“How do you do it? How do you able to accomplish so much, and do so without compromising results or quality.”
As a mom to 3 young kids, a wife, an entrepreneur with a growing business, and a triathlete, I get this question a lot. I used to shrug it off, reply with “I don’t know” and move on. But during a recent Vistage meeting, this question came up again. Only this time, my group wouldn’t let me get away with the same answer. They felt it was important for me to know — and for them to learn — the secrets to my extraordinary productivity. They insisted I dig in and uncover exactly how I’m able to accomplish so much, and do so without compromising results or quality.
So that’s what I did. And that’s what I’m about to share here:
Schedule the Big Rocks first
I learned this from Stephen Covey, author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. There are Big Rocks (i.e. the things that really matter like family, health, time) and Little Rocks/Gravel (i.e. everything else). If you tried to fill up a jar with all of your rocks and gravel, but put the gravel in first, you’d have a hard time making the rest of the rocks fit. But if you put the Big Rocks in first, making them the priority, all the little rocks and gravel will find space in the cracks. Schedule your life the same way – Schedule the Big Rocks first.
“Anything less than a conscious commitment to the important is an unconscious commitment to the unimportant.” I learned this from Stephen Covey too. Before taking on a task, train your brain to recognize its importance, not just its urgency. Focusing on the urgency often leads to reacting and doing things unnecessarily. Choose to take on tasks because you recognize that they are important, not just because they are urgent. Because often times, the urgency is someone else’s, not yours. This matrix below is helpful if you try to visualize which box the given task belongs in. Working in Quadrant 1 means you are working IN the business. Working in Quadrant 2 means you are working on strategic initiatives, your vision (i.e. working ON the business, Hint: this is where you want to be!). Working in Quadrant 3 means you’re handling someone else’s urgency. Working in Quadrant 4 usually means you’re not really working.
We hear the term “mindfulness” a lot, which means living in the present moment, being aware, awakening to your current experience, and maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts. Mindlessness is the opposite. My friends Erick Bruck and Jane Tierney describe it as Active Meditation. Mindlessness means allowing your mind to roam free, to not think, and to not do. For me, rigorous and repetitive exercise (like running long-distance) puts me in a kind of meditative-trance. When I run, after a while, my body gets into a rhythm and my brain realizes that it can relax and just be. My mind can wander off to create, solve, resolve, find peace, etc. After I come out of my trance, I find answers to questions I had, solutions to problems I had, ideas, new opportunities, etc. It’s amazing when you let your mind create by just giving it some space to do so.
This is the first in a two-part Shirley’s Corner on Productivity. In the coming weeks, I’ll follow up with some insights about focus, distractions and some considerations I’ve found valuable for getting things done without compromising quality.