Effectiveness Habit #4: Act Naturally

We have been discussing the seven habits you can build to be more effective and efficient. Today’s habit is…

Effectiveness Habit #4: Act Naturally

This habit describes how you’ll actually do your tasks.

With the third habit, MOD It, you transformed the written mass of tasks, ideas, and potential tasks you had previously been keeping in your head into something more useful. You now have at least three lists. One for things you are not going to do soon (“back burner”), one for things that take more than one step to complete (“outcomes”), and one for all the actual “doable” tasks. Some doables are the very next steps to take for your outcomes (example: “Email Steve for his recommendations re: the Whently contract” is the next doable task for the Whently outcome). Others are one-off tasks not associated with any outcome (example: “Buy milk.”).

Once you have a list of doables, how do you know which one to do? Here’s how:

  • If you have committed to someone to do the doable by a certain date, add a due date to the doable in your list. Or put it in your calendar on the proper date.
  • Do the due doables first thing each day, or as soon as possible in your day.
  • Whenever you find yourself having just completed a meeting or another task, scan your list of doables to decide what’s the best thing yo can do next given how much time and energy you have and what’s available. Example: “I have ten minutes before my next meeting, I’m sort of tired, and I’m in my parked car. I can’t clean my desk. Nor can I buy that milk right now. But I can do a quick email or phone call.” After a quick scan, you choose to email Betty the contact details of a friend who can help with the new promotion materials.

I call this scanning method, “Act Naturally” because it is easy, effective, and far less stressful than trying to assign and follow arbitrary due dates or task priorities. You’ll find that you are very good at quickly scanning your entire list of doables to pick the best one to do at the time. As you get familiar with this process, you’ll notice that your actions will flow better, taking less time, and getting more done. And you will feel much better about what you have on your plate.

Next up: the habit called Know Why.

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