“Most people overestimate what they can do in a year and underestimate what they can accomplish in a decade” –Bill Gates
First things first… start by saying “NO” to that which you don’t want to do and to that which distracts you from that which you should be saying “YES” to.
Tim Ferris, “Never automate something that can be eliminated, and never delegate something that can be automated.”.
Derek Sivers, “When deciding whether to do something, if you feel anything less than ‘Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!’ then say no.” Love this!
Stephen Covey’s 4 quadrants from 7 Habits of Highly Effective People helps considerably:
Question: why are you even operating in the bottom right quadrant?! The “Important, but Not Urgent” box includes exercise, relationship building, long-range planning…isn’t this a better place to play?
“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there” -Cheshire Cat
Stand up and say what you want to do to the world… this creates accountability. Now, get organized. As David Allen says, everyone has more things on their plate than he can possibly do, so the goal is to consistently organize and re-prioritize so you feel OK with that which you aren’t doing… focus! He also promotes a pretty good organizational plan in his book Getting Things Done. The basic idea is to gather everything (paper, notes, lists, etc) and quickly organize into “To Do” lists:
- Next Actions (Things that need to get done as soon as you can…don’t be scared if this list is 100+ items…it’s normal)
- Calendar (This is anything from the Next Action list that needs to be done by a certain time/date. This he calls sacred territory… anything that goes here must get done! )
- Waiting for (stuff you are waiting on from others…make sure and record the date)
- Projects (list all of them here, but you don’t really DO a project, you do “Next Actions”, so put the next actions for your projects in “Next Actions”)
- Someday/Maybe (not a priority, but would be nice)
- Reference (I love Evernote for stashing this stuff away)…and yeah, it’s ugly in there, but it’s there if I ever need/want it
Calendar and Next Actions should be reviewed daily, weekly reviews should be done for Projects & Waiting For, and then review Someday/Maybe and Reference as needed. The critical part to all of this is that you put everything into one of these buckets (Everything!…so you aren’t distracted by things in the back of your mind). Apply to meetings too… what is the next action and who has got it? If you want to have more productive meetings, do not leave a meeting without figuring out the “Next Action” and who is responsible for it. Dedicate two hours every Friday afternoon to reviewing your “To Do” lists. “Don’t prioritize what’s on your schedule, schedule your priorities”
“Lack of time is a lack of priorities” -Ramit Sethi
Now, to hyper prioritize your “To Do” lists. At the end of the day make sure you know what the top five things are to get done tomorrow. If you go to bed knowing the top five things to do tomorrow, you will come up with some of the “How’s” while you sleep. There are two great things to do with this top five list:
- Write them down on a piece of paper (Sticky Notes work great too). Review it every 15 minutes (to stay focused) until all are done. Great story about this in Napoleon Hill’s book Think and Grow Rich
- Hyperfocus on the one thing that is a “force multiplier”…the one thing, that if you do it, makes a whole lot of other things much easier
DO NOT get sucked into doing email first thing starting your day…that is letting others prioritize your day. Start with your “To Do” list…this is you prioritizing your day and what is important to you.
If done right, you can be super productive in just 3 to 5 hours every day. “It is the steadiness of it that counts. Be consistent and do something to move forward everyday” -Woody Allen
A few other laws and ideas to apply to magnify your results”
- Pareto: 80/20 Rule. Apply more than once…if 20% = 80%, then 4% = 64%, 1% = 50%!!
- What is the biggest return I can get for the least amount of effort?
- The last 20% of most projects is usually the most time-consuming. Do the first 80% yourself in 20% of the time and hand the last 20% to someone else to complete
- Parkinson’s Law: work expands so as to fill time available for its completion. In other words, don’t take 60 days to do something important that could be done in 24 hours.
- Constraints can be a good thing… do more with less
- Multiply yourself: inspire others to your cause, turn a snowball into an avalanche (1 –> ∞). Here’s a post on Becoming a Force Multiplier
- Make simple rules for yourself and others: one blog post per day, write 2000 words per day, five sales calls per day, etc
- Pick just one metric to measure yourself by: customer counts, new customers, revenue, profit, market share, new designs (Just Pick One!)
- Make a “Stop Doing” list…stuff to stop doing altogether
- Do a little bit every day no matter what… stick to a routine and you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish!
- “The most important thing is focus, second is committing time to your endeavor. No matter how great the talent or effort, some things just take time… you can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant” -Warren Buffett
P.S. if you are ever frustrated and not feeling like you are making progress, start making an “I did it” list instead of a “To Do” list. You’ll be surprised at how much you are actually accomplishing!