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How I Get Things Done with Only Half of the Time Others Need

How I Get Things Done with Only Half of the Time Others Need

Professionals and entrepreneurs today lead extremely busy lives. Despite the abundance of gadgets, tools, and other technology that can improve productivity, people today are working longer hours[1] than ever – resulting to excessive stress and reduced performance over time.

Whether you’re doing work for a client or pursuing your own projects, you need to be smarter with how you handle tasks to thrive in this competitive world. For this, you need to adopt strategies that can help you stay productive[2] and be efficient with your available resources. Most importantly, always remember that your mind is your greatest weapon – so keep it collected, focused, and organized.

What Is Critical Path Analysis and How It Can Keep You Sharp And Focused

Simply put, Critical Path Analysis (CPA) is a technique that can help you ensure the timely accomplishment of important tasks. In this process, a big goal is broken down into a set of smaller objectives. Afterwards, you must determine the time it takes to accomplish each task and the relationship between them.

In the much simpler method of using a network diagram, you specifically need the earliest start time, latest finish time, and the appropriate sequence in which the tasks must be done.

By gathering these pieces of information, CPA allows you to calculate the maximum amount of time it takes to complete the entire project. This, along with all the tasks required to accomplish the overall goal, constitute what’s known as the critical path. In case a shorter plan is available, it will also enable you to identify tasks that can be delayed or “slacked” on while still staying on schedule.

How You Can Benefit from Using CPA to Tackle Your Daily Complex Tasks

Project managers use CPA all the time when managing and tracking complex tasks, but it can also be applied by everyone in almost any field. All you need to do is to understand its model, know how it works, and learn how to map your CPA diagram. In doing so, you can take advantage of the following benefits:

• As a product manager or a leader, utilizing CPA allows you to stay focused over the course of a project. It helps you stay aware of exactly what everyone needs to do to stay on the right track.

• With the right approach, CPA is an effective risk and cost management[3] tool.

• The timeline determined through CPA can be the basis of future decision-making.

• CPA helps you spot opportunities to make tasks shorter while still accomplishing the same end results. Adjustments can be made by pumping more budget, building a bigger team, or implementing automation[4] and other time-saving strategies.

• Identifying work that can be done simultaneously to eliminate delays in the critical path.

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• A fully-plotted CPA diagram will give you a complete bird’s eye view of a sophisticated project.

Even Though CPA Is a Powerful Tool, You Should Be Aware of These

While CPA can be highly beneficial to any endeavor, it isn’t without a few flaws:

• Plotting projects without sufficient data will force you to depend on assumptions.

• Large-scale projects require you to examine many dependencies, paths, and tasks – making CPA a time-consuming process.

• Even with CPA, you need to be flexible and develop contingency plans.

The Step-by-Step Instruction to Apply the Critical Path Analysis

Below are the important steps for leveraging CPA in your next big project:

1. Enumerating Critical Tasks

Before everything else, you need to identify all the things you need to do to accomplish your goal. For example, if you plan to start a new online store, below are some of the objectives you may need to hit:

A. Pick and research a niche – 1 day

B. Do keyword research – 2 days

C. Conduct surveys for product research – 10 days

D. Conduct online product research – 3 days

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E. Build the site (install WordPress, set up web security, etc.) – 4 days

F. Create content – 10 days

G. Develop and optimize product pages – 20 days

2. Determining Dependencies

Next, you need to map out the sequence of all activities by determining their dependencies. Start with the tasks that must be done first before all the other tasks that lead to the finish line.

For example, you need to do A (pick a niche) first before you do B, C, or D. You must also do E (build the site) first before you begin task F and G. For now, enumerate the dependencies required for each task as they are needed for the next step.

3. Creating a CPA Diagram

The conventions in creating a CPA diagram requires three components – a node, activities, and durations.

A node is usually represented by a circle. It includes the earliest start time (EST), latest finish time (LFT), and an activity number:

    In a CPA network, tasks are indicated by arrows, which connect nodes to determine dependency. Take note that the arrows—not the nodes—represent the tasks you’ve identified earlier. Don’t confuse the activity number with the specific task.

    Here is an illustration to help you understand this:

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      Looking at the example above, task A (pick a niche) is in-between nodes 1 and 2, while task B is in-between nodes 2 and 3. To make sense of the sequence, indicate the task description below the arrow.

      Finally, the duration can be included on the opposite side of the task description. The positions of the description and duration can be interchanged freely.

      4. Calculating the EST

      To determine the EST, you must first lay out the activities from start to finish:

        Remember that the EST denotes the earliest start time for the next task. To calculate this, you must add the total duration of all the previous tasks.

        For example, since task A (pick a niche) has no activity before it, the first node’s EST equals 0. Succeeding task B (do keyword research) will have to wait for task A’s maximum duration. Thus, the next EST equals 1.

        Since task B has a maximum duration of 2 days, then the third EST equals 3 – which is the total duration of tasks A and B (1 day + 2 days). This is because tasks C or D will have to wait for both of A and B’s durations.

          Filling in the EST for the rest of the tasks should look like:

            Take note that, in case there are two preceding tasks in an activity, the one with the longer duration will be used in the critical path. For example, since task C (conduct surveys) has a longer duration than task D (conduct online product research), its duration of 10 days will be used for calculating the next EST. In other words, it will be added to the total duration pool along with the next task’s duration – 3 days + 10 days + 4 days = 17 days.

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            After this, you should be able to plot the critical path, which should have the longest possible duration:

              5. Calculating the LFT

              Once you have identified the EST for all nodes, you can proceed to calculate the LFT. This time, you need to start from the left and subtract the previous task’s duration from the total.

              Always remember that the last node should always have an LFT that equals the total duration of the project, while the first node should always have an LFT of zero. To calculate the next LFT, simply subtract the duration of the previous task from the right node’s EST. Since task G (develop product pages) have a duration of 20 days, and the EST of the last node is 47, then the LFT of the next node to the left will be 20 (47 days – 20 days). If you continue doing this along all paths, you’ll notice that the EST and LFT will be different in points where two or more possible tasks are introduced:

                Remember that when calculating the next LFT, the smallest possible difference will always be used. In the diagram above, the difference between two tasks are 3 (13 EST – 10 days) and 5 (8 EST – 3 days). Since 3 < 5, then the value of the next LFT would be 3.

                In short, it means you need to use the values from the critical path, which will enable the first node to have an LFT of zero.

                6. Calculating the Float

                The float denotes the amount of time a task can be delayed without affecting the timeframe of the entire project. This can be calculated with the simple formula: LFT – duration of previous task – EST of previous node.

                In the example above, the LFT of task D (conduct product research) is 13, its duration is 3 days, and the previous node has an EST of 3. Applying the formula would yield:

                13 (LFT) – 3 days (Duration) – 3 (EST) = 7 days.

                This means you or your team can delay task D for up to a week without affecting the overall duration of the project. Take note that if you apply the same formula to a task within the critical path, you will always get zero because those tasks cannot be delayed.

                Spend A Little Time In Advance, Save Much More In The End

                Ready to take control of your goals? Creating a CPA diagram can be tiresome, but once you have a full view of your project’s timeline, you will feel a wave of motivation and enthusiasm. For your next step, try to use CPA diagram tools like Lucidchart[5] or learn more project management tactics from this post[6] . If the lessons above helped you gain some results, feel free to share your experience in the comments!

                Reference

                More by this author

                Vikas Agrawal

                Vikas is the co-founder of Infobrandz, an Infographic design agency that offers creative visual content solutions to medium to large companies.

                What Are Analytical Skills (And How to Strengthen Them For Success) How to Create an Infographic Resume That Will Impress Your Future Employer How I Get Things Done with Only Half of the Time Others Need Writing a Great Value Statement Can Bring In Tons of Money for Your Business All-Natural Tips for Fighting Insomnia and Sleeping Better

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                1 10 Good Habits To Have in Life To Be More Successful 2 30 Essential Core Values for Living the Life You Want 3 What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It 4 How to Set Long Term Goals and Reach Success 5 Easily Distracted? Here’s How to Regain Your Focus

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                Last Updated on January 24, 2020

                10 Good Habits To Have in Life To Be More Successful

                10 Good Habits To Have in Life To Be More Successful

                Habits are behaviors and patterns that you showcase by default. They enable you to carry out crucial activities like taking a shower, brushing your teeth, getting prepared for work.

                Interestingly, you follow this routine every day without considering them. Your unconscious habits create room for your brain to perform more advanced activities like problem-solving and choosing what book to read.

                Everyone has habits, and several of those habits are activated every day. I would classify them into three groups:

                • The first category includes the habits that you hardly notice as they have become a major part of your life- such as brushing teeth or wearing clothes.
                • The second category comprises good habits to have to be more successful-like eating healthily, exercising your body and reading books.
                • The last group consists of those habits that are harmful-like procrastinating, smoking or overeating.

                Habits are fundamental to becoming successful in life — or probably ending up a failure. Yet, as significant as habits are, some lack the knowledge of their capabilities.

                Habits are default activities that you engage in without giving an afterthought. They are automatic behavioral or mental activities. They help you carry out some actions without exerting too much energy. They simplify your life.

                Several people aspire to break bad habits. For instance, some people diet to stop overeating. They exercise to reduce obesity. Habits can hinder or impact your performance and productivity.

                That’s why I would share 10 good habits to have to be more successful in life.

                1. Begin Your Day with Meditation

                I recommend mindful meditation early in the morning. This practice helps you to be in the present moment. Consequently, it enables you to be mindful of challenging situations during the day.

                Different stressors may trigger as you go through the day; meditation helps you to remain calm before taking on the challenges.

                Personally, it helps me to devise strategies and think about ideas. Meditation is a good habit to have if you want to be connected to what’s significant in your life.

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                2. Be Grateful for What You Have

                Sometimes, you waste time thinking of what’s not enough. You become immersed in those daunting challenges. However, challenges justify the presence of hope. When you have life, you have expectations. You will be free from challenges when you are six feet under. The only strategy you have to stop focusing on your problems is to focus on what you have.

                Gratitude is a time-tested pathway to success, health, and happiness. It redirects your focus to what you have from what you lack. Here’s what James Clear does every day,[1]

                “I say one thing I’m grateful for each day when I sit down to eat dinner.”

                3. Smile

                Can you pause and smile before you continue reading this?

                Now here is what just happened based on research conducted by the Association for Psychological Science; you set a pace for living a happier life when you smile. A genuine smile or what’s called a Duchenne smile is a good habit to have if you want to find spiritual, emotional and mental peace of mind.[2]

                Smiling induces the release of molecules that function towards fighting stress. The physiological state of your body determines the state of your mind. When you slouch or frown, your mind takes cues relating to unhappiness and depression. But, once you adjust yourself by putting up a smile, you begin to feel a new level of excitement and vibrancy.

                Can you smile again?

                4. Start Your Day with a Healthy Breakfast

                Starting your day with a healthy breakfast is a good habit to have and forms a crucial part of your life. Nevertheless, about 31 million Americans skip their breakfast each day.[3]

                If you are fed up hearing that breakfast is a crucial component of your day, you are only fighting the truth. If you want to become more successful, you need to ‘break your fast’ with healthy foods every morning.

                This habit is not difficult to form if you usually rush out the door every single morning. You can wake up earlier to fix yourself a meal so you don’t break down during the day.

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                Get inspired by these 20 Healthy Breakfast Choices That Will Save You Time.

                5. Exercise Daily

                One of the good habits to have is to exercise your body and muscles every day. You don’t have to run a marathon or lift a weight. You only need to engage in less strenuous activities that oxygenate your blood and inject endorphins in your body.

                Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, classified exercise as a good habit to maximize his already jam-packed schedule.[4] He said,

                ‘I wake up by 5, meditate for 30 minutes, seven-minute workout times three, make coffee, and check-in.’

                He said on Product Hunt that he follows this routine every day as it gives him a steady-state that empowers him to be more productive.

                6. Manage Your Time as You Manage Your Finance

                Another good habit is the act of managing your time effectively. This goes a long way to impact your achievement.

                Time management is what separates the successful from the rest of the world as we all possess the same amount of time. How you leverage time determines your potential to succeed in life.

                So how do you manage your time effectively?

                Here’s Jack Dorsey’s recommendation in one of the Techonomy events;

                “I accomplish effective time management by theming my days and practicing self-discipline. These themes help me handle distractions and interactions. If a request or task does not align with the theme for that day, I don’t do it. This sets a cadence for everyone in the company to deliver and evaluate their progress”.

                And this is Dorsey’s weekly theme:[5]

                • Monday – Management
                • Tuesdays – Product
                • Wednesday – Marketing and growth
                • Thursdays – Developers and partnerships
                • Fridays – Culture and recruiting
                • Saturdays – Taking off
                • Sundays – Reflection, feedback, strategy, and preparing for Monday

                No wonder he was able to run two companies when others were struggling with one job.

                7. Set Daily Goals with Intentions

                Everyone has goals. It may relate to business or personal life. The truth is, we’re all tending towards a particular direction or another. Nevertheless, while long-term goals can offer you direction, it’s your daily goals that you establish that help you develop short-term goals that are essential for your success.

                Long-term goals may not give you the motivation you need to keep on. But when you implement your short-term milestones daily, you become fired up, and you can overcome the challenges that come with taking on bigger tasks.

                Here’s the main truth:Successful people don’t set goals without establishing their intentions. According to Jennifer Cohen of Forbes,[6]

                “What helps you to achieve your desired expectation is ensuring intentions accompany your daily goals.”

                Be intentional about your daily goals!

                8. Seek Inspiration

                It is usually difficult to be inspired for a considerable length of time. Sometimes, you become discouraged and feel like giving up on your goals when things are not working out as intended.

                A practical approach to stay on top of the situation is to inspire yourself each day. When you wake up in the morning after meditation, watch some motivational videos, and let the story of great leaders inspire you.

                Establish what Anthony Robbins called the ‘hour of power.’ Determine how many minutes you spend but make it count. Inspiration is the fuel for achievement because when you can conceive it in your mind, you can accomplish it.

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                Michal Solowow, an investor and the founder of Mitex, a construction company puts it this way,[7]

                “The problems I encounter in everyday life motivates me to find solutions. This is a self-propelling mechanism. becoming a billionaire was never a motivating factor.”

                9. Save Steadily, Invest with All Prudence

                I can exhaust the good habits to have without talking about saving and investing. Most times, you overlook the significance of saving for the future when you are living in your present moment. According to CNBC, a $1000 emergency will propel several Americans into debt.[8]

                However, it is not enough to save, and you must invest your fund and be wise with it. If you pay attention to this now, you will set yourself for a life of success in the future. Ensure you save at least six months in your emergency account so you can be prepared for any future emergency.

                10. Budget and Track Your Spendings

                Benjamin Franklin warned of taking the precaution of little expenses. He said,

                “A small leak sinks a great ship.”

                It is easy to discard little expenses, but the truth is they always add up. This happens when you fail to budget.

                Budgeting is a good habit to have, which can impact your financial life significantly. The money you spend on extravagant lifestyles can be saved and invested in your future.

                The Bottom Line

                Endeavor to cultivate these good habits to have to become more successful as you journey through life. The quicker you cultivate them, the faster you achieve your goals.

                More About Habits

                Featured photo credit: Andrijana Bozic via unsplash.com

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                Reference

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