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Getting More Things Done Means Nothing When Nothing Great Is Done

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Getting More Things Done Means Nothing When Nothing Great Is Done

It’s an unwritten law of the corporate world, that the better you work – the more responsibilities you’ll gain.

These responsibilities will typically come in the form of more tasks assigned to you, more projects to manage, and more people (clients, co-workers, etc.) to take care of.

You gain these extra responsibilities when people above you on the career ladder feel that you have the relevant knowledge, context and power to do things better than the average employee.

Despite your positive attributes and obvious capabilities, you may find yourself forever prioritizing tasks based on the dates they need to be completed. These dates could be requested by someone, part of a deadline, or something that your co-workers have agreed to.

Just for a moment, put your working life aside, and imagine that you have own business selling hot dogs. You started your business a few years back, simply selling hot dogs from a little food truck that you parked on the corner of a busy street.

    As your hot dogs began to sell, you found yourself beginning to get more and more customers.

      Eventually, business was so brisk that you had to hire a few members of staff to help you out.

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        However, it was at this point that you focus began to change from making and selling hot dogs, to training and mentoring new staff. Unfortunately for you, your newly-hired helpers weren’t as good as you at making hot dogs (despite the training).

          Still, your business was doing okay. As more people came to your hot dog truck, plenty of them asked for drinks too. So you decided it would be a good idea to make and sell your own lemonade.

            You spent several weeks tweaking your lemonade recipe until you found what you believed to be the perfect taste. You then began to make it – spending hours per day in the process.

              Sadly, when it came to launching the drink to your customers, you were dismayed to find that very few of them liked it. And because your new staff hadn’t be able to make the hot dogs as tasty as you did, fewer and fewer customers came.

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                Looking back, you can see that your initially successful business went badly off track. You were producing sub-standard hot dogs, and a lemonade drink that no one wanted. On top of this, you were spending a significant amount of your time just managing your staff.

                The above scenario is a good representation of what happens to most businesses and to the people working in them.

                Turn Things Around with the Little-Known ‘Time Pyramid’

                I’m guessing that you’ve never heard of the Time Pyramid. Few people have. However, it is a super-useful tool for instantly visualizing what you should be spending your working time on.

                Think for a moment about your own work, do you spend most of your time working on tasks with the greatest values? Most likely not, as the majority of people spend little time on things that have the greatest impact. (Think back to the earlier hot dog selling scenario.)

                The time pyramid of how most people spend their time at work looks like this:

                  As you can see from the image, tasks that fall at the tip of the pyramid is of the greatest value, or have the biggest impact when completed. The middle of the pyramid covers tasks that are important – but are still lower in value than those at the tip. Finally, the base of the pyramid is strictly for tasks with the lowest value or impact.

                  In reality, most people spend the bulk of their time on tasks with the lowest value. These tasks are like the lemonade making in the hot dog story – they can be nice to do, but often fail to move the needle in the right direction.

                  Are you wondering how to use the time pyramid to your advantage?

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                  Well, it’s a very good question, and one that actually has a simple answer. You just need to invert your existing pyramid like this:

                    Tasks with the greatest value that you currently spend the least amount of time on, become your priority. Middle tasks stay the same, and tasks with the lowest value that you currently spend the most amount of time on, are placed at the bottom of the pyramid – where they belong!

                    How to Use the Time Pyramid

                    When you begin to use the Time Pyramid correctly, you’ll instantly be able to see the tasks that need your immediate time and attention, and those that don’t. It’ll be surprisingly easy to minimize time spent on low value tasks, while maximizing time spent on those all-important tasks.

                    By making this simple, but dynamic change to your working pattern, you’ll quickly begin to reap significant rewards.

                    As an example for you, imagine that you work as a project manager. Before learning about the Time Pyramid, you found yourself spending the best part of your time in meetings, answering emails and dealing with administrative tasks. While all of these things are useful and needed, they stole your time away from actually working on managing projects. Upon coming across the Time Pyramid, you immediately saw the error of your ways. From that day on, you put your efforts into tasks that helped your projects to reach completion in the quickest and smoothest way possible.

                    It’s truly amazing how much more you can achieve when you spend the bulk of your time working on major tasks. Let’s see now how it’s done.

                    Maximize time spent on important tasks

                    Consider implementing things like time blocking (so that clients and co-workers can’t disturb you), scheduling time for important things, and booking meeting rooms for yourself (so you can focus fully on the tasks at hand).

                    Coming back to the hot dog selling example, time should have been allocated for thinking of ideas to improve and sustain the quality of the hot dogs.

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                    Minimize time spent on low value tasks

                    Choose to limit the time you spend on these tasks, and schedule specific times to complete them. You should also delegate tasks that aren’t your strength, or that will have more value if done by others.

                    For example, it’s very easy to get caught up with the endless emails that arrive daily into your mailbox. Most of these will not require urgent attention, so instead of trying to reply to them instantly, it would be better to schedule a period of time each day to go through them. By doing this, you won’t become a victim of incessant distractions.

                    In the hot dog selling scenario, it’s obvious that the boss should have delegated the task of making lemonade to someone who was genuinely good at it – or simply have bought existing high-quality lemonade.

                    Getting the Right Things Done

                    I want to wrap up this article by giving you a sample Time Pyramid that you can adapt to your own working situation. Let’s talk about the hotdog business again.

                    I assumed that the boss worked an average nine hours per day. This led me to plan the time this way:

                    • Select five hours per day dedicated to important stuff such as improving and sustaining the quality of the hot dogs, coming up with ideas on how to successfully expand the business.
                    • For the less important stuff, I chose three hours per day. This would be adequate for food preparation, training staff, etc.
                    • Finally, for the lowest priority stuff, I allocated just one hour per day. This time would be for things like ordering food and drink supplies.

                    I can’t state it enough: the Time Pyramid is an incredibly powerful tool. It will help you to immediately prioritize the tasks that really matter to your business, and within days – you’ll begin to experience positive and tangible benefits.

                    Featured photo credit: Vecteezy via vecteezy.com

                    More by this author

                    Leon Ho

                    Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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                    Last Updated on June 1, 2021

                    10 Effective Ways To Make You a Fast Learner

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                    10 Effective Ways To Make You a Fast Learner

                    The importance of learning cannot be underestimated. Learning empowers us to fulfill our ideas and realize our full potential. The speed of gaining new knowledge is practically as important as its volume. Who wouldn’t love to remember tons of information as quickly as possible?

                    If you want to start learning faster, you need a new approach towards the process which would enable you to comprehend the essence of the matter and relate it with new concepts you encounter.

                    The following 10 tips will help you become a fast learner:

                    1. Analyze Your Learning Style

                    Before you can start experimenting with different studying methods, you need to understand what type of learner you are:

                    Is your memory associated to sound?

                    Maybe you can remember what you were reading when a particular song was playing? If this is your case, then you fall into the category of auditory learners.

                    If you want to start studying more efficiently, then it would be wise to record the lectures and listen to them instead of reading textbooks.

                    Do you relate information to visual content?

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                    If you are a visual learner, you should implement images, graphs, charts, infographics, colorful lists, flashcards, and other types of visual content when you study.

                    Are you a physical learner?

                    If your learning style is not auditory or visual, then you might be a physical learner. Some students have too much energy; they tap their feet or play with a pen during lectures.

                    A walk before a lecture will calm your nerves down. You can try studying or listening to audio lectures during a walk. That will help you remember the information more quickly.

                    2. Use the Right EdTech Tools

                    Technology has the power of making everything easier. There are plenty of websites, online tools, and smartphone/tablet apps that will boost your skills of planning, writing, time management and brainstorming, etc.

                    One way of improving your productivity is using flashcards. You can make your own cards, but you can also download pre-made kits online:

                    • StudyBlue is one of the best online destinations when it comes to creating and discovering flashcards from all areas of study.
                    • If you are looking for a tool that makes the process of brainstorming more effective, then you should try PapersGear.
                    • You also need the SelfControl app, which will eliminate all distractions when you need to stay focused.
                    • Quizlet is another website you should bookmark; it offers study tools that will transform the learning process into a fun activity.
                    • Notella is an app that will help you take quick notes at any time.
                    • Brainscape is an educational platform that makes complex subjects easy by relying on cognitive science.
                    • You can also try Dragon Dictation, especially if you are an audio learner.

                    3. Train Your Brain to Accept New Information

                    Efficient studying is a habit. Your brain needs constant training if you want to improve your focus and complete complex tasks without taking breaks.

                    One way to achieve this goal is to create a private learning space in your home. You’ll also need a specific time of day that you’ll devote to studying. That will make your brain ready to accept the information it gets, so you’ll notice you’re starting to learn much faster by the day.

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                    4. Get Some Exercise

                    You are aware of the fact that physical activity is good for your body, but your brain needs it too!

                    Light exercise, such as yoga, can help you learn much faster. If you are inactive throughout the day, your body will want to move, so it will be difficult for you to stay focused.

                    If, on the other hand, you canalize your energy through light training sessions, you will be ready to study productively.

                    5. Work on the Ambiance

                    If you have a noisy neighborhood or a working environment full of distractions, you won’t be able to learn or study no matter how hard you try.

                    If you want to learn quickly, you need a quiet, distraction-free environment that won’t disturb the mind in any way. Such a peaceful place will set you in learning mode as soon as you find yourself in it.

                    6. Take a Lot of Notes

                    Only few people are capable of remembering information as they read it. If you don’t belong to this category of privileged learners, then you absolutely need to start taking notes.

                    This simple learning method will force you to think about the essence of the material. It will also give you a nice framework that will help you review the things you’ve learned.

                    Write down only the most important information. That will help you remember all the other things you’ve learned.

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                    Here’re some tips to take notes effectively: Why Successful People Take Notes And How to Make It Your Habit

                    7. Make Mind Maps

                    Mind maps are among the best tools to speed up the learning process. Your mind will process information effectively if you create a visual representation of the things you’re about to learn.

                    You can create a nice mind map in the old-school way: take a large sheet of paper and organize all facts and explanations. Use pictures, note-cards, and other symbols you can think of. Group similar items together and connect them with colorful pens.

                    Some tips mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

                    Of course, you can also use an online mind mapping tool if you want to save yourself some time.

                    8. Experiment with Memorization Methods

                    Memorizing is often misused in the process of studying. Some people memorize whole sentences, paragraphs and lectures without grasping their essence.

                    However, memorization can be useful when you need to learn definitions and classifications really quickly. Don’t avoid this technique if you want to fill your brain with information without wasting any time.

                    Try this if you want to memorize more and faster: How to Memorize More and Faster Than Other People

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                    9. Find the Right Context

                    Memorization works solely in times of urgency. If you want to learn in the most effective manner, then you need to have context for information.

                    Find an aspect that’s interesting for you; try to research for related information, and you’ll discover the joy of learning.

                    The first step? Jot down as much information and as many ideas as possible: How Simply Jotting Down Ideas Can Make You Smarter

                    With time, this practice will make you a faster learner.

                    10. Study Every Day

                    It will take some time before you get used to a daily studying routine, but your mind will eventually grasp the habit.

                    The more frequently you study, the less time it will take for you to remember the things you read.

                    If you start studying as soon as possible after you have learned some new concepts, it won’t take long at all for you to get ready for an exam. Now that sounds really good, doesn’t it?

                    More to Help You Learn Quicker

                    Featured photo credit: Becca Tapert via unsplash.com

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