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5 simple ways to be more productive - Brian Cormack Carr

Posted 633 Days Ago in: Coaching Articles

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We all know urgent when we see it - a ringing phone, a crying child, an angry boss. Urgent issues instantly take up our time and attention, which is fine when these issues are also important to us. Often, though, urgency is a cunning disguise for the unimportant; did you really need to take that call which tied you up for half an hour with no discernible result?

Below are some simple steps to enhance your productivity:

1. Learn to distinguish the Important from the urgent

We all know urgent when we see it – a ringing phone, a crying child, an angry boss. Urgent issues instantly take up our time and attention, which is fine when these issues are also important to us. Often, though, urgency is a cunning disguise for the unimportant; did you really need to take that call which tied you up for half an hour with no discernible result? The trick here is to learn to say a firm “no” to unimportant issues – needless and irrelevant interruptions and timewasting distractions, for example – and to focus your energy on what really matters. Most powerful of all, though, is learning to focus on important issues before they become urgent. Planning ahead, investing in your own development, nurturing your personal and work relationships, building your health and fitness; these are all activities which are non-urgent, and which don’t necessarily pay immediate dividends, but which will have you reaping rich rewards in the future – not least in terms of a calmer and more ordered life, with fewer emergencies.

2. Eat That Frog!

In his book ‘Eat That Frog’, Brian Tracy outlines a strange saying which goes something like this: if the first thing you do in the morning is eat a live frog, you’ll have the pleasure of knowing that it’s the worst thing you’ll have to do all day. If you have to eat two live frogs, it’s best to eat the ugliest one first, to get it over with. In any event, it never pays to spend much time sitting looking at the frogs. It’s preferable to just gulp them down in one go. All of which is to say: if you have a big, important, and slightly scary issue to deal with, try to make sure you give it your attention first. Prepare things so that you can dispense with this task before all others. Why? Because the important things generate the most significant results. It’s said that 80% of results stem from 20% of activities; so if you have a list of ten things to do, two of the things on your list will be more important than all the others put together. Dabbling around with minor issues while your frogs are still sitting there, uneaten, simply won’t do; you’ll diminish your results, and those frogs will still be there... waiting...

3. Make Action A “FAD”

When you’re deciding what to do with something (from your email inbox, for example), there are basically three choices: File it, Act on it, or Delete it. If it’s something that is important but which can’t be actioned there and then, you need to file it: either for reference or for future action (in your “bring forward” file, for example). If it can be actioned there and then (in less than five minutes), act on it (this could include delegating it to someone else to do). Finally, if it’s not worth holding on to, get rid of it.

4. If In Doubt…Ask!

If you’re overwhelmed with tasks, and not sure where to start, take a little trip ahead into the future. Consider the outcome you’re trying to achieve. Then ask yourself – “can I get to that outcome right now, with a single action?” If so – do it. If not, ask youself a very powerful question: “what would need to happen first?”. Then you can consider the first question again: “Can I do that thing now?” Yes? Do it. No? What would need to happen first? Carry on this way, until you can do something…you’ve tracked your outcome back to the present moment, and you’ll have a clear action in front of you – one that’s going to move you in the right direction towards your desired outcome.

5. Leave Yourself Some Space

Finally – always remember, “life happens”. Don’t clog your diary with commitments – even important ones. Try to leave around 65% of your diary free of appointments. Some of that time will be used for doing the things you need to do – like processing your inbox – and the rest is going to be “buffer” time, for when those important and urgent moments come knocking on your door. Watch out for that tow-truck...

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