You can learn how to be more productive. You can master this quickly and do it for free. Let me illustrate by way of example. Someone I know is in the middle of getting a divorce. He’s understandably upset by this terrible development. (Do you know what the average cost of divorce is? That alone will give you a headache!)
Once he realized that the divorce was going to take place, he spent all his energy and most of his time dividing up the household items, putting things in storage and selling what he could. He spent so much time focusing on this that he’s facing bankruptcy and foreclosure. Now he’s forced to live with friends until he finds work.
The odds of that happening soon are pretty remote because he’s still focusing on everything but the most important thing, which is finding a job. You might think that I’m rather callous, but I find this person’s actions selfish and inconsiderate to his children and to the friends who took him in.
Hopefully, your situation is nowhere near as desperate as this person’s, but I wonder if there is a lesson in here for all of us.
How do we know we’re focusing on the most important issues or tasks at hand?
This boils down to priorities…right? So how do we know we are pursuing the right ones?
I don’t have all the answers but I’ll share an approach from a friend of mine who is about the most productive person I know:
1. He makes a list of the three most important things he needs to get done each day.
He can’t do this in his head. He has to write it down. He also makes a list of two backup tasks in case he gets his top three done quickly or in case some outside obstacle prevents him from going further on any one of his top three. He sets himself up for success rather than failure. He does this by limiting the number of items on his “to do” list. So, for example, if you are not well but need to protect your family, look into guaranteed issue life insurance today. TODAY!
2. He sends his list as an e-mail to his accountability partner every day.
I love this idea and I’ve written plenty about how important it is to be accountable to somebody else. There is just something magical about making a commitment to another human being that makes us more effective.
What’s most important about having an accountability partner is that she will make sure you stay on track. If, for example, she knows you are out of work and your list of three consists of cleaning out your garage, going shopping for a surfboard and reading a chess manual…do you think she might give you a “knopf” upside of the head? You better believe it. If not, you need a new accountability partner.
3. He keeps the list on his desk at all times.
During the day, plenty of distractions come up. It’s easy to get off base. Calls and e-mails come in faster than “incoming” did at Danang in ’68. By keeping the list on his desk, my buddy can make sure he gets back on track in case some distraction gets him moving in the wrong direction. Several times a day, he asks himself if the tasks he is engaged in at the moment are on his list or not. If not, he readjusts and refocuses.
I don’t know why, but I don’t use this method. However, I should and will start today. No kidding. I may not do it perfectly. But even if I do it imperfectly – skip a day or only do two out of three – it’s better than doing nothing…right?
If you want to make sure you don’t spend your day singing the wrong tune, try these three steps. In my opinion, the most important step, as always, is checking with your accountability partner to make sure the items you identify as your priorities are really all that important.
Are you sure you’ve got your priorities straight? How do you know? Do you think this approach could work for you? How?