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How to Get the Most Important Things Done Every Day

Is this a struggle? If we are honest, it is everyone’s challenge!

The good news is that there are answers to this dilemma. The reason I know there is an answer is that it is an issue with almost every client and we, and others, have been able to find solutions to it – for them and ourselves!

Working with these clients, in a wide variety of industries, across many countries, along with keeping in touch with many experts around the world, the challenges are all pretty similar – they may be articulated differently, but the underlying theme is the same.

Today I want to just focus on two that come up time and time again. In fact I would venture to say that there is no one that these do not apply to – they are:

  • Not having one’s attention drawn away to other things
  • Focusing on one thing at a time

So basic – isn’t it? Were you expecting something a bit more cerebral? And, “anyway”, I hear you say, “aren’t they the same thing?” The answer is No – they are not the same! They can be connected but are not the same!

I want to take each one of them separately, and give you tips and strategies to help you deal with them. This will also help to show the difference between the two.

Not Having One’s Attention Drawn Away to Other Things:

I have observed some of the best at this, have tried and tested their tactics, as well as others I have come across, and I can honestly say that, from my experience the following will make you really good at this:

  • Have your own personal workspace – What I mean by that is that it is not the same place where you have meetings, interviews, have your lunch, your social chat with passers by. Have a space that is a true workspace – where when you sit there, the only thing you do is work! This may mean that all your meetings etc. are conducted elsewhere – meeting rooms, conference rooms, or coffee shop, depending on your circumstances.
  • Have a clear desk – When working on an item, the item itself and any relevant documents should be the only things on your desk. If you have files and folders that relate to other activities, they are too easy to dip into to write a note on that you just thought of. They are a distraction and a certainty that they will divert your attention. I have never picked up a file for “just a second”!
  • Ignore the old “open door” policy – In my opinion, it is a nice idea, but not conducive to getting things done. The fact of the matter is that if you have an open door policy then your message to everyone is that you are running to everyone else’s agenda, because you are available anytime! I believe it is also bad example to give your people. Be available to your people, but not anytime! You cannot be fully available and be efficient at getting your work done.
  • Schedule tasks in your diary like you would any meeting – This is really helpful to take on as a habit. So often we come back from a meeting and then start thinking about what to do next. What do we do? We check emails – not a good idea, and more of that later. You know your priorities, so have these items scheduled in your diary – and treat them as you would a meeting with your best client.
  • Turn all devices off – Anything that rings or pings, just switch it off. We have all become so “instant” – must read that email that just came in, must answer that call etc. This is the same as the open door policy – you are running to everyone else’s agenda. Be in control of your own! Once you have gone off to check that email or take that call your focus is now completely gone from the job in hand. Very inefficient!
  • Schedule time to check emails – Yes, back to emails again – great invention but a dreadful time stealer, if allowed. You have to be disciplined. Most executives I deal with admit to checking their emails 20 or 30 times a day – and maybe it’s more! Whatever it is it is too much. Just schedule say 4 times per day – in your diary, like an appointment, and that’s it. I know it will be like having withdrawal symptoms, but if you don’t you will spend your time hopping form one thing to another – at least mentally!

Focusing on one thing at a time

I am not a fan of multi tasking – somehow it has grown to be a virtue and something to be lauded. I totally disagree- and not because I am a man, and women are meant to be better at it!

I have yet to meet a successful person who says that their key to success is having a cluttered mind! That is what multi tasking is!

Successful people are laser focused – they start, they implement and they finish.

You simply cannot have a cluttered mind and also great output. They just do not go together. Would you recommend having a cluttered mind to your people? Don’t think so!

So, when approaching a piece of work, let that be the only item that occupies your mind and your thoughts. Give your full attention to it – until it is completed, or at least the portion that you planned on doing is completed.

So, what to do? Well, I am not asking you to just accept what I say – test them out for the next 20 days, and make your own mind up after that. If you take on this challenge, you will be blown away with all the really important things you do get done.

By John Murphy

John Murphy is founder of JohnMurphyInternational, a specialist online coaching business. John specializes in advising and mentoring entrepreneurs and senior executives on how to build their business and be effective as a leader and manager.

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