Last week Ron Evans looked at issues that stop us getting things done. Like Ron, the fellows I’m working with have some great ideas: they know the type of digital marketing activity they want to increase but they’re finding it hard to carve out the time. This post aims to help unlock that time.
Every one of us can get better at working through a task list. Doing anything new is doubly difficult no matter how great the resources available. We all know that whatever we’re aiming to achieve we need to put aside distractions so we can focus on the greater goal.
In the heat of a working day it’s sometimes hard to spot the things that are wasting our time, to step around them and move on. Building on Ron’s points, here are some further tactics for unblocking blockers and making things happen, four mantras that are simple enough to keep in mind at all times.
1. Must I do it now?
Before you start any task ask you should ask yourself this question and its logical extensions: Must I do it now? Must I do it this way? Must it be me that does it? Exploring the ‘why’, ‘how’ and ‘who’ of everything you do can free up a surprising amount of time. If you’re a manager it’s particularly important to think about the ‘who’ as every minute you spend doing tasks is one minute less you spend developing your team.
2. What’s the next step?
The idea of knowing your next action is central to Getting Things Done, as preached by productivity guru David Allen. You can’t do a project, you can only do the steps that lead to completion, so what’s the next step you must take? Often identifying this step is sufficient to move things forward. If you haven’t hung the picture because you don’t have any picture hooks you know what you need to do! Lack of knowledge can be a blocker in identifying a next action but one that a quick conversation with a friend or colleague might fix.
3. What’s the quickest way?
Once you’ve determined you must do something and what your next step will be then it’s time to look for ways to make things more efficient: What’s the quickest way? What’s the simplest way? If time is tight then look for an easier way to do it. If you need some audience feedback do you really need an ethnographic study or would asking a few people outside on the street be a good first step? If you’re briefing someone else to do the task then what’s the quickest way to do this? A quick chat on the phone might be better than a carefully crafted email.
4. Get on with it!
Sometimes the clearest plan is not enough. As Ron identified, fear of starting the task and lack of permission can also hold you back. Getting started can make you feel so much better, and starting with the least enjoyable task can emphasise this sense of wellbeing all the more. Bang a nasty job off, or banjo for short, is one way to make this happen. If you start your day filling out expenses then everything you do after that will seem so much more rewarding!