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Getting More Things Done Means Nothing When Nothing Great Is Done

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

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                    Leon Ho

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                    Last Updated on September 10, 2019

                    How Continuous Improvement Can Enhance Your Personal Life

                    How Continuous Improvement Can Enhance Your Personal Life

                    Kaizen is the Japanese philosophy and practice of continuous improvement. This concept of continuous improvement was first conceived in the USA during WW2.

                    To maintain the production levels and meet demand, the industry had to come up with a system that would allow for incremental progress in production rather than no progress at all – which was very much the reality the industry was facing.

                    This concept of consistent incremental improvement proved to be a huge success and saved the US manufacturing industry from a rapid decline.

                    After WW2, as part of the rebuild programme for Japan, the Japanese were invited to visit manufacturing plants through out the USA. The Japanese took this successful concept of continuous improvement and adapted into Kaizen.

                    This philosophy formed the base from which the Japanese have built a manufacturing industry that dominates the world today.

                    In this article, I’ll look into what continuous improvement is and how you can make use of this concept to enhance your life.

                    What does Kaizen (continuous improvement) have to do with you?

                    So what does Kaizen have to do with us? How can it help us enhance our personal lives?

                    “Persistence, perseverance, and continuous improvement are the ingredients for forming a successful person.” — Debasish Mridha

                    While Kaizen was originally developed to help businesses improve and thrive, it’s just as applicable to our personal lives.

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                    The Kaizen philosophy of continuous improvement I believe is a failure proof system that enables us to achieve and sustain our personal goals and dreams in life.

                    The concept of continuous improvement offers us a way where we can live our lives to the fullest by continuously learning, growing and thriving.

                    We live in a world of never ending disruption and change. By adopting the philosophy of Kaizen, we become more adaptable, flexible and resilient to dealing with the constant demands and disruptions we face in our lives.

                    What continuous improvement is exactly

                    The philosophy of Kaizen is based on the concept that instead of making big changes at once, the continuous improvement approach focuses on making small improvement over time.

                    Kaizen is often referred to as the “strategy for 1% gains”. It is these 1% gains that athletes focus on to improve their performance. The 1% gains are incremental and if you keep building on the 1% gains the rewards are phenomenal.

                    Continuous improvement is perpetual and so to maintain gains and improvement, you need to work on them continuously.

                    Your personal improvement journey is never finished! What this means is, if you are truly committed to philosophy of continuous improvement, you are less likely to quit because you are always in search of the next goal.

                    How continuous improvement empowers you

                    How many New Year resolutions have you made and never achieved over the years?

                    Unless you are one of the small minority who are goal orientated high achievers, maintaining motivation and the commitment to achieving your goals is hard work and dare I say it – with not much success – one big FAILURE after another.

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                    Hence, these are the reasons why New Years’ resolutions are never achieved.

                    Continuous improvement can help you to achieve any goals you set. If you commit to the practice of continuous improvement, your motivation to achieve your goals and aspirations in life will never die.

                    “Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.” — Benjamin Franklin

                    You will never have to struggle with the dilemma of giving up or giving in because it all became too hard.

                    Your achievements and success in life will be as a result of you taking continuous incremental steps toward your goals.

                    Continuous improvement is not about reaching the big goals in life but about taking small steps and improving and refining along the way.

                    How to commit to continuous improvement

                    If you truly desire a successful life where you are thriving, the first thing you must do is embrace and accept that your journey of self improvement and growth will never end. It is a lifelong journey of learning.

                    Once you have accepted that your journey to improving your life is life long, you then follow these steps:

                    1. Set your goals based on the philosophy of 1% incremental achievements

                    Remember that setting the goal is the easy bit. Keeping motivated, focused and on track to achieving any goal is the hardest part.

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                    The concept of continuous improvement provides you with a system or a process that if you commit to following will enable you to confidently achieve any goal you set- you are guaranteed to win.

                    “Instead of trying to make radical changes in a short amount of time, just make small improvements every day that will gradually lead to the change you want. Each day, just focus on getting 1% better in whatever it is you’re trying to improve. That’s it. Just 1%.” — Brett and Kate McKay of The Art of Manliness

                    It might not seem like much but continuous 1% improvement/achievements every day will gradually add up to 100% and the goal is achieved!

                    In their book The Art Of Manliness, Brett and Kate McKay talk about how the journey of self improvement and personal growth is a lot like a rollercoaster ride – scary, exciting and with lots of ups and downs.

                    They believe that by following the concept of Kaizen (the 1% improvement) every day enables you to get off the roller coaster ride of feeling like a failure and being angry with yourself because you keep giving up.

                    2. Break down the system into small actions

                    Continuous improvement is a journey of personal growth where you are making long-term steady progress. It is not about random bursts of improvement with fits and starts of activity. This approach to self-improvement will not give you the sustainable long-term changes you seek to improve your life or achieve your goals.

                    For example, if you have huge debt and you want to pay it back but it is all too much, so you hide away from taking any action. To put the concept of continuous improvement into action, the first thing you need to do is not focus on how much you owe, instead focus on creating a system or process that enables you to pay back an incremental amount each week.

                    Once you have created the system, you must break down the system into small actions or behaviours with the least resistance and effort. Commit to these actions on a daily basis until your original system is habit.

                    Commit to paying back a realistic amount each week and then increase the amount you pay back by 1% plus every week after that. Keep going until the debt is paid off.

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                    3. Keep track of your 1% success

                    The other important factor about incremental achievement is that you must measure and keep track of your 1% successes.

                    Evaluating and measuring your improvements are important for your own motivation and commitment to the journey. If you are not measuring your progress, your subconscious brain will kick in and sabotage your progress by convincing you that it is all too hard and you are not making any progress at all.

                    Your subconsious brain only believes what you tell it. Unfortunately you have told your brain a lot of untruthful things over a long period of time about how you are a failure, not motivated and never really achieved anything in life. Your subconscious brain as a result believes all these “facts” that you have told it to be true.

                    Measuring and evaluating your 1% successes is key to you retraining your subconscious to believe that Yes – you can achieve your goals and succeed in life!

                    Focus on the progress, always

                    Continuous Improvement does not focus on making huge gains or big improvements all at once. Instead it focuses on long-term steady progress.

                    When you follow the philosophy of Continuous Improvement, you won’t radically change your life but over time with consistent and constant improvement and change, you will find that you are living your life to the fullest – empowered, resilient and thriving.

                    Why would you not want to embrace this philosophy of incremental improvement and growth into your personal life?

                    “Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will be a stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.” – Sir Winston Churchill

                    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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