In both cases, I cited Steve Jobs’ well-known phrase about how Apple is so intensely focused on its products … and how proud he is that the entire product line fits on a single table. Everyone always asks with wonderment, how do you do it? How does Apple promote such productivity and accountability? (Stay tuned, too, for the bonus tip I’ve got for you.)
That’s what he says. Get rid of all the crappy stuff. I’m pretty sure that David Allen, of Getting Things Done fame, would agree with me that it is far more efficient and effective to be clear about what you’re NOT going to do than to have a cluttered mind trying to juggle of bunch of activity that’s going nowhere.
As we’ve discussed, you first have to devote some quality time to collecting and organizing all the things that have your attention so you can achieve a leakproof system. Once you’re confident you’ve got control over everything you care about … and have gained the perspective to differentiate between mundane tasks and lifetime goals … you’re on your way.
It’s been proven and restated that we gravitate toward the things we’re good at and the things we enjoy. If we’re a spreadsheet jockey, we’ll stick with an Excel project that we like … but fail to get after a few other things that are really a higher priority.
Likewise, when our energy level starts to ebb, we’re inclined to look at that email about an interesting webinar coming up … or drift off to a favorite web site … or start filing some papers we’re tired of looking at. Those things probably have to get done at some point … but if we like doing them, they’ll worm their way into our day and cut off the circulation to what we really should be doing.
Part of it is our affection for what we enjoy and are good at. Part of it is the endless burst of distractions that comes at us from 360 degrees. Part of it is also that we like to please others, so we take on more than we can reasonably do so we’re behind in the first place.
It’s also because we aren’t sufficiently rigorous about what’s important. If we’re not eternally vigilant, a lot of crappy stuff will seep into our agenda, cool things, fun things … but distractions nonetheless.
Take a moment right now and look at what’s on your list for today. Is any of it “crappy stuff”? Does it represent something that is “nice to do” but not “need to do”? Maybe the method used by Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, will give you a few ideas?
If you’re committed to getting done the important things that make your life fulfilling, you need to take an unforgiving look at that list and drop-kick the things that really are NOT going to get you there. Be decisive and get them off the list if they’re not advancing your agenda. Put them on a “maybe/someday” list, maybe on a tickler list for when you have some spare time, but get them off your primary list so you can focus on what’s really important.
Don’t worry, it will be easy to tell. Like many things, “you’ll know it when you see it” as the crappy stuff is usually pretty obvious once we look at it through a more demanding lens. Remember … it doesn’t mean you don’t enjoy doing some of it or would really like to. Just move it into a place you can reserve for such things, and get it off the table. Use that time to focus on the handful of things that will really make a difference.
Can you do it? What do you think is getting in your way? Share your suggestions about how to stay focused and avoid the crappy stuff.
If you hold the distinction of laundryman / laundrywoman in your household … my wife takes it very seriously in our house … you’ll love this bonus tip. I think every week for at least the first year that we used these, my wife extolled their virtues, and since I discovered them, I was a god for awhile … a very short while, mind you, but we take it wherever we can get it.
Matching socks is a real pain if you’re the washerman / washerwoman. Different shades of black and navy, different ribbing, ankle or calf length … who knew? Getting them to match is tedious and thankless … and who hasn’t shown up at work at least once with a black and navy sock that looked the same when you put them on?
We got these at Containers & More (no affiliation). You simply wrap the rubber grip around both socks and throw them in the washer/dryer. The rubber doesn’t hurt anything and doesn’t discolor. There’s not only no more matching to ever be done, but no folding, either. Just stuff them in the drawer and you’re done.
Men … particularly if you’re not doing the laundry, go buy these RIGHT NOW and your spouse/partner will think you’re a god too … until you screw up again (but like I said, take what you can get). If you are the washerman, you can give yourself a big hug.