Getting Unpleasant Stuff Done

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Do=Natural flow of action
Reading time: 1 min.

What’s the best way to get something unpleasant done? We can use various techniques to push ourselves to do it. Or we can find ways to avoid it until it goes away or becomes unbearable. But both of these approaches drain us.

A better way is to ask ourselves,  “What end result do I desire here? Why is that result important to me? What’s the very next step (perhaps even a minute one) I can take to move things along? Do I have the time and energy to do this now or should I defer or delegate it? What do I choose?”

It may seem that pushing or avoiding is easier or faster. Nope. This better way gets us into a very productive flow with a small investment in thought.

Flow, good leader, flow.

 

In your corner,

Mike

 

Today’s photo credit: Dave McLear cc

Who Owns It?

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Leading
Reading time: 1 min.

If we tell people what to do, when to do it, or how to do it, it’s easy for them to feel justified when it doesn’t go well. If we ask what they think about what, when, and how they will do something, then they will be compelled to make it so.

You tell me; you own it. I tell you, I own it.

 

In your corner,

Mike

 

Today’s photo credit: ben dalton cc

Happy New Week!

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Uncategorized
Reading time: 2 min.

What if we could only get three things done today? Or if we could only get three things done this week?

The answer is straightforward: we’d get very clear what the most important three things are, we’d do them, then we’d relax or go for a walk or something.

Of course, we can choose to enforce this creative limitation any time we want. We could pick our most important things each day and each week and do just them. Then we’d be free to spend the rest of the time enjoying doing whatever (including, perhaps, more work tasks or not) and enjoying having the most important things done.

That would make quite a week.

 

In your corner,

Mike

PS: We all tend to suffer under The Grand Myth of Productivity: “More is Better.” We push ourselves to do more. More actions done, more decisions made, more boxes ticked, more meetings had, more delegations made, more emails processed are–so the myth goes–much better than less. Nope. More leads to stress, sub-optimal thinking and decisions, overwhelm, and mistakes. Worse, whatever we think is really most important to us gets lost in the worlds of push, make-it-happen, and more-and-more.

 

Today’s photo credit: C.E. Kent cc

Worthy Investment

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Will=Our inner game
Reading time: 1 min.

Which will deliver better results? An action taken while in fear, uncertainty, doubt, worry, anger, regret,  or guilt or the same action taken while in excitement, calm, release, allowing, happiness, love, connection, or peace?

Right.

It’s so worth the investment of time and focus to become the kind of person who more often than not acts from excitement, calm, et cetera.

 

In your corner,

Mike

 

Today’s photo credit:
Nazir Amin
cc

Task Systems Too Full

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Do=Natural flow of action
Reading time: 2 min.

Have you ever started using a new productivity system (app, list, notebook, cards, etc.) then abandoned it?

This usually happens because we let our systems get full of stuff to do that we haven’t done yet. As the pile of things to do grows, we add “do it today” flags and reminders to all sorts of items. It gets so unwieldy (and we often feel so guilty) that we go back to using email and fire-fighting to get stuff done.

Here’s the way out: instead of seeing items in our productivity system as a things to do, see them as things we are not going to do. Then, every week, we select three to four best next things we will do that week. And each day, we select three to four best next things to do that day, most of which will support the weekly things. (Lest you worry, we are remarkably effective at making these “best next” selections.)

Throughout the days and weeks, we complete what we chose to complete. We handle any truly urgent items as they come up. But we put most requests (emails, meeting takeaways, etc.) into our “not to do” list. Whatever doesn’t get done during a particular day or week goes back into the “not to do” pile. We can reselect them for the next week or day or pick all new items to do. If we complete everything for a day or week, we can choose to do the next best thing from the “not to do” list.

By actively keeping most things in a “not to do” pile, our systems remain manageable and we remain focused.

 

In your corner,

Mike

 

Today’s photo credit:
Alexandre Duret-Lutz
cc

What Does Your Work Pie Look Like?

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Do=Natural flow of action
Reading time: 2 min.

We can categorize any work into three types: routine, project, and fire-fighting.

Routine work is mostly repetitive. Examples include cranking the same widget over and over on a factory floor, processing accounts receivable, and delivering the same executive training course over and over.

Project work has a goal that will take more than one step to achieve. It has a beginning, middle, and end. Examples include selecting a new vendor, launching a new offering, and preparing for the important board meeting.

Fire-fighting is urgent work that we didn’t see (or didn’t try to see) coming. Examples include responding to angry customer complaints, dealing with requests from the press, and handling a breakdown in a process or project.

We can define our work pie or preferred blend or work types: what percentage of time we want spend doing each type of work. Some of us are are more adrenaline addicts and want little routine or project work. Others of us prefer mostly project work. Some of us like a good blend of all three types.

Though there is no perfect blend, we can be out of step with our roles. When our roles demand a blend of work types different from our own, we suffer. And, as leaders, if our preferred blend is out of step with the needs of the company, we will tend to force the work to match our preferred ways. In this way, everyone else suffers, too.

Of course, we can make adjustments. We can measure and compare the preferences of people and the needs of their roles. We can also redesign roles and workflows, hire people with compatible preferred-work-type-blends, and watch to make sure our work preferences don’t derail the company.

 

In your corner,

Mike

PS: The measure and compare tool is called Task Quotient™. Contact me if you would like to explore this tool in more detail.

 

Today’s photo credit: various brennemans cc

How to Break Out of the Activity Over Results Trap

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Do=Natural flow of action
Reading time: 2 min.

It’s very easy for us to fall into the “Activity Over Results” trap. In this trap, we unconsciously judge ourselves and others by how much activity we generate. But, deep down, we much more value achieving desired results. We spend a large amount of our time on lots of low-value activities including most of our email, Slacks, and meetings. We see every day how volumes of these activities fail to deliver the results we want.

Here is one good method to shift things.

First, we commit to weekly and daily review times. We use this time to get atop any messages or notes that may have potential tasks within. We put all those potential tasks into our Not To Do list. Next, we scan our calendar and survey our lists of on-going projects and longer-term goals. Then, if this is our weekly review, we select and write down four big things from our projects, goals, and Not To Do list that we want to accomplish this week. We next select and write down four things we want to accomplish today. Then we start doing those four things.

Will this Review-Plus-Fours approach eliminate the messages and meetings? No. But it returns to us the focus we need. And we will be much more likely to achieve what we want.

 

In your corner,

Mike

 

Today’s photo credit: Claudio Jofré Larenas cc

How to Work on What Really Needs to Get Done

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Do=Natural flow of action
Reading time: 2 min.

Productivity experts point to email, messaging, and meetings as major sources of distraction and stress. They have become fond saying that we should stop doing what everyone else wants us to do and concentrate on what really needs to get done.

Uh huh.

How do we figure out for ourselves what really needs to get done?  And how do we help others sift through emails, messages, and meeting requests so that they can know what really needs to get done?

Here’s a great start: redefine your role by desired outcomes and help everyone else do the same for their roles. Instead of a vague lists of tasks and responsibilities, we can describe any role in just three to five sentences. Each sentence describes a desired outcome. Prioritize these desired outcomes. Then suggest the percentage of time to spend each week on each outcome. All of this can fit nicely on a single page. The last step is to share everyone’s one-page role definitions.

With our roles defined like this, we always know what really needs to get done. We still will have emails, messages, and meetings. But our collaboration will make more sense and we can better navigate with our desired outcomes as context.

 

In your corner,

Mike

 

Today’s photo credit: E-Mails @ Computer via photopin (license) 

Drawing Your Way Out of Procrastination

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Do=Natural flow of action, We=All Who Matter, Will=Our inner game
Reading time: 2 min.

One of the main causes of procrastination is confusion about what to do next. When we do not know the best next, small, discreet step we can take to move a project forward, we become overwhelmed with details, lost in possibilities, or stymied by what seem to be insurmountable obstacles.

The cure is remarkably easy: mind mapping. A mind map is like an outline. Both let us break big ideas into smaller chunks and break these chunks into even smaller ones. But an outline is harder to work with because it is linear (A, i, ii, 1, 2, iii, B…up and down the page), tough to rearrange, and heavy with text. Outlines force us to think about topics from top to bottom.

And if we could do that, we wouldn’t be overwhelmed, lost, or stymied!

By its graphical nature, a mind map lets us think through things better. It is more open and more visual. It helps us group ideas graphically across the page and it makes moving ideas around a snap. Mind maps let our ideas unfold completely. They help us brainstorm, see the big picture, and not lose any details. And they make navigating and communicating our ideas much simpler.

Next time you find yourself stuck, try mind mapping.

 

In your corner,

Mike

PS: Mind mapping works great for team brainstorming and planning, too.

PPS: Here is an overview of mind mapping and how to build a mind map.

PPPS: You can draw mind maps on paper or a white board. I prefer using apps such as SimpleMind on my laptop, projected on the wall for team work, or on my smartphone.

PPPPS: The mathematically minded will see that a mind map and an outline are basically identical structures. But the visual aspects of mind maps make them so much more effective.

 

Today’s photo credit: Chris Gladis cc