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There are a variety of ways to try to measure your productivity. You can focus on the number of hours you work in a week, or the number of days you travel in a month. I suggest that neither of those is an effective way to measure whether you are being productive or not. I could even argue that if you are working more than 55 hours a week or traveling excessively that you might even be getting in your own way of being more productive.

In many ways, every business is a relationship business and it’s important to make every interaction into a more meaningful interaction. For example, I’m working with people in four different countries on three different continents in real estate, film productions, academia, software solutions, manufacturing, transportation logistics, supply chain management, executive search, HVAC distribution, and electrical distribution.

A person might think they have little in common. I think they all have a lot in common. They all work with people, and they are all trying to create and deliver value to customers that can generate sustainable success for those customers and for their organizations.

You interact with other employees, customers, suppliers, prospective customers, and people whom you can learn from and can connect you to other people. What you do with those interactions will largely determine your ability to produce results.

And yet we often go through our days glossing over the importance of these interactions, barely listening, and rushing off to the next meeting or call or report. We don’t optimize these relationships because we’re so busy doing stuff and hurrying from one thing to the next. It’s like we’re eating while we’re driving rather than savoring a good healthy meal. And some people will do this for 70 hours a week until they are almost exhausted while traveling from one city to another.

Slow down, and make the most of every interaction. Obviously, this might mean that you will have far fewer interactions, but the goal is to make each one meaningful in a way that improves performances and results.

A New Approach

Whenever you look at your schedule, and you see a person’s name or a group’s name coming up, think through these three steps.

Part One

Think through the desired objectives for the interaction, what you will do during the interaction to improve those results, and what you will do in terms of follow-up after the interaction to increase the chances of achieving the desired results.

Part Two

Actually deliver the value you planned to deliver at the event.

Part Three

Follow up with the individual or group after the event.

The “event” could be a phone conversation, a meal together, a meeting with a group of people, a conference, a visit to another person’s office, an initial meeting with a prospect, a check-in with an employee, an annual review with your boss, or any other interaction with an individual or group.

The goal is not to just have an interaction, and then move on to the next item on your businesss calendar.

The goal is to optimize the interaction. To make it as meaningful as you can. This requires thinking and really effectively listening and communicating while you are with the other person or the group. It requires being attentive and intentional. It means focusing on the other person, and on what is important to the other person. This can’t be a one-way interaction.

Slow down, and think about what outcome or impact you want the interaction to create. Keep that in mind as you talk with the other person. And keep the other person’s desired outcome in mind as well.

Never leave an interaction and forget about it. Follow up in a meaningful way that relates to what happened while you were with the person or the group. Write a letter, send an email or text, set up the next conversation, or do something that reinforces the value of the time you were with the person.

This will require you to schedule time to do some type of meaningful follow up. If you pack your schedule with one event after another day after day, then you will not have any time to follow up on the interactions you had earlier in the day or the week or the previous week. If you don’t do part three in this three-part process, then you might as well not do parts one and two.

Everyone is busy. They can forget you just as easily as you can forget them. Follow up and keep the meaningful interaction alive. Do this with prospects, customers, employees, suppliers, and industry colleagues. That’s how you improve your productivity.

Dan Coughlin is a management consultant who teaches practical and inspiring ideas on how to improve business performance.