Being effective is a necessity if you want to get anything meaningful done, either in your job or in your own business. The great thing is, it can be learned. Here are few ideas and strategies, I found useful. The ideas itself are not mine but where lifted from two great books: The four hour work week by Tim Ferriss and the ultimate sales machine by Chet Holmes. Let’s dive right into them.
1) Pick the important.
One of the biggest barriers in becoming more effective is confusing doing a lot, with archiving a lot. This doesn’t mean there is no need for doing your work, but the amount of time spent should not be the only measuring stick of performance.
This is a hard thing to learn especially in a culture that pays his workforce by the hour and not necessarily by results. Many confuse feeling effective with being effective. Everyone knows the proudness one feels after a long day of work and an empty todo list. But have you really been productive? Have you really moved closer to your goals? The negative version of this is being overwhelmed and trying to juggle a thousand balls in the air. this is often as unproductive as doing nothing. And it is far more unpleasant.
Try to remember, every time you look at your todo list: Most things make no difference. Being busy is a form of laziness—lazy thinking and indiscriminate action. Being selective—doing less—is the path of the productive. Focus on the important few and ignore the rest.
2) How to choose the important?
To be more selective in choosing your task you can deploy two strategies:
First: Use the Pareto Principle and ask yourself, which 20% of my tasks would produce 80% of the results? Then limit tasks to the important few. Second, shorten work time to limit tasks to the important. Schedule them with very short and clear deadlines. If you do this, your tasks will not grow out of proportion.
“If you haven’t identified the mission-critical tasks and set aggressive start and end times for their completion, the unimportant becomes the important. Even if you know what’s critical, without deadlines that create focus, the minor tasks forced upon you (or invented, in the case of the entrepreneur) will swell to consume time until another bit of minutiae jumps in to replace it, leaving you at the end of the day with nothing accomplished.”
3) Are you productive or just active?
At least three times per day at scheduled times, ask yourself the following questions: Am I being productive or just active? Am I inventing things to do to avoid the important?
This is a great strategy for avoiding working for works sake, versus working for results.
4) If you touch it, take action.
This strategy shows his usefulness especially in the daily email grind. Many will waste an hour per day (scattered throughout the day) revisiting things on which no meaningful action is taken. That equates to six weeks of wasted time per year! If you spend just 15 minutes per day to revisit, readdress, or re read documents or emails, you will waste 97 hours per year where no action is taken.
The solution for this madness is simple: If you touch it, take action. Don’t open that email or letter (or anything else) until you’re ready to deal with it.
5) Do not have a big list.
This idea echoes the first two principles. To be effective and have an impact, it’s important to limit yourself to do only the really important thing. A simple way to do this is, to limit the items on your todo list. Chet Holmes says:
The key to being productive is to stick to the six most important things you need to get done that day.
You’ll find that when you have a long list, it becomes the management tool for your time. When you want to feel productive, you go to your list and just pick something and do it. It feels good. When you have a long list, you generally do the easier, less productive tasks just to trim down the list. At the end of the day, you find that the most important things on the list didn’t get completed because they are either the hardest, the most time-consuming, or both.
Long lists also mean that you will never finish your list. There is a negative psychological impact to not finishing your list. But there is an enormous psychological boost to crossing off that sixth item on your list, especially when all six of them were the most important things you needed to do that day.
You don’t even have to choose six tasks. Tim Ferriss recommends choosing not more than two task per day, to further cut the fat. But whatever amount you choose, the rule should be: list the most important things you need to do and get those things completed each day.
I hope you enjoyed this article. As always, I would be grateful, if you could take a few moments and write me if anything I wrote is grammatically, stylistically or otherwise not correct. English is not my native language, so I need every help I can get, to improve!
Thanks a lot for reading,