How To Have Your Most Productive Day Ever

About the show:

The Agency Spark Podcast, hosted by Sara Nay, is a collection of short-form interviews from thought leaders in the marketing consultancy and agency space. Each episode focuses on a single topic with actionable insights you can apply today.

About this episode:

In this episode of the Agency Spark Podcast, Sara talks with Dennis Riley on how to have your most productive day ever.

Dennis Riley is the founder and owner of Goals To Results. As a small business owner and strategist for over 28 years, Dennis now helps business owners take control of their business using data, strategies and systems. Dennis is a firm believer that small business owners need to guard their time and eliminate time drainers from their schedule.

Key topics:

  • Setting your typical work week up for success
  • Removing distractions and scheduling time for deep, focused work
  • How to think about prioritization, time management tools, and other productivity strategies

More from Dennis Riley:


Sara Nay (00:00): Welcome to the agency spark podcast. This is your host, Sarah nay. And today I have Dennis Riley, a small business owner himself for over 28 years. Dennis is a business coach who helps other small business owners take control of their businesses using data systems and strategies. So welcome to the show, Dennis.

Dennis Riley (00:45): Thanks for having me appreciate,

Sara Nay (00:47): Of course, I'm really excited. You're here. I think we're gonna talk about a really important topic that I love thinking about and talking about, which is time management. And more specifically since I know you're an expert on this topic, I wanna hear about how you plan your typical work day. So the show is yours, Dennis.

Dennis Riley (01:02): Absolutely. First of all, its a pleasure being here. Thank you very much. You know what time is a gem once it's gone. And so you wanna be as valuable with it as possible. A lot of people start that day, like, all right, what do I need to do? You're already behind the eight ball. If you start your day asking that question. So what I usually do is I start the Sunday, usually on Sunday I say, okay, what am I doing this week? And it's really tough to say, okay, I'm gonna start planning every single moment every single day, this week, you can't do that. So what I do is I write down what are the most important what's where am I going this week? What is my most important goal that I want this week? And then once I hit that, once I decide what that goal is, I say, okay, what are the three things I can do every day to achieve that goal at the end of the week?

Dennis Riley (01:51): And so basically that's what I do is say, all right, I start. And I say, if I can only do one thing today, what would it be? And I write down that one and I do that two more times and I that's my Monday. And I do that throughout the whole week. And the key thing to me is that if you really focus on one task each day, what I usually do is call the 50 10 and I say, okay, for 50 minutes, I'm gonna do that one task on that one task only. And then for 10 minutes I get up and walk around and I try to do that three days. If I can do that, I'm sorry, three times a day. If I can do that three times a day, it's the equivalent of almost double the your time. So for example, if you could do that for three hours, you're pretty much getting in six hours of work.

Sara Nay (02:38): Yeah, that's great. I have so many questions from that, which is good. Um, and so for one, like speaking from my own personal experience, like I love deep work. I love focusing on that 50 minutes getting stuff done, no interruptions, but I'm also sometimes challenged with, oh, an email came in. Oh, a slack message came in. Oh there's this and this. And so sometimes it's hard for me to continue focusing and not stopping to answer someone's question ultimately. And so do you have any suggestions around how to turn off some of that noise? You get those 50 minutes of deep work actually in

Dennis Riley (03:10): Oh absolutely. And you're not alone. Everyone's like

Sara Nay (03:13): Yeah,

Dennis Riley (03:14): Because we're such a noisy world. The emails pop in phone calls, everyone has their phone attached to 'em it's what I try to do is I say, okay, what is the best? What is my most, the amount of day that I have. That's like my zone of genius that I really can kick some butt. Some people it's first thing in the morning. Some people it's when I have to lunch some people's at night, whatever that zone of genius is, what you wanna do is you wanna really focus in on that timeframe and say, look, no one else is gonna interfere me. I'm gonna shut off my phone. I'm gonna not look at my screen and have popups come in. That there's an email coming in. They can wait. And if you can get into that discipline of doing that just 50 minutes and it doesn't, here's the thing.

Dennis Riley (03:58): It doesn't have to be three 50 minutes in a row because guess what? Now you're blocking out three hours of your day. Good luck trying to be uninterrupted for three hours. It just doesn't work. So if you could try, let's do one hour. You do your most important thing that you need to get done to move your business forward or to achieve that goal. What can it be and do that for 50 minutes. And if the rest of the day you can't do anything else about it, at least you could say at the end of the day I achieved my number one priority. Yeah. And you try to do that two more times.

Sara Nay (04:30): Yeah, absolutely. And this leads me to the next question. I think you, you hit on there in terms of scheduling. I've heard people say schedule this type of like deep work into your actual calendar and set an point with yourself. So you're no longer like avoiding it or skipping it. It's literally a time slot. Like it would be a meeting on your calendar, but it's with yourself. And so do you have any suggestions around how to schedule that stuff out? So you actually stick to it?

Dennis Riley (04:52): Absolutely. And what you and you're exactly right. That you really, especially for me, I'm sure a lot of people like me, if it's not on my schedule, it's not getting done. Yeah. It's not in my calendar. It's not getting done now. I can't go every single moment every single day. But here's what I can do. A lot of people. For example, when we set up this SAR cast, we use ly didn't we mm-hmm most people use candidly. So what you do is before people are allowed to put in certain times to, to meet with you, you block them out and say, sorry, I'm not available this time. And you do that. You find at that time and really is critical. You find that time, if you can find that time and be focused on it, your world will instantly change. And it's not being overdramatic when I say that.

Sara Nay (05:37): Yeah, no, I couldn't agree more. The way I do my ly is I'm in a lot of meetings all day. That's where my role I'm in sales, I'm in operations. I work with clients. I do a lot. So I'm talking to people all day long. And so I found it really helpful for me personally. Like I block off one day a week where I try to only put in a meeting there if I like absolutely have to, or need to, or want to talk to someone. But the rest of, of that day, like it allows me to be really deep and focused. And so it's similar. It's not 50 minutes a day, but it allow, that's how me personally, I work the best is like having a big block where I can just really get inspired and knock some stuff out. So I think it makes a lot of sense. I was curious also you mentioned writing it down and making a commitment. Do you write it down on pen and paper? Do you use a specific tool where you map stuff out or how do you prioritize what you're working towards?

Dennis Riley (06:24): Oh, that's a great, I love that question because most people say I just have to do a to-do list. So what they do is they start writing everything down and then they just start the top and go through your mind. Isn't like that your mind is like a brain dump. It's, everything's dead. There's no priorities in your mind. So what I do is on that Sunday, I just empty my mind. What are the tasks I have to do this week? Once it's all on paper, I go through every single task and I say, uh, what's a priority. What I usually do is I put 'em into four different categories. One is, and I use it. It's called the Eisenhower method. I love this method. It's four categories. It's either urgent and important. So if something's urgent and important, it's number one. If something is not urgent and important, that's number two. And then if it's not urgent and not important, it's number four. But if it's urgent and not important, then it's number three. And what I do is I put that in that scale because it helps me realize I'm only doing the ones first.

Sara Nay (07:23): Okay.

Dennis Riley (07:23): Yeah. Everything else I either delegate or I don't do, Hey, if it's not urgent, it's not important. You shouldn't even be on your plate.

Sara Nay (07:31): Yeah. I love that. I think that makes so much sense in terms of the brain dump and then organized and prioritize. I use for a lot of our account management stuff, we use a tool called And so, yeah, so I have my own board and what I like about it is it had statuses on there and I could also organize them in terms of like deadlines and due dates for myself. But this is all my like, to do list, but it's organized with priority level due dates when I'm trying to get stuff done by all of that stuff. So, uh, similar to you, I map out each week in advance and then I that's what dictates, what I'm actually doing is what I put down on paper or on every

Dennis Riley (08:07): Week. And it's also human nature. What do you do you wanna check off as many things as possible? So everyone goes to the easy stuff and oh, this will take two seconds. This is, yeah. And then at the end of the day, like I have all these check marks. Did you get what you wanted done important? No, I didn't.

Sara Nay (08:22): Oh yeah. Yeah. I think most of us are guilty of that. And that's often when I do look at my checklist for the day it's oh, I can knock these things out and I'll just feel so accomplished. Cause I did three things already, but like you said, is that moving me towards my goals? Probably not, but I feel personally accomplished. There's another tool that we use with our company that I really look called 15 five. Have you heard of that?

Dennis Riley (08:43): Yes I have. That's a good one too. Yeah.

Sara Nay (08:45): Yeah. Cuz that forces my team and myself to sit down every Friday and we basically, it asks you, what did you accomplish last week that were some of your key goals, goals? It's not, not everything. I don't need to know everything you did. It's one of your biggest things you accomplished last week. And then what are you gonna commit to next week that are your top priorities to accomplish? So that's a really nice tool because it's, it helps I think my team prioritize what they're gonna focus on, but it also allows me to understand what their biggest priorities and goals are for the upcoming week as well. So I'm huge fan of that tool.

Dennis Riley (09:18): Yeah. You know what it doesn't, here's the thing. It doesn't matter what you use. Yep. It matters you doing the process and it matters what you feel comfortable with now. It's interesting that they for there's then been some findings that when you write something down on paper, coming from your brain, it's like something telling you, you wanna do this mm-hmm and it's yeah. You could type it out and all that stuff. But the, the act of putting it down on a piece of paper triggers something in your mind that it just allows you to, it feels like you're moving your step forward. And then once for me, of course, when I put things down on paper, once it's organized yeah. Things go on the calendar, things go in other tools as well.

Sara Nay (09:59): Yeah. I love that. I'm a, I'm holding a pen right now. So I use my pen and paper all day long. I reusable paper, at least. awesome. It was really nice speaking with you. I know we had a short time together. We could probably talk about this topic for hours, but if people wanted to connect with you to learn more from you, Dennis, where can they find you

Dennis Riley (10:15): Online? My website goals to That's where you can get me if I'm also on LinkedIn, a lot, Dennis Riley on LinkedIn. So it's just search me on LinkedIn as well.

Sara Nay (10:25): Awesome. Thank you so much, Dennis. And thank you all for listening to the agency spark podcast. This is your host.



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