“How do you get so much done?”

It’s a common question with a deceptively simple answer: there’s a difference between being busy and being productive. Anyone can be busy, but it takes strategy and planning to be productive. Here are three strategies to enable leaders to get more done than they thought was possible.

1. Don’t be a goldfish.

There’s an old saying that goldfish grow to the size of the tank it lives in. The larger the tank, the larger the goldfish.

The same principle applies to our lives. The more room we allow ourselves for any given task, the longer that task takes. This is a huge problem in the workplace: if you give a project to a person who isn’t particularly busy, they tend to stretch it out as much as possible.

The key to not becoming a goldfish is to impose strict deadlines and requirements on yourself for every task you undertake. You have to treat everything as though you’re under the proverbial gun. This makes it significantly easier to clear things off your to-do list with ruthless efficiency.

2. Embrace essentialism.

If you want to avoid becoming a goldfish, you must embrace some form of essentialism. The concept of essentialism can be traced back to the works of Aristotle and Plato and holds that a given entity has a few core traits that define its very existence. There can be many additional traits, but there are always a few that define the core of the entity in question.

Essentialism can and should be applied to every task you encounter. Nothing is worse than needing to write a briefing, develop a presentation for your staff or communicate with a handful of customers, only to find yourself paralyzed by the daunting nature of the task at hand. When I feel overwhelmed by a task, my natural response is to procrastinate. Procrastination, in turn, leads to stress, anxiety, and feelings of being completely overwhelmed.

I've learned that the solution to this is to analyze the task, identify its essence, and develop a plan to address it accordingly. When you apply an essentialist framework to tasks, you’ll quickly find that the anxiety surrounding its perceived complexity melts away. This practice takes discipline and often requires a degree of explanation when a task is ultimately completed. The reason for this is simple: people often ask for what they think they want, rather than what they actually want.

It sounds like a matter of semantics, and it is to a certain extent. However, if we take requests or tasks at face value, we often end up spending the bulk of our time working on aspects that don’t really matter. Applying an essentialist framework, however, helps you get to the heart of the issue and ultimately deliver a better and more efficient solution.

3. Remember that what stands in the way, becomes the way.

You'll still run into challenges that can halt your productivity in its tracks. We all encounter such obstacles in our lives, but they don't have limit you. In fact, such obstacles can actually make you more productive.

Focusing on our circumstances or pinning our happiness on the attainment of sales is a surefire recipe for disappointment. Instead, turn the obstacles you face into opportunities. We would all be well served to remember that what stands in our way, becomes the way. When it comes to productivity, we must run headlong into our challenges and tackle our most dreaded tasks. We have to embrace them, relish the process and attack them with a ferocity that robs them of their power over us.

Remember: you’re capable of more than you realize. The secret to extreme productivity is to cultivate the proper mindset.

Read the full article here.