In order to move our companies forward, we, as managers, need to get the right things done – the most important tasks that lead to success.
This needs to happen in a workplace besieged by interruptions, distractions, and office chatter. It is not easy. But, it is necessary.
Here are five ways that we can make it happen and get the right things done.
1. Start early and do the most important (and difficult) task first: Get in early and pound out the most important and difficult task – the task that you have been procrastinating about for days. This allows you to accomplish something before the regular phone calls and E-Mails start; this reduces the stress and anxiety from the procrastination; and this sets up the rest of the day to be easy. As Mark Twain said:
Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.
2. De-emphasize the unimportant: We have all heard the catch phrase to ‘focus on the important.’ But, in order to focus on the important…
We need to ignore the unimportant. We need to delete the useless E-Mails, skip the pointless office chatter (that seems to occupy everyone on TV sit-coms), throw out the purposeless periodicals and magazines, and stop surfing the news (and other) sites on the web.
We need to get the less important done quickly. We must rapidly do good enough “C” work on the less important tasks to free up the time and energy to do “A” work on the important tasks. Not every task requires our “A” game.
3. Create distraction-free blocks of time: We need to set up 30 – 60 minutes during our prime time (when we are most awake, energized, and refreshed) to get our important work done. Consider it to be a meeting with ourselves. So, let’s turn off all E-Mail notifications on our computer and smart phone, not answer the phone or texts (unless an emergency), close down our E-Mail, and shut the office door… And then get our work done. Everything and everyone else can wait.
4. Develop our team: In order to be fully effective, we have to have a strong team that performs. This requires extra work upfront to develop the team – set and hold the team accountable, coach the team, weed out under-performers, hire and train new performers. But, the single biggest (and most unproductive) drain on our time and energy as managers is dealing with under-performing employees. To truly get the right things done, we have to have the right people (and only the right people) on our team.
5. Make fewer and quicker decisions: As managers, we constantly have to make decisions, both large and small. This taxes our thinking and takes considerable time and effort. To free up time, energy, and attention, we need to…
Let our good team make more of their own decisions. Yes, we should have “guardrails” in place to ensure that nothing crazy happens. And yes, we will need to act as a sounding board and guide as they develop their decision-making capabilities.
Make most of our decisions very quickly in order not to slow down the work and to overwhelm us. As quoted from Skills for Success: The Experts Show the Way:
Decisiveness in decisions is vital. Make 80% of your decisions on the spot; 15% need to mature; 5% need not be made at all.
The key to more rapid decision-making is to think: “how bad can it be?” In almost all cases, no one decision that your team makes or that you make on the spot will be so bad that it significantly affects the business and cannot be fixed later.
In order to make it happen and get the right things done, we need to make the quick decision to get that important and unpleasant task done now, to ignore the useless barrage of E-Mails and chatter, to shut the office door, and to go fire that under-performer who is bringing our whole team down.