One of the quickest ways to succeed at anything is to stop doing whatever takes you away from your target or interferes with your focus on the goal. That frees up energy and resources for the main tasks.
My friend and colleague, Joe Calloway, is known for a speech he gives titled “Let It Go!” He lists all the things that weigh people down and shows them how to get back to what matters. Similarly, another friend and colleague, Les Brown, is famous for the line, “It’s not over until I win!” In other words, don’t give up. So, which advice do we follow?
How about both? Winston Churchill’s advice, “Never, never, never give up!” is bad advice in some things and great advice in others. Some things should be quickly discontinued if they don’t pay off, but keep on doing what does until you’ve succeeded.
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO STOP DOING?
Let’s start with a Productive Behavior Audit. What are you doing each day, week, month, or year that helps, and what are the things that distract you? List all the things you do in a typical day – all of them. Brush your teeth, put the tool bag in your truck, check voice messages, surf Facebook, kick back with a beer after work, play with the dog, and so on – all your activities.
Create a timeline starting at wake-up and going through head-on-pillow. List everything you can think of. Once that’s done, scroll down the list and note which actions are “Goal Achieving” and which are simply “Tension Relieving.” Note which activities are productive and which are just habitual or amusing. You don’t have to change any of them; there’s no personal judgment here.
Just write them down and categorize them.
It might be helpful for you to listen to the news on the way to work or listen to music to improve your mood. But do you always do the same thing? Always listening to the same news station can lead to indoctrination to one point of view. You might benefit from listening to channels you don’t always agree with.
Looking for habit patterns: Who do you lunch with? Always the same or do you vary your lunch mates? Always the same place? Same order? Ok, but is that helping you or limiting you? I’m just asking.
What is your starting-the-workday routine? In the South, we call this “fixin to go to work.” How productive is that activity? If I observed you for a week, could I accurately predict your patterns? Park the car, grab your briefcase, go straight to the coffee machine, say the same thing to the same person as you pass by, open your email, check texts on the phone, open your mail, surf the net… Is that you? How about a different pattern focusing on what matters most, not just what came in most recently?
How many old files, documents, parts, and projects are sitting around you each day awaiting your attention? Just seeing them might increase your anxiety level. Which of them could you eliminate and never do, without it mattering at all? Drop them!
In fashion consulting, they call this process “green bagging.” The designer accompanies you to your closets at home, and all items are taken out to be reviewed. You just pile all the clothes around you, and one at a time, you decide whether to put them back in the closet or into the green garbage bag to be donated. Most people keep tons of clothes they will never wear again. The rule is usually, “If you haven’t worn it or even looked at it in three years, out it goes!”
This same rule could be applied to the office. You might need some financial files for tax audit backup, but most of what you keep can hit the shredder. In 2010 I had almost 40 years of files that I was keeping just in case. In case of what? I don’t know, but as the hoarders say, “You never know when you might need that.” Yes, you do. You know whether you’ll ever use it or need it again. Let it go!
I hired a digitizing company to scan all those file cabinets of data. Then I reviewed the files and rescued the keepers – the few documents that were precious or irreplaceable. The remaining piles of files went to the shredder. It was so freeing! I felt liberated. At first, I was scared that I’d lost something valuable, but then I remembered that all the documents were still there on the DVDs from the scans. How big are your “archive” files?
How about your circle of contacts? Do you spend time with people who drag you down or discourage you? Why? Stop it! At least reduce the time you spend with them. Be intentional about your time with others.
Which projects pay off for you, and which ones simply make you feel good? Keep them in their place, and don’t waste your productive time on unproductive activities.
In the end, you manage yourself. You are your own manager even if you report to someone else. So be more intentional about it and stop doing what doesn’t pay off. Start putting your best energies into being more productive. You’ll be proud of yourself for doing so.
Jim Cathcart, “Your Virtual VP,” is a Mentor who helps businesses grow their people and their profits. Jim has been contributing to GEARS Magazine for almost a decade now. Reach out directly to Jim if ever you feel he can be of value to your shop or career.
As the author of 20 books and an Executive MBA professor, he is known worldwide. His TEDx video has over 2.4 million views, and he’s been inducted into the Sales & Marketing Hall of Fame. Contact him at email@example.com.