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Unbundle Identification From Action

Research Studies have shown that people most often fail to act when they think simultaneously about the result they want and the actions they will need to take to accomplish it. The actions that need to be taken are often complex or uncomfortable, and trying to resolve the “how” can make it all too easy to decide that the “what” is just too overwhelming.

This is nowhere more true than in the case of eliminating activities, and the major impediment is that the need for a solution is in the mind at the same time that the activity is identified. A lot of the things that we do are difficult to get out of our day and our behaviors and the powerful resistance that we put up make it anything but simple to do in common practice.

Tasks to be eliminated may require significant work to eliminate them, and it is often easiest to take the line of least resistance and allow the roadblocks that we automatically put up to derail any change. This analysis paralysis can take many forms, but the three most common are:

  • The task is complicated and I don’t have time to figure it out
  • There’s nobody else who can do it
  • I secretly don’t really want to eliminate it.

Hopefully the Strategic Time Gain exercise will help overcome the last one, but the others really need a different approach. Like eating an elephant, the key is not to try to do the whole thing at once. The secret to eliminating inappropriate activities lies in separating identification from action, separating the review that you need to undertake to identify what needs to be eliminated from the action you will need to take to actually get rid of the offending items.

Imagine for a moment that you could free your mind from all of the reasons why something won't work. Imagine that you could eliminate the obvious practicalities from the situation, the reasons why it can’t be done. Imagine you had the resources that would allow you to rid yourself of those limitations. Allow yourself to dream, and imagine your life without the task that you are trying to eliminate.

It's all as simple as this. Don't worry about whether they can be eliminated or not, just produce a list and put it to one side to think about at a future time. The rewards from this are enormous, yet it is not something that many people sit down to do. It takes a little bit of work, but there is a simple technique that can help you separate review from action. What you will find when you do is that it is surprisingly easy if you just use a little discipline.

The ongoing value is that if you can take this approach and apply the discipline regularly then you will start down a path that can help you make some significant changes in the way that you spend your time, the commitments that you make and the activities that you allow into your day.
This technique clears the mind and will allow you to accomplish your Time Gain Goal and make some very positive changes in your business life.


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Time Management Tips

  • When somebody interrupts you when you are busy, don't let them interrupt your train of thought. Ask them to come back and see you at a specific time – you may be surprised that they actually figure out the answer and don't come back to ask you.

  • Everybody has about three hours during the day when they are at their best. Figure out what your "Prime Time" is and then plan your day around it. Make sure that you dedicate that time to focus without interruptions on the activities that are of most value to you.

  • It is all too easy to waste time on phone calls. Keep an egg timer next to the phone to keep track of exactly how long you are talking. It will keep the time you are spending in the forefront of your mind and will help you handle the call more efficiently.

  • Never go to the bank to deposit checks, it is a Time Bandit way below your pay grade, and claiming it is therapeutic and gets you out of the office is deluding yourself. Send somebody else!  Better still, get a check scanning machine...and make sure the bank pays!

  • Organize your office so the door isn't in your immediate line of vision. The big payoff is that people can't appear at your door, hover, catch your eye and distract you. If you make it harder to interrupt you, people may figure out answers themselves rather than asking you.

  • When you have to give out an e-mail address to somebody who's going to send you things you don't want in your inbox, give them a special "junk" e-mail address. Then set up a rule so that everything to that address goes to a folder you review on your timetable.

  • When somebody interrupts you to ask you a question always reply with a question back. Ask them how they would deal with it, and make them think proactively rather than just relying on you. A good technique is to ask: "If I wasn't available today, what would you do?"

  • If your key customers expect you to answer the phone at all times, get an Internet phone line and give them a "VIP" phone number to call. Set it up with a unique ring on your system and you'll know that calls on that line are from your most important customers.

  • Most people have a “To Do” list to record the tasks they need to "Get Done", but it doesn't help identify what you shouldn't do yourself. For that you need a “To Don’t” list. Identify the culprits, put them on the list and defend your time by assigning them elsewhere. 

  • E-mails have overtaken the phone now as the most dangerously effective of all Time Bandits. Turn off your e mail alert and check your e-mail only four times a it on your schedule not the schedule of the people who are interrupting your more productive work.

  • E-mails have overtaken the phone as the most dangerously effective of all time wasters. The worst thing is the e mail alert that pops up on your computer screen. Don't let other people interrupt you in this way and take back control of your time by turning the alert off

  • When somebody interrupts you while sitting at your desk, stand up. It changes the pace of the interaction and sends a message to the interrupter that they have invaded your time. The more you can send this message, the more effective you will become at protecting your time.

  • When somebody comes to you with an issue they should figure out themselves, don't allow yourself to relieve them of the burden and take it on yourself. Instead of saying "leave it with me" when this happens, say "never delegate upwards" and ask them for their solution.

  • Entrepreneurs wear so many of the hats in their business that many of the tasks they carry out are at a level way below the real value of their time. Are you working below your pay grade by not handing off menial tasks that should be done by others?

  • When you are hiring new employees, ask candidates about their time management abilities. The best employees are those that can prioritize their work and handle interruptions, so be sure to ask relevant questions to probe in those areas so that you hire somebody who has those skills.

  • Email has become a huge time-waster and taking control of your Inbox is becoming more critical than ever. The ideal state is only to have things in your Inbox that are important, urgent or time sensitive, and to put everything else automatically into folders using Rules governing what happens when they come in. I’ve been using Outlook Rules for a number of years to sort specific topics, but I recently came across a new rule that makes a dramatic difference.

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Entrepreneurs wear so many of the hats in their business that many of the tasks they carry out are at a level way below the real value of their time. Are you working below your pay grade by not handing off menial tasks that should be done by others?