The best productivity advice I ever received was stolen from women’s fashion. There’s an old rule in fashion when it comes to accessories that women should wear what makes them happy and before they leave the house, take one last look in the mirror and take one thing off. The reason is that too many accessories will diminish the effectiveness of the ones that really stand out. It has been my experience coaching leaders in all industries that this is a good rule for them to follow as well.

It’s been my experience that most leaders believe that they aren’t doing enough. That by adding more to their agenda every day, they can eventually catch up and achieve the results of their chasing. It’s also been my experience that most leaders aren’t doing too little, but rather trying to do too much. It’s for this reason that they should follow the all-important rule from fashion and take a hard look at themselves and remove one thing from their agenda.

The best leaders I’ve ever been around are ruthless with their time. They block out what’s important on their daily agenda and stick to their schedule. Because they’re able to focus on what really matters, they become incredibly effective. They also become really efficient at accomplishing smaller tasks which builds the confidence that they can accomplish everything. If they aren’t careful, the more success they experience they more crowded their calendars and fuller their plates until they’re busy all day long and seeing fewer results and stressed to their limit.

This is why I coach leaders to plan effectively. To script the way they want their day to go before they ever get to work. To block out time for meetings, and time to work on projects. Get everything that they want to do on paper so they can see fully what they want from the day and before they leave, take one thing off of their agenda. By removing one thing, they usually free up an extra hour that they can use to think, create, or work on an important project. Most are incredibly skeptical until they actually implement it and then the magic happens. They get hooked on the freedom it gives them. They become more productive by trying to do less and actually focus on what matters.

The biggest challenge is making sure what’s being removed isn’t just something they’re putting off doing because it’s unpleasant, but once we establish that we’re scripting our perfect day and removing what shouldn’t be there, just like with women’s accessories, it makes what remains a lot more effective and meaningful. It’s true that the best productivity advice I ever received was stolen from women’s fashion. It doesn’t make me look better, but it’s made me a whole lot more productive

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