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Last Updated on January 30, 2018

One Question That Will Help You Refocus and Achieve Greatness at Work

One Question That Will Help You Refocus and Achieve Greatness at Work

These days, people are working more, and feeling more stressed — yet still have significant financial concerns and feel behind. Research conducted by Groupon has talked about how people perceive their work-life balance.[1] Here are some of the findings:

  • 20% of the respondents said they worked 10 hours/day.
  • 60% of the respondents said there wasn’t enough time in the day to do everything.
  • 50% said workload was preventing them from work-life balance.
  • 53% said they still had significant financial concerns.
  • On a 1-10 scale, stress at home averaged a 5; at work, it averaged a 6.4.

That’s a lot of stress — but people still have financial concerns. What gives? How can we make this situation better?

Ask yourself a new question

    Chris Bailey, the author of The Productivity Project experimented with different techniques to help him organize and prioritize tasks. By modifying another productivity guru Brian Tracy’s approach, he arrived at this critical question:

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    “If you could just do one thing on a day, every day, what would you do that would allow you to accomplish the most with the same amount of time?”

    When you’ve got the answer for yourself, repeat the question but in a slightly different way: “If you could do only two more things all day, what second and third tasks let you accomplish the most in the same amount of time?”

    Not all tasks are created equal

      There are certain tasks in any job that, for every minute you spend on them, you can now accomplish more on other tasks.

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      Consider a project manager. They should be designing project workflow. Checking email is less important or almost a distraction. Customer service support, though? They should be checking email — and answering phones.

      Checking off many items on a list means nothing if nothing great was actually accomplished. This in some ways is the difference between “busy” and “productive.” When you’re spending time on things that matter, that is being productive. When you’re just checking off to-do list items, that oftentimes is just being “busy.” There’s no end game contribution.

      But when you spend more time and energy on items of significance, you accomplish more in the same amount of time — and by definition you are becoming more productive.

      Define your top priority task every day

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        By asking the critical question “If you could just do one thing on a day, every day, what would you do that would allow you to accomplish the most with the same amount of time?” you will be able to identify the most important task at the moment.

        Once the top priority task is defined, review your work progress every day by asking these Did I get done what I intended to? Did I invest enough time, attention, and energy in the right things?

        These questions will help you to evaluate your progress and it’s a self-check of whether you got distracted or remained focused on the most important things. This review also helps you to prepare a better plan for the next day.

        It all begins with defining priorities and what is truly important. Almost every day is going to have a personal or professional task that needs to come first above all. Isolate that task and work on what matters most. Achieve significant greatness even if you ignore 40 emails.

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        Most of life is about defining priorities

        Knowing your priority is the pathway to a more consistently successful version of self. Ask yourself the critical question to identify the one thing that matters most and design what you work on and focus towards around the answers. You are going to be more productive within days.

        Featured photo credit: Vecteezy via vecteezy.com

        Reference

        More by this author

        Leon Ho

        Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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        Published on July 17, 2018

        How Productive People Compartmentalize Time to Get the Most Done

        How Productive People Compartmentalize Time to Get the Most Done

        I’ve never believed people are born productive or organized. Being organized and productive is a choice.

        You choose to keep your stuff organized or you don’t. You choose to get on with your work and ignore distractions or you don’t.

        But one skill very productive people appear to have that is not a choice is the ability to compartmentalize. And that takes skill and practice.

        What is compartmentalization

        To compartmentalize means you have the ability to shut out all distractions and other work except for the work in front of you. Nothing gets past your barriers.

        In psychology, compartmentalization is a defence mechanism our brains use to shut out traumatic events. We close down all thoughts about the traumatic event. This can lead to serious mental-health problems such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) if not dealt with properly.

        However, compartmentalization can be used in positive ways to help us become more productive and allow us to focus on the things that are important to us.

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        Robin Sharma, the renowned leadership coach, calls it his Tight Bubble of Total Focus Strategy. This is where he shuts out all distractions, turns off his phone and goes to a quiet place where no one will disturb him and does the work he wants to focus on. He allows nothing to come between himself and the work he is working on and prides himself on being almost uncontactable.

        Others call it deep work. When I want to focus on a specific piece of work, I turn everything off, turn on my favourite music podcast The Anjunadeep Edition (soft, eclectic electronic music) and focus on the content I intend to work on. It works, and it allows me to get massive amounts of content produced every week.

        The main point about compartmentalization is that no matter what else is going on in your life — you could be going through a difficult time in your relationships, your business could be sinking into bankruptcy or you just had a fight with your colleague; you can shut those things out of your mind and focus totally on the work that needs doing.

        Your mind sees things as separate rooms with closable doors, so you can enter a mental room, close the door and have complete focus on whatever it is you want to focus on. Your mind does not wander.

        Being able to achieve this state can seriously boost your productivity. You get a lot more quality work done and you find you have a lot more time to do the things you want to do. It is a skill worth mastering for the benefits it will bring you.

        How to develop the skill of compartmentalization

        The simplest way to develop this skill is to use your calendar.

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        Your calendar is the most powerful tool you have in your productivity toolbox. It allows you to block time out, and it can focus you on the work that needs doing.

        My calendar allows me to block time out so I can remove everything else out of my mind to focus on one thing. When I have scheduled time for writing, I know what I want to write about and I sit down and my mind completely focuses on the writing.

        Nothing comes between me, my thoughts and the keyboard. I am in my writing compartment and that is where I want to be. Anything going on around me, such as a problem with a student, a difficulty with an area of my business or an argument with my wife is blocked out.

        Understand that sometimes there’s nothing you can do about an issue

        One of the ways to do this is to understand there are times when there is nothing you can do about an issue or an area of your life. For example, if I have a student with a problem, unless I am able to communicate with that student at that specific time, there is nothing I can do about it.

        If I can help the student, I would schedule a meeting with the student to help them. But between now and the scheduled meeting there is nothing I can do. So, I block it out.

        The meeting is scheduled on my calendar and I will be there. Until then, there is nothing I can do about it.

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        Ask yourself the question “Is there anything I can do about it right now?”

        This is a very powerful way to help you compartmentalize these issues.

        If there is, focus all your attention on it to the exclusion of everything else until you have a workable solution. If not, then block it out, schedule time when you can do something about it and move on to the next piece of work you need to work on.

        Being able to compartmentalize helps with productivity in another way. It reduces the amount of time you spend worrying.

        Worrying about something is a huge waste of energy that never solves anything. Being able to block out issues you cannot deal with stops you from worrying about things and allows you to focus on the things you can do something about.

        Reframe the problem as a question

        Reframing the problem as a question such as “what do I have to do to solve this problem?” takes your mind away from a worried state into a solution state, where you begin searching for solutions.

        One of the reasons David Allen’s Getting Things Done book has endured is because it focuses on contexts. This is a form of compartmentalization where you only do work you can work on.

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        For instance, if a piece of work needs a computer, you would only look at the work when you were in front of a computer. If you were driving, you cannot do that work, so you would not be looking at it.

        Choose one thing to focus on

        To get better at compartmentalizing, look around your environment and seek out places where you can do specific types of work.

        Taking your dog for a walk could be the time you focus solely on solving project problems, commuting to and from work could be the time you spend reading and developing your skills and the time between 10 am and 12 pm could be the time you spend on the phone sorting out client issues.

        Once you make the decision about when and where you will do the different types of work, make it stick. Schedule it. Once it becomes a habit, you are well on your way to using the power of compartmentalization to become more productive.

        Comparmentalization saves you stress

        Compartmentalization is a skill that gives you time to deal with issues and work to the exclusion of all other distractions.

        This means you get more work done in less time and this allows you to spend more time with the people you want to spend more time with, doing the things you want to spend more time doing.

        Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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