipated?  Feel free to add your thoughts!

Tom Costello is the CEO and Managing Director of iGroupAdvisors, a performance improvement firm, that helps hotels and their sales managers grow their business and generate more revenue.