The Advice Not Taken

Lose Weight…Eat More Fruits and Vegetables…Exercise More.

We all know what we have to do in order to improve our health. That is easy. The difficulty lies in taking this advice and actually following it.

Likewise in business, there is plenty of excellent and practical advice on how to be more effective in getting things done and driving a business to success.

Below, I offer a list of 10 pieces of advice that are rarely (if ever) taken and actually followed.


  1. Pick up the Phone: Especially today, and especially among younger employees, everything seems to be done by texting or E-Mail. But, sometimes, we just have to pick up the phone or (heaven forbid) interact in person to ensure that a matter is resolved properly.


  2. Focus on the important not the urgent. This advice of doing first things first (as taken from Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People), requires us to resist that next E-Mail or insignificant but urgent issue in order to do more important (if not immediately pressing) tasks, e.g. mentoring and developing one’s team.


  3. Set Limits on Ourselves: The goal is to create rules for ourselves that prohibit or limit certain activities, ensuring that we do not get distracted and that we get things done quickly. This conserves our energy and attention for other, more important, issues. Such limits are:
    1. Keep most documents and analysis to one page
    2. Focus on no more than 3 – 5 key goals or objectives
    3. Do not look at E-Mails for the first half hour of the day. Limit the time spent on E-Mail throughout the day.
    4. Do not web surf during work hours…ever.
    5. Do no work one day each week; and do not work at all on our vacations


  4. Stop Procrastinating: We cannot let procrastination creep into our lives at all. Instead, we need to get started on that unpleasant task right away. If we get started immediately and then chip away every day even the hairiest project can be completed in just weeks. By avoiding procrastination, we just make our lives easier:

    “Putting off an easy thing makes it hard. Putting off a hard thing makes it impossible.” George Claude Lorimer


  5. Learn to Touch Type: We all should learn to touch type or, at the least, learn to use voice recognition software. This takes effort initially. But, in the long run, it will dramatically increase our speed of written communication. In a similar vein, we should use Auto Correct, the nifty feature in Microsoft Outlook, which allows us to create our own customizable short hand. Auto Correct speeds our typing even further.


  6. Return All Phone Calls: A quote from Dan Gilbert, Founder of Quicken Loans says it all:

    “Return calls and E-Mails in a timely way. That would put you 99.9% ahead of your competitors. People are shocked, people are in awe. They can’t believe it. And we can’t believe that people can’t believe it because we think everybody should do it.”


  7. End the Day with Fewer than 10 E-Mails in the Inbox: While doing E-Mail (not all the time, see point #3 above), we need to read each E-Mail quickly. Then, we either delete, file, respond immediately, or schedule in our “Tasks” to get that task done and respond at a future time.


  8. Avoid Meetings and Conference Calls: Perhaps, the biggest time wasters in business are meetings and conference calls, especially those where someone presents (reads) a presentation to a large group of people. We need to avoid these like the plague. If we think we need one of these meetings or conference calls, we should first try to pick up the phone and talk to the people involved one on one.


  9. Fire that Annoying, No-Profit Customer: It takes a lot of guts for any company to “fire” a customer; we can immediately see the hit to the revenue line, and we always believe that we can make the customer profitable in the future. But, many customers are just not worth the effort. It is better that we “fire” them and focus our (and our company’s) time and attention on other more profitable customers.


  10. Write It Down: To get done what needs to get done, we need to write down our commitments and promises and then add them to our “To Do” list so we can remember to do them. As with the waiter or waitress who does not write down our orders at dinner and screws up everyone’s meal, what is not written down is all too often forgotten and not done.




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.
This entry was posted in Leadership, Personal Success, Team / People and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Advice Not Taken

  1. Good advice David, some of which I actually follow in my own life, esp. 1, 7, and 10

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