The Expedient Route Often Isn’t

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Things done under pressure often backfire. That person we urgently needed to hire, the deal we really needed to make, and the strategy we didn’t have time to test are classic examples of the pressure-filled decisions that go on to cause much more trouble than they were meant to prevent.


In your corner,


PS: But delaying decisions isn’t helpful either. Figure out what’s true now, what you want to be true, and why. Then decide and do the very next step and repeat until done.

Productivity Boost From NOT Improving Your Productivity System

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

A productivity system helps us capture, organize, and plan things to do. Whether we use an electronic or paper-based system, we want it to be fast, seamless, and very easy to use. So we seek out the best techniques and tools to craft our system.

But that quest works against our productivity. It wastes our time and distracts us from doing our most productive work.

We may be wasting time. We can always find ways to make our system better. But we can spend way too much time finding, studying, and trying new techniques and systems that promise organizational nirvana. We then fall into the trap of over-tweaking our system instead of getting stuff done.

We’re missing the big productivity win. The more we focus on having the perfect system, the more likely we will become great at filling it with tasks but distracted from the biggest productivity win. This win is something that only we–not our system–can do: choosing what’s best to work on.  To do this well, we rely our systems but control the inputs and outputs. For the inputs, we decipher what each email, request, and idea that crosses our path means to us. For the outputs, we choose which things are best to work on now, which we should do later or delegate, and which we should trash. We mostly work these inputs and outputs during dedicated, relaxed daily and weekly planning sessions.

Put a moratorium on tweaks to (or wholesale swaps of) your system. Instead, build the habit of daily and weekly review sessions. Get good at pruning the inputs and choosing what’s best (most important, exciting, fulfilling) to work on next.


In your corner,



Today’s photo credit:
Charles D P Miller

How to Pick What Next to Do

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There are exactly three ways to select the next thing to do.

First, we can do whatever we always do. When faced with situation A, we do X.

Second, we can do whatever other people tell us to do. Or, often, what we think they (would) want us to do.

Third, we can do whatever we are inspired to do at the moment. When we have a fairly accurate list of all the things we could do–including the things that others have asked us for–we get to choose the most compelling thing we will do next.

Choice is the key.


In your corner,


PS: Did you choose door number three? Wonderful!

PPS: If we look at it right, option three helpfully includes options one and two.

PPPS: In the advanced version of this technique, we don’t bother with the list and it all still works out swimmingly.


Defeating Never-Ending To Do Lists with a Permanent Marker

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Let’s pretend for a moment that our to do lists were infinitely long. What if, no matter how many items we checked off, we would still have an infinite number of things to do?  What would we do? Would we hide in a corner? Write an angry letter to the mayor? Kick something?

No. None of that would be necessary.

You see, our to do lists are infinite. And all we need to manage our infinitely long lists are a permanent marker and a blank piece of paper.

With the marker, write the word “NOT” in front of the title of your to do list. Make a new list on the blank page. Title this list “To Do Next.” Select from your old to do list the one or few things that would feel the best to get done next. Do these, cross them off, then go back to the infinitely long list and pick again.



In your corner,


PS: Of course, don’t use a permanent marker if you track your tasks on your phone.

PPS: I call this sanity-making task-management approach The Barebone Edition.

Today’s photo credit: Nick Harris cc


It’s Not That You Are Too Busy

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Though commenting on how busy we are and how much we have to do has become a bit of a global pastime, please do not fret about having too much to do. There’s nothing we can really do about it. The fact is, we will always have more tasks, ideas, and projects to tackle than we have time for.

It’s not that we are too busy. We simply must choose with confidence what to do next.

Here’s how: First, we accept the initially uncomfortable fact that there will always be too much. Next, we use the Effectiveness System (or the quick start method) to know all that we, at any moment, might want to do. Then we choose confidently what we will do next.


In your corner,


Today’s photo credit: Nels Highberg cc



Posted Leave a commentPosted in Leading, We=All Who Matter
Reading time: 2 min.

Getting people to do stuff. Sheesh. That’s tough.

We try asking, telling, pleading, demanding, yelling, guilting, pushing, and praying. While these methods can work in the short term, people become immune to them over time. They will feel lectured or manipulated and find ways to avoid doing what we want. As their immunity grows, we usually ask, tell, plead, demand, etc. with more and more vigor. We won’t be successful this way.

Instead, give them the context. Tell them, show them why what we want them to do is important. Answer questions like these:

  • Why, in their words, do our clients need us?
  • Why would those clients choose us over other options?
  • Who is our ideal client?
  • How do we best serve our ideal client?
  • How does what I do contribute?
  • Why is that important?
  • How am I doing?

When you tell them the full story, they feel the compelling emotion and reason of it all. And more often than not, they will jump in and help.


In your corner,



PS: Yes, it works at home, too. When I tell my sons to do something, there is often a battle. When I explain the context, they jump in.

Today’s photo credit: b4b2 via photopin cc

flour, eh?

Too Much Flour

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Do=Natural flow of action
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You cannot fit 20 pounds of flour in a 2.5 kilo sac. Just can’t do it.

You also cannot fit everything that you could do or even everything that everyone wants you to do into today. Just can’t do it.

Instead, take a long, deep breath. Then work your effectiveness system.

That you so can do.


In your corner,



PS: If your effectiveness system of lists is out of date, try kick starting things with The Barebone Edition.
Today’s photo credit: Theen … via photopin cc