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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

                    More by this author

                    Leon Ho

                    Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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                    Published on February 18, 2020

                    How to Change a Habit With the Four Quadrants of Change

                    How to Change a Habit With the Four Quadrants of Change

                    Quitting smoking is the easiest thing in the world. Some people quit smoking a thousand times in their lives! Everyone knows someone with this mindset.

                    But this type of change is superficial. It doesn’t last. For real, lasting change to take place, we need to consider the quadrants of change.

                    Real change, the change that is fundamental, consistent, and longitudinal (lasting over time) has to happen in four quadrants of your life.

                    It doesn’t have to be quitting smoking; it can be any habit you want to break — drinking, biting your nails, overeating, playing video games, shopping, and more.

                    Most experts focus on only one area of change, some focus on two areas, but almost none focus on all four quadrants of change. That’s why much of change management fails.

                    Whether it is in the personal life of a single individual through actions and habits, or in a corporate environment, regarding the way they conduct their business, current change management strategies are lacking.

                    It all stems from ignoring at least one part of the equation.

                    So, today, we will cover all four quadrants of change and learn the formula for how to change fundamentally and never go back to your “old self.”

                    A word of warning: this is simple to do, but it’s not easy. Anyone who tells you that change is easy is either trying to sell you something, or they have no idea what they’re talking about.

                    Those who want an overnight solution have left the article now, so that leaves you, me, and the real process of change.

                    The Four Quadrants of Change

                    There are four areas, or quadrants, in which you need to make a change in order for it to stick. If you miss or ignore a single one of these, your change won’t stick, and you will go back to your previous behavior.

                    The four quadrants are:

                    1. Internal individual – mindset
                    2. External individual – behavior
                    3. Internal collective – culture/support system
                    4. External collective – laws, rules, regulations, teams, systems, states

                    All four of these quadrants of change may sound like they could carry change all by themselves, but they can’t. So, be sure to implement your change in all four quadrants. Otherwise, it will all be in vain.

                    First Quadrant — Internal Individual

                    This quadrant focuses on the internal world of an individual, and it concerns itself with the mindset of a person.

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                    Our actions stem from our thoughts (most of the time), and if we change our mindset toward something, we will begin to process of changing the way we act.

                    People who use the law of attraction fall into this category, where they’ve recognized the strength of thoughts and how they make us change ourselves.

                    Even Lao Tzu had a great saying regarding this:

                    “Watch your thoughts. They become words. Watch your words. They become deeds. Watch your deeds. They become habits. Watch your habits. They become character. Character is everything.” [1]

                    One of the most impactful ways you can make a change in this quadrant is to implement what James Clear calls identity-based habits. [2]

                    Instead of prioritizing the outcome of a change (ex.: I want to lose 20 pounds), you prioritize your identity as a person (I want to become/remain a healthy person).

                    Here are a couple of examples for you to see the strength of this kind of resolution:

                    I want to watch many movies = I am a cinema lover
                    I want to clean my apartment = I am a clean person
                    I want to harvest my crops = I am a harvester (farmer)
                    I want to swim = I am a swimmer

                    This quadrant is about changing the identity you attach to a certain action. Once you re-frame your thinking in this way, you will have completed the first of the quadrants of change.

                    Second Quadrant — External Individual

                    This quadrant focuses on the external world of an individual and concerns itself with the behavior of a person.

                    This is where people like Darren Hardy, the author of the Compound Effect reside. Hardy is about doing small, consistent actions that will create change in the long run (the compound effect).

                    You want to lose 30 pounds? Start by eating just 150 calories (approximately two slices of bread) less a day, and in two and a half years, you will have lost 30 pounds.

                    The same rules apply to business, investing, sports, and multiple other areas. Small, consistent actions can create big changes.

                    This works — I’ve read 20 extra pages a day for the past two years, and it accumulated into 90 books read in two years. [3]

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                    Here, you have two ways of dealing with change behaviorally: negative environmental design and positive environmental design.

                    Negative Environmental Design

                    This is when you eliminate the things from your environment that revert you to the old behavior. If you want to stop eating ice cream, you don’t keep it in your freezer.

                    If you want to stop watching TV, you remove the batteries from the remote and put them on the other side of the house (it works!).

                    Positive Environmental Design

                    This is when you put the things that you want to do withing reach — literally!

                    You want to learn how to play guitar? Put your guitar right next to your sofa. You want to head to the gym? Put the gym clothes in a backpack and put it on top of your shoes.

                    You want to read more books? Have a book on your nightstand, your kitchen table, and on the sofa.

                    You can even combine this last trick with my early advice about removing the batteries from your remote control, combining the negative and positive environmental designs for maximum effect.

                    Two Sides of the Same Coin

                    If you just change your behavior and leave your intentions (thoughts) intact, your discipline will fail you and the real change won’t happen.

                    You will simply revert back to the previous behavior because you haven’t changed the fundamental root of why this problem occurs in the first place.

                    That is why you need to create change both in the first quadrant (internal individual — mindset) and the second quadrant (external individual — behavior). These quadrants of change are two sides of the same coin.

                    Most change management would stop here, and that’s why most change management fails.

                    No matter how much you focus on yourself, there are things that affect our lives that are happening outside of us. That is the focus of the two remaining quadrants.

                    Third Quadrant — Internal Collective

                    This quadrant focuses on the internal world of the collective where the individual resides, and it concerns itself with the culture of that collective.

                    There are two different distinctions here: the Inner Ring and the Outer Ring.

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                    The Inner Ring

                    These are your friends and your family. The Inner Ring is the place where the social and cultural norms of your friends and family rule.

                    So, if everyone in your family is overweight and every lunch is 1,000 calories per person, then you can say goodbye to your idea of becoming healthy.

                    In this case, the culture of your group, the inner norms that guide the decisions, actions, thoughts, ideas, and patterns of behaviors are all focused on eating as much as possible. [4]

                    You need to have the support of your Inner Ring if you want to achieve change. If you don’t have this support, the the best way to proceed is by either changing your entire Inner Ring or distancing yourself from it.

                    Beware — most Inner Rings won’t accept the fact that you want to change and will undermine you on many occasions — some out of habit, some due to jealousy, and some because supporting you would mean that they have to change, too.

                    You don’t have to cut ties with people, but you can consciously decide to spend less time with them.

                    The Outer Ring

                    The Outer Ring consists of the culture of your company, community, county, region, and country. For example, it’s quite hard to be an open-minded person in North Nigeria, no matter how you, your friends, and your family think.

                    The Outer Ring is the reason why young people move to the places that share their value systems instead of staying in their current city, county, or country.

                    Sometimes, you need to change your Outer Ring as well because its culture is preventing you from changing.

                    I see this every single day in my country, where the culture can be so toxic that it doesn’t matter how great of a job you have or how great your life currently looks — the culture will change you, inch by inch, until you become like it.

                    Fourth Quadrant — External Collective

                    This quadrant focuses on the external world of the collective where the individual resides, and it concerns itself with the systems, teams, laws, and rules of that collective.

                    This quadrant is about the external manifestations of the collective culture. If the majority of the environment thinks in a certain way, they will create institutions that will implement that way of thinking.

                    The same rules apply to companies.

                    One example for companies would be those managers who think that employees are lazy, lack responsibility, and need constant supervision (or what is called Theory X in management).

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                    Then, those managers implement systems that reflect that kind of culture– no flexible work hours, strict rules about logging work, no remote work, etc.

                    Your thoughts, however, may be different. You might believe that people want responsibility, that they are capable of self-direction, that they can make good decisions, and that managers don’t need to stand on their necks if they want something done (this is called Theory Y in management).

                    Then, you would want to have flexible working hours, different ways of measuring your productivity (for example, not time on the job but work produced), and remote work, if possible for your profession.

                    This is when you enter into a conflict with the external collective quadrant. Here, you have four options: leave, persevere, neglect, and voice.

                    Leave

                    You can simply leave the company/organization/community/country and go to a different place. Most people decide to do this.

                    Persevere

                    This is when you see that the situation isn’t good, but you decide to stick at it and wait for the perfect time (or position) where you can implement change.

                    Neglect

                    This is where you give up on the change you want to see and just go with the flow, doing the minimal work necessary to keep the status quo.

                    These are the people who are disengaged at work and are doing just the bare minimum necessary (which, in the U.S. is around 65% of the workforce).

                    I did this only once, and it’s probably the only thing I regret doing in my life.

                    Voice

                    This is where you actively work on changing the situation, and the people in charge know that you want to create a change.

                    It doesn’t matter if it’s your company, community, or your country; you are actively calling for a change and will not stop until it’s implemented.

                    Putting It All Together

                    When you take it all into account, change is simple, in theory, but it isn’t easy to execute. It takes work in all four quadrants:

                    1. Internal individual — mindset
                    2. External individual — behavior
                    3. Internal collective — culture/support system
                    4. External collective — laws, rules, regulations, teams, systems, states

                    Some will require more work, some less, but you will need to create a change in all four of them.

                    But don’t let that discourage you because change is possible, and many people have done this. The best time to start changing was yesterday, but the second best time is today.

                    Read More on Making Changes

                    Featured photo credit: Djim Loic via unsplash.com

                    Reference

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