Tuesday, February 16, 2010

How to Get Stuff Done

Business Tactics

2010.02.15_Calendar This is a new topic for the site, but one I hope to continue.  I’m sure you’ve also realized that the site posting schedule has changed.  I no longer post particular topics on particular days.  What inspires me is what you’ll find here.  This feels more natural than a predefined schedule, though I brainstorm topics and ideas daily. 

As with all my plans, this is an experiment.  What works I’ll keep.  What doesn’t, I’ll stow away and learn from.

For this debut of topic I want to focus on how to get the high priority things in your professional and personal life done.  There are many authors, with substantially more research and years than me, that have written on the topic of what it means to prioritize.  The more famous of whom that I know is Dr. Covey of the Franklin Covey fame.  So, I won’t get into why you should prioritize and how.  If you need help with that, use your favorite search engine, Twitter, or Facebook and lookup Franklin Covey.  You may also want to lookup “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Dr. Covey.

What I will write about is how to actually do the high priority things in your life.  Dr. Covey has a very interesting demo to insure everyone understands how the big things, the important things, in our lives should fill our time first, and how any remaining time left is usually filled with all the little stuff.  He usually drags out a large jar, some large rocks, some medium rocks, some pebbles and sand.  He then asks an audience member to try to fill the jar with everything on the table.  Sure enough, each time people try, they want to first fit in the smaller stuff.  The problem is that if you start with the smaller material, you can never get the big rocks in the jar. 

However, if you start off by putting in the big rocks, everything else can wiggle and move around the big rocks and find space.  This is the way the Franklin Covey software and systems works, though I think it is a bit too complex for its own good.

What method I find reliable is to review what you did last week, make changes where you see the need, such as eliminating time wasting activities or changing tactics that had no positive result, then plan the activities for the following week as prioritized tasks for each day.  This is no different than any other program you read or hear about.  What’s key is the daily review of your top priorities and their proper scheduling. 

I spend the last few minutes each day to schedule time on my calendar for my top three to (maximum) five items that I MUST get done the next day.  I’m most productive in the mornings.  So, I schedule these on my calendar as though they were appointments.  Any other business or social meeting that comes up, I work around these scheduled time.  I respect this schedule the same way I do an appointment with a client. 

Interestingly, one of my mentors recently wrote about this topic in much greater detail in his blog, Sales Strategies for SUCCESS! in an article titled The Art of Scheduling.  I highly recommend reading this article.

This method allows you to use your most productive time for the most important tasks of the day.  Once complete, you no longer feel guilty about addressing all other items on your lower priority.  In fact, given the reduced urgency to get through them, you’ll likely do a better job with them.

There are those that argue if you finish your high priority tasks for the day, you should continue moving down the list for the following days.  However, I think this is the equivalent of trying to fit only big rocks in a jar.  It can be done, but it’ll be frustrating, not to mention it can lead to higher stress levels.  After all, your mind needs variety in both work-life context as well as big-small tasks for each of those categories.

So, what are you waiting for?  Schedule your high priority success-focused tasks right now and see how pleasant your days become.

What Do You Think?

Please feel free to share your opinion below, along with any suggestions you have on time management.

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Photo Credit: WGBH.org Development Blog