Most of us find ourselves overwhelmed with tasks & to-do lists. We tend to jump from one task to another as a monkey jumping between trees and fail to accomplish anything at the end of the day.
Some of the key reasons why we are not able to make progress on stuff that matters are :
- Lack of clarity on what’s important: Yes it seems a bit counterintuitive but often we confuse urgent with important, don’t know what’s is important to us. We should first strive to gain clarity on this front..
- Interruptions : There are several ways through which we are interrupted including when a co-worker walks in, your phone rings or just beeps a alert, etc.
- Excuses to escape: We unconsciously resort to various excuses to escape the task at hand e.g. constantly polling email, facebook or some other website.
- Overloaded: More tasks get into your to-do list than you can keep up with completing them. This tends to leave a feeling of agitation, helplessness and often reduces the ability make progress.
Productivity is not about being able to shove more through the pipe but to actually get to the stuff that actually matters and tactfully weave around stuff that doesn’t. One of the stories that have truly changed my outlook to productivity and life is the ‘story of stones in a jar’.
Here are 5 insights that I have gained have proven helpful to get to the stuff that matters :
- Nail your top 4-5 MIPs: MIP is a Most Important Priority. These are the top thing in life that are most important for you. In my case it is my full-time job, my family & relationships, building personal platform and take care of myself. I also strongly believe that each of us can’t effectively handle more than 4-5 MIPs. So, if you have more than that – you must cut it down.
- Ruthlessly shun stuff that is not a MIPs: If something does not fall into a MIPs then you say no. For example if someone in a church of a cause asks me to do something right now – I would probably say no.
- Erect and protect your walls: I work best when I can setup physical and virtual walls between MIPs and tasks. e.g., Specific work hours, family time, physically work in a different location for a project. Use physical, virtual space & time to erect these walls. Then protect them and honor them.
- Have a system to collect and process stuff: This is where most task management tools, GTD tools/techniques help us. We need to be able to capture ideas, tasks, to-do lists and in systematic manner process them to get things accomplished.
- Leave some slack: Don’t bite more than you can chew. No matter how well you nail down the MIPs, shun stuff that is not a MIPs and erect walls to protect, you will still get pulled in to attend to ‘other’ stuff. That is where you absolutely need to ensure you have slack in your schedule to take care of this. In my opinion about 10-15% i.e. about 1/2 a day a week would be ideal.
What insights do you apply in your life that are improving your overall productivity?