By Dirk Zeller

When identifying growth activities, look for things that offer long‐term returns on investment. In the world of sales, for instance, direct income‐­producing activities (DIPA) are always considered growth activities. Here are some examples of growth areas:

  • Prospecting for new customers

  • Following up on sales leads

  • Developing customer service strategies to maintain and up‐sell existing clients

  • Coaching and training staff

  • Developing yourself professionally

  • Developing strategic alliances

  • Launching new products or services

Such growth activities demand a higher focus and energy level than the in and on work categories. That’s why it’s wise to schedule these efforts first rather than last. Use a time‐blocking system to schedule your growth activities, and tackle them when your energy level is at its peak — before the day’s troubles and surprises start sabotaging your schedule.

The amount of time you devote to growth depends on your work. If your business is sales, dedicate no less than 50 percent of your day to growth, whether you’re actively selling or leading a sales team. If you’re leading a team in an area other than sales, spending at least 40 percent of your time in growth. Whether you should set aside time on a daily or weekly basis depends on your job, but it’s likely to be a daily activity.

Track the percentage of your overall time spent on growth: Do a back‐end analysis to verify that you’re putting in the necessary amount of effort. You may have a day spent putting out fires, but evaluating your growth activity regularly allows you to allot the needed catch‐up time before the week is out.

Your success in allocating the proper amount of time to growth activities requires a commitment. Start by setting a goal to spend a specific number of hours on a daily or weekly basis. Write it down and post it where you can see it each day. Put a sticky note on your computer monitor or put an index card on your bulletin board or even on your mirror at home. This visual reminder reinforces your good intentions and helps you discipline yourself to stay focused on growth.

Sticking with activities that don’t bring an immediate return takes discipline, and growth activities are definitely a long‐term investment. If necessary, share your growth commitment goals with others: a colleague, your administrative assistant, or another executive.