Pay-off: quickly increase your effectiveness and efficiency (+ free cheat sheet)
Investment: 4 minutes
Everyone seems too busy these days.
But most people, I’d argue, are too busy being ineffective.
“I won’t be able to help you this afternoon, I’ve blocked two hours out of my schedule to bang my head against the wall, and re-invent the wheel, sorry!”
Being lucky enough to work with lots of different organisations, I see an awful lot of duplication, distraction, working on the unimportant, using the wrong tools for the job, failing to automate, leaders doing tasks they should be leading others to do, people holding the hammer the wrong way round, and so on.
It’s chaos out there! You’re not contributing to it are you? And then complaining that you’re overwhelmed?!
Optimise your day
If you follow my process below you’ll become more effective and efficient. And the more you use it, the more you’ll develop a mindset – a habit for being effective and efficient.
By effective, I mean that you’ll do the right things.
The few actions that get you the most important returns on your efforts (in relation to your purpose, goals, mission and so on.) Effective is aiming for the triple 20 in darts.
By efficient, I mean that you’ll do those right things in the right way. High output for low input. Efficient is throwing your one dart with perfect form, and hitting that triple 20.
No point, costly, and utterly ridiculous
There’s no point doing the wrong things efficiently.
And it’s costly to do the right things inefficiently.
And if you’re doing the wrong things inefficiently, that’s utterly ridiculous, and you might be up for a Darwin Award.
Let’s prevent this.
Follow my process below. Your time invested will be a small fraction of the time you’ll save.
Free cheat sheet?
I call my process “DAD-DC” if you want to memorise it.
First, gather your list of to-dos or tasks either for today or the days or weeks ahead. Then answer these questions.
1. Dump it?
For each task on your list, ask, “how severe are the consequences on my goals, work, or life, if I totally dump this task?”
If low to zero, eliminate the unimportant by dumping it from your busy life! All other tasks make it through to the next pass through the list.
2. Automate it?
For each remaining task, ask, “can I automate it in full, or in part? If so how?”
Rather than thinking, “how can I do this?”, adopt the entrepreneur’s mindset of, “how can this get done?”
Google “[task] + automation tools”.
Some excellent automation tools that I use to get half my own work done:
You can automate more than you think.
So, parts of your must-do tasks are now being automated. Perfect. The remaining tasks get through to the next round.
3. Defer it?
For each remaining task, ask, “when is the very best time to action this?”
You don’t want to corner yourself doing things last minute when stress builds. But you don’t want to start something so early that when things change around you, the work is no longer required and your efforts are wasted.
There is a very best time to get started on something (and complete it by). So find it. And schedule it, with milestones, for each task.
OK, your task list is shrinking fast. Those remaining make it through to the next round.
4. Delegate it?
For each remaining task, ask, “who is the very best person to action this?” (Again, the “how can this get done?” mindset).
Try to delegate to the lowest skill level available in your team to get the job done efficiently.
Delegate upwards, downwards, left and right.
And delegate but don’t abdicate.
So, you’re committed to your important ‘musts’, you’ve got machines doing some of your work, other people doing other parts of your work, and some tasks are on the back-burner and off your mind for now.
So, what’s left for poor old muggins to do today?
You can sharpen up on your own list and get home early if you ask and answer the next four questions.
a) Ask yourself, “how can I combine two or more of these tasks and do them at the same time?”
I don’t mean overwhelm yourself by multitasking. I mean, can you listen to audio whilst walking or driving?
Can you organise three meetings in the same part of town?
Can you call your client when walking back from another client, so you don’t make the excuse that you didn’t have time?
Can you habitually call a client every time you walk away from another client? What if you did?
b) For each task, ask, “what already exists that I could re-use in full or in part to save me re-inventing the wheel?” This will see your previous efforts compound. You can ask your colleagues or Google for ideas.
c) If there’s really nothing you can re-use, ask, “how can I do this task in such a way that makes it easily re-usable in future, in full, or in part?” (And for bonus points, consider sharing what you’ve created with your team!) Documenting a simple process or checklist to call upon next time is an obvious way to do this. Or saving blocks of re-usable text into a tool like TextExpander.
d) And finally, don’t forget to ask your colleagues or Google (or a mentor or expert) what they think is the most efficient way to tackle your task.
Worth a 60-second search to learn this at the point of need, surely?
Do this at the start of each day, and you’ll not only save lots of time and effort, but you’ll also be working on your business or career as well as in it. You’ll be building more and more to leverage in future, compounding your returns as you go.
Free cheat sheet?
If you want the one-page cheat sheet for the process (without explanation) you can pick it up for free here in my members only resource library where you’ll get other useful tools too to help you learn the big 4 skills.)
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Also published on Medium.