Have you made the 5 choices?

How many applications do you have on your mobile for productivity? Maybe one, maybe even more! To try to get more done, most of us have used technology. It could have worked for others. The difference is small for most. The reality is, exceptional efficiency may not be the result of coding and electronics (achievement without burnout).

We can only be more effective because of the incredible strength of the human brain. We need to break free of computers and begin to use what’s in our minds. The book, The 5 Choices by Kory Kogon, Adam Merrill and Leena Rinne, details steps to unleash your extraordinary productivity.

You probably spend half your day at work reviewing emails, like most of us. Well, as you certainly know, your efficiency takes a huge toll on such distractions. Organize your duties using a time matrix, a productivity method composed of four quadrants, each responsible for a separate portion of your time, to prevent interruption.

Q1 covers important, urgent work. This is the time you spend addressing emergencies or last-minute requests, for instance. Q2 consists of time spent working on essential activities that are not urgent: for instance, this report for next week’s important strategy meeting. Q3 time is urgent but not necessary for work; e.g., checking your email constantly. And finally, Q4 is the time you’re wasting on meaningless things, like playing phone games or updating Facebook.

All in all, you should spend most of your time in Q2. After all, although you may feel productive when you’re in Q1 and Q3 – you’re handling urgent business! – that’s not actually the case. Because we too often mistake the urgent for the vital, rarely leading to top-notch work. (For proof, just consider the misspelled, hastily constructed emails you’ve surely sent out in your life.)

We’re doing our best job in Q2, on the other hand. Instead of simply responding to whatever comes our way, it is where we can concentrate and think. Use the Pause-Clarify-Decide method to assess rationally whether the task is necessary in order to remain in this quadrant. For instance, pause for a moment before opening a new email, and think: Who is this email from? What’s the topic? Is this going to require instant action? If “no” is the answer to the last question, focus instead on something else.

We’ve just discovered that much of our time we can spend working on essential jobs. But what, exactly, is an important job? Will it require activities that are operational? Or groundbreaking ones? Well, it’s based. Since most occupations inevitably require more than just one particular task or assignment. So, different tasks will be more important on different days.

Ideally, you should focus on work that’s most vital on any given day. For instance, on some days you may need to focus on a client. And then on other days, your employees are the priority.

It helps to build a job title and role statement for each hat you wear in order to effectively juggle these disparate positions and get your work done. Let’s have those words described. Your current focus is defined by a role title, and a role statement can describe where you want to be.

But let’s claim that you’re also a web developer, in addition to being a line manager and a fire safety steward. Your job title could be Professional Web Developer for the latter position. Then, you’ll want to build a dynamic role statement like, “By mastering two programming languages, I strive to be an excellent web developer.”

To stay on track with your argument, set realistic objectives. In this scenario, your target may be, “In the next two months, I will learn two programming languages.” In two months, determine how efficient you have been working to achieve your goals.

Let’s improve your attention-management skills now that you’ve spent some time developing your decision management by clearly identifying your positions, titles and goals. Imagine that the main road is blocked by a landslide and you’re asked to clear all the boulders and rocks. How are you going to go about doing that?

Well, you might start with the biggest boulder being pushed. It’s also the quickest way to clear the lane, although that’s hard work. You could start by moving the gravel and the small rocks, on the other hand. For sure, that’s better, but it’ll take longer.

The most productive choice in this situation will be to focus first on the big rocks. However, you should start moving gravel instead, as soon as you get tired. This is a good metaphor for the experience of working in Q2: we sometimes get exhausted and turn to the smaller, less important ones, even though we make arrangements to concentrate only on the most important tasks.

Check out my related post: How to have productive conversations at work?

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