This is part 3 of a series, which outlines some of the systems, principles, and tools I’ve used over the past 10 years to fine-tune my routines to increase productivity and results.
In part one, I talked about the Entrepreneurial Time System (via The Strategic Coach). In part two, I discussed the One Goal System as well as the mind-map tool MindNode. Today, I’m going to end the series with some of the principles and tools I use to determine what tasks get done.
Being Effective vs. Being Efficient
What you do is more important than how you do it.
Being effective means doing things that get you closer to your goals. Being efficient is performing a task (whether or not it gets you closer to your goals) in the most economical manner possible. Being efficient is important, but only when applied to the right things. Over the years, this has been my biggest obstacle, but it’s really the key to achieving ‘rock star’ results. To find the right things consider the following.
In 1999, after reading The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch, I did my own 80/20 Analysis in the hopes of increasing personal productivity. After my first attempt, I concluded most people (including yours truly) aren’t natural analysts. Even if they are, you can’t always stop to investigate the “data” every time you need to make a decision.
My solution? Just “think 80/20” by asking: “What 20 percent leads to 80 percent.” Like 80/20 Analysis, we always assume there is a possible imbalance between inputs and outputs, but instead of looking at data, we simply guess.
Funny enough, these few outputs (the 20 percent) usually are the same things we excel at and are passionate about. It’s what people complement you on. For example, having meaningful conversations with business people and writing about online marketing and business is my “20 percent”. All of my tasks flow through these two focus areas. The rest I try to eliminate or delegate.
Incidentally, I try and do most of my 80/20 Thinking on Buffer Days. However, most of my “20 percent” or focus activities get done on Focus Days.
Twitter enables its users to send tweets, which are text-based posts limited to 140 characters. What if everything you did had limitations. Have too many goals? Limit them to one. Have too many projects? Limit them to three. Have too many emails to respond to? Limit your email responses to five sentences. You get the idea.
Not only do I put limits on activities I engage in, I also put time limits or deadlines on all work-related activities. When you apply a limitation you force choice, which improves your effectiveness. As a result, your productivity (outputs and results) increases naturally over time. What should you set limits on? Anything you want. However, keep in mind, when you first set a limit on something, It’ll be a fairly arbitrary number. It takes time to see what works for you.
Multi-tasking is a joke.
For those of you who think you’re a ninja at multi-tasking it just means you have no focus. Sure, you can multi-task at the project level (work on more than one project at a time), but not at the task level. Once you’ve determined what you’re tasks are, on any given day, work on one task at a time until completion.
Index Cards (Tool)
The most effective productivity tool I use costs less than a cup of coffee. Every evening (or morning), I select the 2 or 3 tasks that will move me closer to achieving my one big goal, sub-goal, and weekly goals (with short and clear deadlines) and put them on a 3 x 5 index card. I try and achieve at least 1 or 2 by 12 Noon. Why an index card? First, due to the limited amount of space, it forces you to write only the really important stuff. Second, it fits nicely into my pocket.
Improving Your Game
It’s my hope that by applying some of the ideas I’ve outlined it will help you establish and fine-tune your routines in an effort to become more productive. Keep in mind, these are just guidelines, not hard and fast rules. What works for me may not work for you. I’m not a productivity guru. I’m just a guy trying to improve his game.
Good luck with yours!
About the Author:
Mitch Fanning is VP of Strategy & Business Development for Fruition Interactive, an authorized member of Social Media Club, and founding member of Social Media Club Niagara. He’s spent 10 plus years working with businesses of all sizes, from global brands to some of Canada’s fastest growing Internet companies ranked in the PROFIT 100. Follow Mitch on his adventures in new media here at [mitchellfanning.com].
Photo credit: dimnikolov