There are three types of people when it comes to productivity—and you fit one of them. Maybe you want to be more productive, but the first step toward making changes is knowing which productivity style describes you.

The first group enjoys process and routine, and the more regimented the routine, the happier they are. These folks are naturally geared towards executing on their plan and meeting deadlines.

The second group is those who are focused ‘doers’. They have to consciously prepare themselves, structuring their daily plan to ensure they meet their goals. Routine doesn’t come naturally to them; they have to work at it. This second group recognizes that, even if they work well under pressure, the work they produce at the last minute isn’t as good as it could have been.

The third group is the last-minute heroes. These people genuinely believe that if they leave the work to the last minute, it’ll get done. Last-minute heroes feel that this last-minute approach is perfectly acceptable, then they’ll reflect on how they could’ve done better. They also put themselves under a lot of undue pressure that could have been avoided had they planned better. I used to be in the category but have learned the hard way how to not be a last-minute doer!

Disciplined Productivity

When I was growing up, there was very little routine or consistency in my home. Nobody ever sat me down and made me do my homework. I didn’t have a regimented schedule at home, and I didn’t apply myself at school. Even with hockey, I didn’t think about preparing myself or planning my training, I just thought about playing hockey, getting fit, and getting strong. After I left school, I started my own business with a loan from the Princes Trust, for which I am forever grateful. It forced me to create a business plan and learn how to pitch, but I didn’t have any processes in place, and I didn’t get very far.

Then I got my first ‘real’ job at a startup ski brand. This company didn’t have any processes either. Everyone there, myself included, was winging it, from haphazard marketing to the way we’d receive and ship orders. In 2004, things weren’t going well at the startup, and I told my boss that it wasn’t working out. I had a good relationship with him, but he wasn’t paying me on time. I told him I was going after another opportunity with Yellow Pages, and he replied, ‘That’s a tough gig. You’re not going to get it.’

The recruitment process was extremely competitive, with 100 applicants for each open position. These roles were highly sought-after, with their good pay and great benefits. My recruitment agency managed to bypass most of the hiring rounds and got me straight in front of the interview panel. Two interviews later, I landed the job with Yellow Pages, and it changed my life. Their sales and management training was phenomenal, but the biggest lesson for me was productivity. Training lasted for three weeks, and keeping the job was even more challenging than getting it. After six months, of the six people who had joined my region, I was the only one left.

My brain is hardwired to thrive on and enjoy change and variety, so processes and routines seemed exceptionally boring to me. However, once I got into it, I appreciated the increased productivity and efficiency I got from systematizing my work processes. It was as if something unlocked in me, a new organized version of me, which was a far cry from the version that thrived on chaos. It wasn’t just about targets, it was about keeping on top of my work. I was given two sales campaigns a year, and I had to fill out my diary every day. I had to fill my schedule with between 16 and 20 meetings a week, so I’d set up four to five every day. I scheduled each day, with meetings spread throughout the morning and early afternoon, followed by time to do my artwork, get it reviewed, then pitch it two weeks later.

I managed to organize the postcodes so I could be more efficient with driving from client to client. This required being assertive with the client and totally in charge of my diary. By watching my colleagues, I learned quickly who excelled and why. It all came down to productivity and organization.

I had to own my diary. Completely. Whatever schedule I set for myself, it was imperative that I stuck to it, even if a client requested that I meet a little later or earlier. This was the biggest lesson I have kept with since my time at Yellow Pages – my diary. I am in charge of my diary, no excuses. I’m not going to compromise on my time. I recommend you have the same mindset when it comes to winning daily. It is the most precious thing in life.

For me to meet my targets there simply wasn’t enough time to accommodate changes and still get everything done, so I got into the habit of chunking my day and holding to the schedule. Even though this process didn’t come naturally to me, it started to pay off immediately. This daily management is key to optimizing your productivity and winning every day.

Start Hard

In sports like hockey, coaches will tell you that the more aggressive you are in your opponent’s end, the more time you have on your own. This principle holds true when scheduling your day for business, body, relationships, and mindset. Taking action at the beginning of the day or the week gives you momentum and potentially more time at the end of the day or week because you’ve already gotten the heavy lifting out the way.

Winning the game daily means you have to start your day off right, so a morning routine is essential. Morning chaos is a challenge many people face – especially parents – but setting a morning routine helps. Back in my days at Yellow Pages, I’d try to schedule my first meeting of the day for 8 a.m. I was a single parent during this period, so my early mornings were hectic. I’d get my daughter, Izzie, dressed, fed, drop her off at school or the grandparents, and drive to my first sales meeting. A routine makes you more productive and efficient and sets your day up the right way.

Remember that you won’t win every day. If you do, your goals are probably too easy, and if they’re hard and you still managed to hit them daily, you’d get complacent and start to slack off. Getting it right most of the time is perfectly okay. Don’t beat yourself up on the tough days. Just take a breath and get straight back on the horse.

Even if you fail two days in a row, you can get yourself back on track for a more productive tomorrow.

For more advice on career performance, you can find The 4 Keys on Amazon.

Andrew Sillitoe is a business psychologist, author, and speaker. His innovative approach to leadership and work-life balance has earned him invitations to work with a range of global companies, including Pfizer, Nationwide, Virgin, and the BBC. Today Andrew runs the UK’s number-one training company for entrepreneurs and business owners who want to succeed in business, health, relationships, and mindset.

The 4 Keys on Amazon