Rob Dube is an Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) member in Detroit, speaker, author and proponent of mindful leadership. He is president and co-founder of imageOne, a document lifecycle management provider and a 2017 Forbes Small Giant. Rob is passionate about delivering extraordinary experiences for his team members, customers and community. We asked him about the steps he takes to improve as a leader. Here’s what he shared.
Over my 26 years as a co-founder and company president, I’ve been obsessed with becoming a better person and leader. It’s a life journey; each day I hope to be just a little better than yesterday. There are many components to becoming a better person and leader, and one of those is using my time productively so I can focus on the things that matter most.
Each day starts and ends with my meditation practice. I’ve found it to be the most useful thing I do to set up for and wind down from a successful day. But it doesn’t stop there. While meditation provides a strong foundation for success every day, there’s no shortcut to realizing the lives we imagine for ourselves. Rather, our success every day depends on a series of actions that will help us become more productive, successful and often happier individuals. Here are six ways to maximize your productivity and achieve extraordinary success.
Define Your Purpose
“The purpose of a life is a purpose.”
– Robert Byrne
My company provides document lifecycle management, but what we do is not the first thing I think about as a leader. I think about our purpose–to deliver extraordinary experiences that positively impact the lives of our team members, the goals of our customers, and the fabric of our community. Genuinely, from my heart, I am excited every morning to get up and get going. I ask myself, “What can I do to help people today?” Servant leadership is the reason I became an entrepreneur.
Consider taking time to define your purpose in life and your vision. When you lead life with purpose, you’ll start to think more deeply about why you’re doing the things that you are. Determine which aspects of your life connect to your purpose. Aim to get to a place where 80 percent of your activities revolve around that purpose and watch how your productivity and passion skyrocket.
2. Create Healthy Habits
Often, it takes us years to break bad habits and form good ones, even when we know deep down that those changes would make us happier, more productive individuals. For a long time, I considered starting a meditation practice. I researched its benefits, I learned how to get started, but it took years for me to finally commit to a daily practice.
Twelve years into my daily meditation practice and biannual silent retreats, I am humbled to have grown as a person and a leader. My company has also reached new levels of success. This year, I was inspired to write a book and share how my meditation practice has benefited me.
Is my meditation practice the reason for this success? No! It’s one of many. Identify which healthy habits would benefit you and your purpose most and set realistic goals. Consistency is key to forming good habits that stick. If you choose to start a meditation practice, consider Tim Ferriss’s advice: “Start small, rig the game so you can win it, and get in five sessions before you get too ambitious with length. You have to win those early sessions so you establish it as a habit.”
3. Know When to Say No
When you’re seeking success, it’s tempting to say “yes” to every opportunity. After all, that opportunity you just turned down could be your next big break! This impulse to take on too much is a socialized behavior of American culture. Workaholics are celebrated for their “grind” and seen as ambitious, successful individuals.
Work smarter, not harder. Instead of saying yes to every opportunity and hoping to strike gold, consult your purpose. Would this move fulfill your purpose? Does it bring you closer to realizing your personal vision?
4. Block Out “Focus Time”
Recent studies have found that the average person spends about half of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they are currently doing –and that mind-wandering often makes people unhappy. Equally important, the interruptions of modern life prevent you from doing your best work and weaken your ability to tackle the most challenging projects. Scientists call this “deep work,” the work that is most closely linked to our purpose and ultimate success.
I have a very busy mind, so I began setting aside “focus time” with zero distractions. Set your schedule so that as often as possible, you can focus entirely on the task at hand. If you have an afternoon meeting, answer emails in advance. If you have an important project to complete, move to a quiet space and turn off your phone. The more you can create distraction-free work time, the more you can cultivate your attention and achieve great success.
Remember: We’re not looking for perfection. If you do this 80 percent of the time, you’ll reap the benefits. Tweak the process as you go–I’ve learned to add buffer zones between the blocks of time in my schedule because my head was spinning from too many activities back-to-back. Be realistic and ask, “Am I really being productive, or am I just busy?”
5. Take Care of Yourself
It’s easy for high achievers to work until midnight every night, burning out quickly. The reality is that burnout culture puts more distance between you and your purpose in life. Your health–mental, emotional and physical–is key to maximizing your productivity and achieving personal success. Whether you think of it in terms of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs or simply consider the academic research linking personal well-being to your happiness at work and home, taking care of yourself is a key piece of the puzzle.
The good news is that we often overthink health and wellness. We might think that if we’re not going to become triathletes or get six-pack abs, why bother? Instead, find simple ways to take care of yourself and increase overall wellness. For example, just 20 minutes a day of physical exercise improves cardiovascular health and reduces the risk of early death. Research also shows that exercise reduces stress, and when we’re less stressed, we’re healthier, more creative and more productive.
6. Strengthen Self-Awareness
Self-awareness allows us to recognize, regulate, and stay in control of our emotions and behaviors. We’re most productive when we’re confident, happy and in control. Seek out tools that allow you to more deeply understand your intuitive, instinctual self. When you understand how to use your natural strengths, you can harness your full potential.
Think of self-awareness as a muscle in your brain that you can continually build and train. Meditation is one powerful tool for accomplishing this. A Harvard study revealed that meditation literally changes the parts of the brain connected to self-awareness, learning and memory, improving cognitive function.
My experience during this journey is that a clear vision, purpose and discipline―mixed with a little luck―is a solid recipe for success. Give it a shot!