While it is easy to aim for productivity, many still find it difficult to actually become one. In this episode, host Penny Zenker talks with the founder of Win The Hour, Win The Day, Kris Ward, about the true meaning of productivity and how it can lead us to achieve a higher level of performance and become more accomplished. Kris lets us in on how she embodies productivity by her winning the hour, winning the day perspective. As a productivity expert, she lets us in on some helpful and amazing tips and strategies in efficiently organizing and planning yourself to be effective. Join Kris as she provides you effective tips and analogy that will help you break out of the old way of thinking and win the day.
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How To be Productive In Every Hour To Effectively Win The Day With Kris Ward
Our guest this episode is Kris Ward. She is going to help you get a clue on that because she is the Founder of Win The Hour, Win The Day. It’s both a platform and an Amazon bestselling book that helps entrepreneurs to systematically grow their businesses and enjoy their personal life as well, which is pretty important since most entrepreneurs don’t have a personal life. Her book has been featured on the award-winning Read to Lead podcast, offers a four-week productivity plan to go from overwhelm to highly-efficient so that you can reclaim your life. Kris, without further ado, welcome to the show.
Thank you, I am very excited to be here.
It’s exciting to have you because it’s so simple what you say, “Win the hour, win the day.” Before we go into the meat of how to, what’s your back story as to how you became an expert in this space?
I have a marketing agency and I was in business for a few years. I was working crazy hours and one day I nearly electrocuted myself because I was in such a rush and I talk about this in the book. I call myself now a recovering rushaholic but one day, I nearly electrocuted myself because I was rushing around and I thought I couldn’t keep this up. This is crazy. I had subscribed to the old way of doing things where your personal life pays the price. You’re working harder and harder. You’re buying new technology. You’re burning out. You’re repeating the cycle and I realized it was not working, so I started to examine productivity feverishly and I didn’t have time for all those heavy time management systems.
I had a lot of pushback and so do a lot of my clients because I got a lot done in a day. To me it was like, “What’s this going to offer me?” I still knew that even though I got a lot done, I needed to get more done. That’s when I started to examine productivity feverishly and I thought I’m going to make this my superpower. This is what I’m going to do and I started to see some very significant changes and cut like I was going from sixteen hours a day down to seven hours. Luckily, I did because it was a couple of years later and my husband had been diagnosed with colon cancer. I had been pulled away from the business for a couple of years. He did pass away and when I returned to my business, not only had it survived but it had thrived.
How many people can say that they can walk away from their business and it still run? That’s key and I’m glad that you are positioned to be able to do that.
Clearly in a situation like that, I had other things in my mind and you don’t need to be worried about all that and nor did John because he was my world’s biggest fan. He saw how hard I worked and so if he thought for a moment that this was pulling me down, it would have been another worry that he had. It did make such a big difference and when I returned, my clients were shocked. They were not aware of my absence. They didn’t know anything about it, and they didn’t even know he was ill. When it became public, it was very shocking to people that I knew in the business community and my clients.
They started to try to hint and be sensitive and ask me how did I manage it all. I liked helping people and so it helped me in the grieving process to say, “How can I help more people?” because your business should support your life not consume it. Not to eat your life up. I started working with these people and I was able to help them get rid of 80% off their to-do list, 100% of their guilt. They stopped doing things they hated that they didn’t have time for. Start getting those dream projects out, those add-on services, having a bigger impact on their audience and they started taking real vacations for the first time.
How many people who are reading can raise your hands to yourself? How many people could leave their business and it’d still run? How many people don’t even take a vacation because everything is so intertwined without them? I guarantee you that 75% of the people are raising their hands right now and say, “Unfortunately, that’s me.”Your calendar is your time bank account. Click To Tweet
The vacation does not mean answering emails from a new location. That’s not a vacation, so I’m in a different location to answer your emails at different hours. It is not a vacation. There was a point even in my own life where anything that wasn’t work was an interruption from work.
What a way to live? That’s not why we’re working. I get it, a lot of people are in business, they’re passionate about what they do so they’re working maybe because they love it. However, we’re also working so that we can enjoy our own life and life on our own terms is supposed to be what the entrepreneur is.
More freedom and you and your family should not have to pay the price because you have ambitions and dreams. I bought into that. I thought I start working all these people having all this success. I thought, “How can I help more people? I will sit down. I will write this book so we can take it out and I can serve more people.” At the time I started working with these clients in the windy hour capacity but now I still have my agency. I have eight clients who are one-fifth of my week because they didn’t want to do group sessions. They all knew each other locally and they didn’t want each other to know their business. I said, “I will pull back. I’ll write this book. I’ll take it online and people will have a business that is fun to them and that they can enjoy getting things out and executing projects instead of juggling work.” That’s how it came to be.
Everybody thinks I want that. “Reduce your time by 80% and reduce the guilt by 100%.” Let me back up because I used to ask this question all the time and I want to get back to it. What’s your definition of productivity and why?
My definition of productivity is to have a goal, achieve the goal and have a clear path. This is what I’m going to do. It’s a very simple thing that’s what I want to do and I’ve done it. It can be something as simple as I’m going in to make dinner. A couple of hours later, no dinner is made. You’re still hungry, you’re not very productive. To simplify it, this is what we’re going to do. What’s the plan? When do we expect it done and is it done? It’s simple.
Let’s talk about some of the how-to, like when you talk about win the hour, win the day. I want you to explain from your perspective, why do you say that? Why do you say to win the hour, win the day? What does that mean because if you can win the hour, you can win the day?
What I mean by that is I used to hit the floor Monday morning. For some reason, I thought Monday was going to be a bigger, more dramatic day than every other day. I would hit the floor Monday morning with my to-do list in hand and I was going to take on the world. It was going to be this vast day of productivity. What happens is I was living off a to-do list and so I wouldn’t realize that maybe two, three things I would get done by 10:00 AM. I wouldn’t understand that the next two or three things could take two days and two weeks or new things came up and I was constantly going down the rabbit hole and all this stuff.
What I realized is none of these tasks were tied to time. I had no understanding of how much time they took. Everyone thinks time management. I know there are a lot of heavy complicated systems out there but for me it was, “What’s your GPS for the day? Are you using your calendar?” Your calendar is your time bank account. People will say to me, “I do all this stuff every day but I don’t count it because I don’t need to remember it. I don’t need to put it on my calendar, it’s not an appointment. I know I have to do it every day.” Even something like emails. My argument is, “You have a car payment that comes out every month and you don’t say, ‘I’m not going to count that because it comes out every month.’” It still takes money out of your account.
What I say to people is you might be running into the workday thinking you have eight hours and you might only have four. What I want you to do is map out your day hour by hour. It’s very simple. I’m not talking about a heavy system but if you say I’m going to do this one thing for this hour. There’s a whole other discussion about focus that we can dive into but we will yield amazing result and you’re going to be able to plan out your activities. Execute your projects and have other people come into play where you need them because you’ve got a solid plan.
I like that idea of thinking about a bank account because also I talked a lot about value and focusing on the value, you’re creating and what the value of those tasks are and that makes you think about it. These eight hours or you put that into the number of minutes, however you want to account for it in your bank. It makes you think about the value too.
You can’t improve what you don’t measure.
Nobody likes to measure it. Let’s face it, the whole idea, the things that we tell them around time management and how to get structured and organized and plan. To some people that’s like a bad rash.
There are a lot of heavy systems out there and I get that. I remember I was in grade eleven and I don’t know why they have a summer exam in June and clearly, I wasn’t paying attention. I decided, “I’m going to make this calendar and it’s going to be very sophisticated about how much study I have to do every day to ace all my exams.” Surprise, after the first week I did not follow the calendar so what I did instead of study harder is I revamped the calendar.
Procrastinating and then shoved everything at the last minute.
Nothing ever happened, I kept color-coordinating in the calendar and that’s what people see is more work whereas the phrase I keep getting for my strategies, not system, but strategies in my book. It’s easy to read and stuff you can implement now and that’s the difference, that’s where you’re right, time management. There are some heavy infrastructures out there. They are overwhelming and this is not that.
You can’t start into a giant system. You have to start with baby steps, make one change. I also use the calendaring type of approach with time blocking and making sure that you’re clear what it is that you were planning to do in a day and that it’s capacity-wise possible. I always tell people that it’s setting an intention for what you want to create in that hour that will help them to focus but also to be clear about what their output is in that hour. What’s your win the hour? What do you mean by that? How do you focus and get results in that hour?
The first thing is you have to do one thing at a time and there are so many times that people don’t understand when they’re not doing one thing at a time. They have all these alerts. They’re stimulated. There’s this whole bunch of stuff about how the brain works that it will always favor new information so you got split attention and attention residue. What you have to do is shut down and focus. What I do is set my phone for one hour and then I go all-in. My clients will tell me, “I’ve never done it that way.” If I get stuck on the task like, “I have to do some creative work.” They’ll realize, “I normally go to my emails as stimuli or pull away as a distraction.” It’s purposeful for that hour because when you’re purposeful then you can see your results, you can measure your results and then you know what your next step is.
I remember I was standing in the airport one day. I was standing beside somebody and they were asking somebody else in line. They said, “Do you know how long the flight takes from Toronto to Chicago?” The people were saying, “We’ve been there a bunch of times, we’ve always had indirect flights. We had layovers. There was a snowstorm. We don’t know.” The point is, they had gone from A to B a whole bunch of times but because it wasn’t direct, like a to-do list, they had no idea how long the flight was and we do that all day long in our workday.Your business should support your life not consume it. Click To Tweet
When you’re planning your steps, at the moment and you’re planning what’s next, do you plan all the steps ahead of time? Let’s say this particular task, do you break it down before you put it into its organization? Do you break it down piece by piece? How do you do that?
That all sounds a little complicated. What I would say to you is in the beginning, it seems like a lot and it’s overwhelming taking it, but what I would say is take one project one step at a time. What I also talked about in the book is working backward and we do this in our personal life but we don’t tend to do this with work. Let’s say for example something like you had a dentist appointment Thursday morning. First of all, it would be on the calendar because it’s an external appointment and you respect somebody else’s time even though you don’t respect your own work. You would then say, “I have to be there at 11:00, it’s an hour away. I have to do breakfast. I have to do this.” By the time you look at that appointment, you might say I have to get up at 8:00 and leave the house at 9:30 because you’ve done the math, you’ve worked backward.
As we tend to, when we get new clients or new projects, you dive all in, go fast and you’re excited and then it peters out but you have no map. For example, with my book. I wanted my book to be out in June and I said, “What does that look like?” I figure it out doing the math that I had to do five pages a day. There were some days I didn’t feel like I had five pages in me and if I hadn’t have broken it down, I would say, “I’m not feeling it today. Tomorrow, I’m going to be more rested. I’m going to do better.” What would happen is because I broke it down, I would look and go, “If I don’t have five pages in me today, I’m not going to have ten in me tomorrow.” I had to push through because I could see clearly that by Wednesday, I’d have to have fifteen pages. Wednesday morning that’s not going to happen.
It gives you choices too. It also gives you a sense of flexibility but you do know that you have to be prepared and planned for it if you’re going to push something that was supposed to be for today into tomorrow. You have to organize and plan yourself.
In my case, I knew the goal wasn’t realistic. If something comes up and you want to move it on your calendar, go for it. What I would say to you is, “How do I get stuff done?” I would say the number one thing is to work backward and say when you want this out, what’s involved and then that’s going to bring clarity to you. It’s not this big heavy thing where people think, “I sit down Sunday night and I map out my week for an hour,” it doesn’t go like that. Once you get in the groove, you also get into batch work so I tend to have all my client calls on one day. People will say, “My business is different or my clients are all in different directions.” You’d be surprised, you have two appointments on a Thursday and the next person who calls, you say to them, “Can you make Thursday at 11:00?” “Yes I can.” You start massaging your calendar so that you’re going in one direction instead of a whole bunch of different ones.
You simply ask the question. You’re not inflexible or unreasonable with clients to say, “You have to be on Thursdays and that’s it.” Some people are like, “I can’t do that.” You’re asking a question. Why can’t you ask the question?
You’d be surprised how many times it falls in your favor.
I believe that asking questions is a powerful time management tool. I don’t know about you, but I used to get so caught up as an entrepreneur, that curse of urgency which is a gift and a curse. We want to serve and so somebody says, “I need you to add this to the delivery.” You assume that means tomorrow or immediately. Go off and you do it and at whatever consequence. I had to learn for the same reason that you talked about, being all over the place crazy, burning yourself out. I asked, “When do you need this by?” It’s amazing how, “I’m going on vacation tomorrow. I don’t need it for a couple of weeks.” They’re getting it off their plate and it’s so key to ask questions so that you can better plan, better organize. I would imagine as you talked about guilt, also reduce that guilt.
What happens too because you have your calendar filled out, you can look and go I have to be realistic with this client and say, “We’re booked for the week so we’ll be starting this next week.” Whereas you tend to, by default, as an entrepreneur want to over-deliver, undersell and get all excited, “I’ll try to get to you tomorrow.” You get off the phone, you realize, “I have all this other stuff happening.” It’s about having a clear inventory of what your resources are, like your bank account. You can’t go into a store, even a grocery store, with nothing with labels or prices on it and then also not know how much money is in your bank account. It’s like, “I have no idea how much money I have. I have no idea how much this cost. It will all work out.” That’s not going to happen.
Those are some ways to organize time and get more done in that timeframe. Is there any other tip that you love to share with people because it makes such a big difference?
I would tell people we think it’s responsible for diving into the workday and checking your emails first is their problem, any fires you could put out and scan that. I would tell you that it’s like your cell phone with your battery. It depletes your battery. It’s like having a whole bunch of apps open on your phone. First of all, it’s damaging to how the brain works. You get fatigued and on the side note, people have this idea that it’s about discipline. That grinding it out depletes your battery as well so what you want to do is do your creative work first. You would do your creative work first thing in the morning. As you move on in the day answering emails or doing social media requires less focus, you’re on auto when you’ve got less of a mental battery there.
You’re going to still execute at an efficient level because you can do that with your eyes closed. I know for me I would have to learn something and we all do with the technology these days. I would think, “I’ll get all my work done and then I’ll focus on that.” I don’t even know what that’s like. It’s like running 10K and then saying, “I’ll do a workout afterward.” Another big thing is doing the stuff. I don’t believe in that philosophy of doing the stuff you don’t like first in the morning. If you execute all these things I have in the book, these strategies, you won’t have things that you hate to do. You won’t, but what I would tell you is start with the stuff that requires the most focus and creativity in the morning.
I read a study that it was proven that after we wake up, even if you’re not a morning person, it’s said that it’s proven that you’re more creative, and it’s the best time to get those types of activities done. Let’s talk about focus and distraction. You talked about that we’ve got to win the hour. Let’s say I’m clear on what it is that I want to do but so many things that are buying for our attention. What are your top tips around helping people to stay focused and block out distractions?
What I do, this sounds horrifying to people, but I shut everything down. You shouldn’t have all these alerts. You should not have all these alerts on your computer. The only thing when I’m working on is I have my email open but I don’t have Facebook alerts, I don’t have all these technology alerts of any sort. I set my timer on my phone for one hour and that’s it. There are very few people that can text me. There’s a ranking of two people who can text me. Even Slack, they came out with an article lately like, “Is Slack a good thing? That’s problematic.”
We’ve got all these electronic beeps. They’re like electronic mosquitoes. Have you ever tried to work while mosquitoes are buzzing around your face? What happens is you’ve got all these electronic mosquitoes and people think, “That’s fine, I need to know that.” You’re being stimulated by outside forces so we all have to sit down to decide. We’re going to commit for 45 minutes to an hour to work on this task and to be in your favor, you need to manually say, “I am not going to participate in all these shiny objects that have spent a great amount of time and marketing to get my attention.” They have big expensive teams that are working on getting our attention.
You said that discipline drains our battery and so that requires discipline, doesn’t it?
I don’t think it does if you get into a habit of shutting it down. Discipline is not required because it’s not like a message floating across your screen and you are trying to have the discipline not to look at it.
A lot of people have this, I know you’ve probably had this too when you’re coaching people, when I go in and speak. I hear people all the time they don’t want to hear go into airplane mode and turn off all of those things that could distract you because it creates fuzzy thinking. You can’t focus because so many things are buying for your attention and constantly interrupting you. People don’t want to do it. There’s the, “Yeah, but.” “Yeah, that works for other people but not for me.” How do you give people out of that way of thinking? I love what you said about the mosquitos. That’s a great analogy of people imagining that all of those beeps and buzzes or whatever are annoying because that’s exactly what it is. I hope that will break through to people and have them stop the insanity because that’s what it is. What do you say to someone who says, “I can’t shut it all down.” I’m going to lose a client if I’m not answering that phone or I’m going to miss an opportunity to write a proposal if I don’t check that email. What do you say to them?You can’t improve what you don't measure. Click To Tweet
I would say a couple of things. First of all, I would guarantee you that you’re not going to have any success if you don’t try it. You can buy a gym membership and if you never go, I will assure you never lose weight or get in shape so there’s that. That’s the number one thing there. I would say too that we’re probably so overstimulated, we don’t even realize it. I know I did a podcast like this and I would hear a beeping because we’re doing video, you see my face and I would see the podcaster look down. I could see that he had alerts and emails going across his page. Here is the problem, I couldn’t stop and call him out but yet he would come back not even realizing it happened. He missed something I said and you could see him stammering and I couldn’t rescue him. He didn’t even realize that was happening but I would say I’m not here to convince anybody that they have to give up things that are important to them.
What I’m telling you is science has proven, this is not in your favor. I know for myself for a couple of years I thought, “You don’t understand. I’m different because I’m so passionate about my business and so hungry that somehow my brain is different than all the brains of the scientists who did the study on distractions.” It sounded fine until I said it out loud. What I would say to people is when you want to execute at a high level and get your workload out and make a bigger impact on your audience instead of juggling your projects. When you want to get to execution then we can talk. Until then, I don’t try to convince those people. I’m here to get people that are successful that want to be more successful and don’t want to put in crazy hours. I have a marketing agency then I wrote a book. We’re creating a platform and we have other ambitions in the following years, but none of this includes me increasing my work hours. We get up every day and we say, “How can we take five steps and turn them into three? How do we get more and more efficient?” I am only going to be working seven hours and yet every time you climb a mountain you see the next mountain so that’s what I’m about.
Those are important points and maybe for those readers, it’s not about convincing them, but if anybody’s reading and you still have all the beats, bells, and buzzes and whatever going off. I always encourage people to think about what it costs them because we’re not aware, we’re not connected. As a matter of fact, because we’re so distracted, we’re even more disconnected. We’re disconnected from our goals. We’re disconnected from what’s important to us and operating at a very low level, a very unfocused, unpurposeful type of level. It’s getting clear of what it costs. If this continues, where could your business be? Maybe it’s not painful in the sense of you’re going to get a heart attack because you’re working too many hours. Your kids are going to turn out to be drug addicts because you’re never home. Those could be bad things. I always tell people to go to the worst possible case so that they can inflict a little bit of pain even though it’s not there. It’s better to feel it before it happens than have to live with it. Sometimes it’s the opportunity cost.
Here’s something I thought, I got into biking and bicycling and I was going up a hill. I realized depending on what gear I was in, it depended on how much effort I had to use to put up that hill. I’m sure your readers get stuff done. They’re getting the projects out. They’re getting stuff done. What happens is when I got to that top of that hill, depending on what gear I was in determined how much energy I had to get up the next hill. Do I think your readers are probably smart people? They probably are, they listen to you, so what’s happening is you’re going to get stuff done, but what if you can get up and down ten hills instead of six? You could do it and leave work feeling fresh and start work feeling refreshed. It’s the cost and the toll on you to impact your readers. That’s what I want people to think about.
Where can people reach you, get your book and find out more about working with you?
They can grab it on Amazon at any time, Kindle or the paperback. They can check us out at Win The Hour, Win The Day. I would say also reach out to me on LinkedIn or Instagram and tell me that you heard me here and let’s chat. Tell me what you’re working on.
Thank you, Kris, for being here.
Thank you for reading because you got some great tips and especially the analogy that helped you to break out of that old way of thinking because that’s what it’s all about. It is wherever you are, you’ve got to where you are with the skills and the experience that you have but we hit a plateau and in order to get to the next level you have to think differently. You have to look at things differently and a lot of things that Kris talked about can help you to do that and start with baby steps. Take a look at what you’re doing and see how you could be two times more efficient. You don’t have to go to ten times but however if you’re an overachiever go to ten times, take those five steps and make them into three. Thank you for reading.
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About Kris Ward
Kris Ward is the founder of Win The Hour, Win the Day, both a platform and Amazon best-selling book, that helps entrepreneurs to systematically grow their business and, oh, by the way, enjoy a personal life too.
After the loss of her husband, Kris returned full-time to the marketing & branding agency she had founded years earlier, only to find her business was thriving. She began teaching clients the exact systems & processes that had freed her up and helped her during that difficult time and changed their lives in the process.
Through sound time management principles – that anyone can easily understand and apply – Kris’ clients now had more time, freedom and recaptured the joy & fun they once had when they first started their businesses. Her book, which has been featured on the award-winning Read to Lead podcast, offers a 4-week productivity plan to go from overwhelmed to highly efficient so that you can reclaim your life.
Get more information & Kris’ guide on “How to Crush Your To-Do List Once & For All” by visiting www.WinTheHourWinTheDay.com
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