Workaholics Anonymous—A 12-Step Program of Recovery and Personal Transformation (Step 9)
In a bygone era, which actually isn’t too long ago, you could only be reached by phone, mail or an in-person visit. If you had a task to complete, you could shut your door and have your calls held.
Today, we have dozens of communication access points and devices that are constantly interrupting our attention from our productive tasks—e-mail, faxes, texts, IMs, RSS feeds, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Digg, Flickr, YouTube, etc., etc., etc.
Have we just learned to diagnose attention deficit disorder (ADD), or has our modern culture produced it? My guess is the latter.
Even I struggle with keeping the blinders on.
Tell me if this doesn’t sound familiar…
I start working on a project, like writing my Publisher’s Letter. I come up with a George Washington reference that I need to verify, so I go to Google. It leads me to Wikipedia, and I find four other interesting Web links on the page. One of those leads me to a video on YouTube. Five clips later, I find a really inspirational one about Amelia Earhart, which I am now Twittering and adding a link to on Facebook. I answer some questions on Facebook, and then I see some other interesting Tweets, so I start down those rabbit holes. I tag a few things to read later on del.icio.us and send two e-mails to colleagues about something I found. Then I notice 20 new e-mails in my inbox that I begin replying to. One person calls me after getting my e-mail. Forty-five minutes later, I look up and can’t even remember what I was working on!
This can happen all daylong, even all weeklong. You are incredibly busy, you’re working long hours and you’re exhausted, but, ultimately, you really aren’t making any progress on your high-priority goals.
You have to take control and stay in control of your attention and focus.
I learned three techniques that help me stay focused and produce more in less time.
1—Group: Take similar tasks and do them as a group. If I have to review articles, I save them until there is a group and then do them all at one time. If I have interview prep work or writing projects to do, I will knock out several at a time. If I line up an appointment out of the office, I try to schedule all of my outside appointments for that day. Grouping similar tasks is also why you should only check your e-mail twice a day. Let it stack up so you can process it more quickly, rather than allowing it to distract you throughout the day.
2—Chunk: Now carve out chunks of time to handle your group tasks. For instance, I block out time on my schedule to process e-mail, make phone calls, prepare for meetings, prepare for media appearances and presentations, and even manage my social media and networking. I also schedule blocks of time to just think about something. Now, when I am in a chunk, I don’t do anything else—just as if I were in a closed-door meeting. If something urgent comes up, when it’s done, I look at my calendar and see what chunk I am supposed to be in and get back to it.
3—Success Compression: This, I think, is one of the greatest secrets to high productivity. Whatever it is you are doing, the hardest part is getting going and then getting into a “flow.” My good friend Kyle Wilson reminded me of the Brian Tracy analogy of a plane getting off the ground. It takes more fuel (energy) to get the plane going 80 mph on the ground than it does for the plane to cruise at 400 mph in the air.
Whatever you want to get off the ground and significantly advance, it is far better to go hard at it for a short but sustained period of time than it is to do it intermittently over a long period of time.
When I learned this principle, I would structure my goals around 90-day cycles. Depending on the goals I needed to accomplish, I would break the tasks into compressed chunks within the 90 days—three 30-day cycles or six two-week cycles. When I was building a national distributorship, I focus solely on recruiting for 30 days. Focused on this task alone, I could recruit more in 30 days than most all year. The next 30 days would be dedicated to training and then the following 30 on recognition, sorting leaders and driving group campaigns. Once I finished, I would start another 90-day cycle. By compressing key tasks into extended windows of time, I could fly at 400 mph, while everyone else spent most of their time in constant take-off mode, just trying to get off the ground. By the end of the year the difference in results were massive in comparison with everyone else.
Takeaway Action Item: What are your top three goals? Break them into several priorities, and schedule time frames to “success compress” (all-out, focused massive action) your effort on those priorities for a sustained period.
Follow Darren behind the scenes of SUCCESS: www.twitter.com/DarrenHardy