Getting Things Done

tempA crucial success factor for business leaders is getting the right things done. Visionary leadership, brilliant strategy formation, and outstanding man-management are all for nothing if we cannot execute and get done what we need to get done.

I offer some thoughts and suggestions on getting things done:

Focus on the Important

  • Do the important first. Begin our day (before looking at E-Mails or responding to phone calls) doing 30 minutes of the most important task that needs to get done that day.
  • Schedule our priorities; for the upcoming week, first schedule the most important tasks and activities that need to get done and then use these as tent poles around which to plan all of our other visits, meetings or tasks.
  • Realize and accept that the focus on the important means that some items will not be done as well as they should.  It is OK to do “B” work on the unimportant in order to do “A” work on the important.

Keep Things Short and Simple

  • Keep E-Mails short (especially so that they can be read and responded to on a mobile device).  Write E-Mails with bullet points when possible and be clear on the response we expect from our audience.
  • Use the “power of three” and summarize or explain an issue with three bullet points.
  • Wherever possible, keep all reports, summaries, position papers to one page.

Focus on the Critical Path

  • Get tasks that are on the critical path started immediately.  This is especially true when we need the work of others as this allows the other people to get their work started as well.
  • As managers, we cannot be the roadblock on the critical path.  We should make decisions as quickly as possible.

    “Decisiveness in decisions is vital.  Make 80% of your decisions on the spot; 15% need to mature; 5% need not be made at all.” (Skills for Success)

  • The phone is still more effective in clear and rapid communication than an E-Mail, use it more often.
    • Whenever an E-Mail is going to be long and complex, pick up the phone and talk to the person.  Whenever we have something critical to say, pick up the phone or meet in person.
    • Respond to all phone calls as quickly as possible, but definitely within 24 hours
    • If we leave a voice message, leave it with a detailed explanation so that the person can think about the item to discuss before calling back.

Avoid Interruptions, Distractions, and Time Wasters

  • Work without interruption.  Turn off any pings or visual warnings about E-Mails coming in on our computer and our phone.  When working on a task, we just need to work on it – no checking E-Mails, texting, etc.
  • When calling or meeting informally in the office, we cannot go five times each time for one item.  It is far less distracting and certainly more productive to call or go one time for five items rather than five times each time for one item.
  • Avoid meetings and conference calls, especially internal meetings, as much as possible. Send an E-Mail or, if the subject is important enough, talk directly to each of the key parties involved.
    • If we have to have a meeting, have a fixed agenda and pass out any documents or presentations beforehand so that everyone can be up to speed without wasting time presenting (we can all read). Thus, the meeting can be shorter and more useful as the focus will be on the discussion of an issue or topic which everyone has already had a chance to think about.


About David Shedd

David has been a President - CEO - COO of an up to $350M group of manufacturing, distribution, specialty retail and services companies, having led 22 different businesses from turnarounds to start-ups to fast growth companies.
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1 Response to Getting Things Done

  1. Pingback: Patience | David M. Shedd – Move Your Company Forward

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