Sharing the Secrets of Productive People

In an attempt to make February a productive month, I turn to industry leaders from around the lake for tips and suggestions

By Mike Savicki


With football sadly finished in February, and the cold days and long, dark nights serving as a biting reminder that as much as I’d hope, it isn’t quite time to begin spring yard work, I have become resigned to actually doing my job as the prime way to help me feel productive. I can’t dilly and root for the Panthers in front of the television every weekend, then read, listen, and debate about their performance for the other six days, nor can I dally on the seat of a lawn mower and embrace the smell of freshly cut grass as my tangible reward for actually achieving something. So, it’s work or nothing if I hope to get to the end of the month and check it off as a productive one.


There are pros and cons to wanting to feel productive for an entire month when I often struggle with the even shorter term. The good news is that February is a short month, meaning that with a couple of pseudo-holidays surrounding Valentine’s Day weekend, I have, at most, 19 days to actually work. The bad news is that having so few days means I actually have to get down to business.


Knowing, and embracing, the fact that my skillset lies heavily in procrastination and wasting time on social media, two invaluable sills that add up to about nothing productively, I turned to a handful of lake area industry leaders to help put me on the right path. And because I know I’m not the only guy who aspires to be productive, herewith, I share my findings.


Flight attendant, Kim Johnson, gave me tips on dealing with people.

I’m the most productive when things get busiest, and in the 27 years I’ve been doing this job, even though there is a system we must follow and a lot of our job is preprogrammed and regulated, things move off from the system and it can get overwhelming. In my mind I graph it out and envision a grid. I move from square to square and follow a pattern. The passengers see the progress I’m making and they understand I’ll get to them. And for me, even when there is a lot happening and I may not see the end, I feel like I’m accomplishing something.


I found ideas for motivation from professional triathlete, Kelly Fillnow.

In my field, being motivated is a requirement. What keeps me motivated and focused is having a daily plan of my training. I can’t haphazardly decide what sort of training I should do and expect to make the gains I need. I use a software program called Training Peaks and my workout is emailed to me each day. When I’m finished with it, I fill in the details. Having that specificity is key. Goals motivate me, too, especially big competitions, even if it is a race 10 or 12 months away. When I’m feeling like I’m lacking motivation, I’ll do a workout with a friend. And if that doesn’t work, I’ll read a motivational book or memorize a passage.


I needed some help figuring out how to prioritize, so I checked in with custom builder Ray Kelly.

For me, it starts with putting the customer first. When we begin a project, I don’t overpromise, we set realistic goals knowing that there will be unexpected, unanticipated delays that might include anything from weather to a special order delay to a vendor issue. Then experience and intuition kick in. Long lead items take priority because they can hold up a job, and working with other contractors requires constant communication, confirming and reconfirming, appointments, and being there. It’s never about getting caught up in the moment; it’s about managing expectations and keeping things moving.


Lawyer, Bob McIntosh, shared his proven business philosophy.

I have a very leveraged business and am responsible for the work of about 25 others in addition to myself. The key to a successful practice, no matter the industry, is to build a team that shares a common philosophy and reflects what you believe and put forth. Then it’s about making yourself available and being approachable. And it’s also about encouraging, empowering and training your team. I’ll take good, competent people who are well intentioned and reflect my philosophy every day of the week because they will always deliver.


When it came to figuring out and organizing principles, I asked Executive Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Author, Dave Ferguson.

The most productive people I know are the ones who do the hardest things first. In my circles, that is called “eating the frog.” But most people do the opposite; they spend too much time on the clutter. Sure, they may be efficient at it, but that’s different from being effective. To be productive you need to be effective first then efficient. Efficiency is doing things right, while effectiveness is doing the right things. You need to be spending 90% of your time working in your zone and only 10% outside it. Organizing is about doing the right things well as opposed to doing a list of things quickly.


And for all those dreaded meetings, Ben Pinegar, Executive Director, Lake Norman YMCA, set me straight with a strategy that actually works.

I often joke that even in my job, I learn more than I can teach because we are constantly changing and growing. But when it comes to meetings, there is a tried and true strategy that I believe really helps us. Knowing our mission is at the heart of everything we do, and the stories of our people are our real performance measures, I start every meeting asking staff to share stories and thoughts related to why we do what we do. Since we spend so much time digging into how we do things, this helps connect us in the first five or ten minutes.  


So, where does this insight leave me? Let’s just say I’m already better positioned and feeling a bit more inspired to be productive. I’ll let you know in a few weeks how well these secrets worked.


This article was originally published in the February 2016 edition of Currents Magazine.