It’s easy to fall into the trap of being productive. The problem is, if you’re just ensuring you’re productive, it doesn’t mean you’re actually heading towards your over-aching goal.
What you need to be concerned with, is focus. Are you focusing on only the very important tasks and projects that will get you to where you need to be?
In the book The 80/20 Manager by Richard Koch, the author outlines a strategy of achieving more by doing less simply by making sure your days and weeks remain laser focused.
In the chapter titled ‘The Time-Rich Manager’ he has some very actionable advice (including the tip to not keep a ‘to-do’ list):
Select just one priority each day and tackle it first. It is impossible to overstate the importance of this. Your effectiveness will increase exponentially if you follow this basic rule.
When you get to work on Monday morning, do not read your emails, gossip with your colleagues, attend a meeting, pick up the tasks still on your desk from last Friday, or make phone calls. Sit quietly and ask yourself, ‘What is the one thing that I can achieve today that will justify my whole week’s work?’ If you come up with two tasks of roughly equal value, pick the easier and quicker one.
Then do nothing else until you have completed that task.
It might take five minutes, an hour, or a morning to accomplish. In exceptional circumstances, it might take all day. If it takes longer than that, you have chosen the wrong task. Next time, choose something high impact that you can achieve quickly.
Once the task is accomplished, relax. Chat to colleagues. Take someone out for lunch. Visit a customer or an acquaintance whose advice will help you and your business. Then go home, on time.
On Tuesday, repeat the procedure, but with less urgency. After all, you have already done a week’s work the previous day. Spend the whole of either Wednesday or Thursday out of the office. On the other day, deal with unavoidable admin tasks as quickly as possible and then reward yourself by going home early.
On Friday, put some preliminary thought into what should be the next week’s top task. Then think about long-term projects or priorities for your team and the firm. If you have any time left over, work out the most important thing you could do in an hour or two to help a colleague accomplish one of their key tasks. Then do it.
At no stage compile a ‘to-do’ list. As you have just one priority each day, you’ll be able to remember it easily. In fact, you won’t even need to remember it, because you will be doing it, or you will already have done it! If you ever find yourself writing a ‘to-do’ list, tear it up and go back to the number-one priority.Source: The 80/20 Manager: Ten ways to become a great leader by Richard Koch
Not all of us will be able to follow this advice exactly, but if you take at least something from it, you are definitely going to help yourself focus more on what’s really important.
Jason Fried, the CEO of Basecamp, is also someone that don’t use ‘to-do’ lists. Here’s his response in a Lifehacker interview where he’s asked about his favourite to-do list manger:
I don’t track to-dos. I have a small handful of things I know I need to do every day. If I can’t keep them in my head, I have too many things to do. Every day is a blank slate for what I need to do. If something I was supposed to get done yesterday didn’t get done yesterday, it isn’t automatically on my mind for today. Today’s mind is a clear mind, not yesterday’s remnants.Source: I’m Jason Fried, CEO Of Basecamp, And This Is How I Work