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Productivity & Organizing Myth #3 – I don’t have time to prioritize

Productivity & Organizing Myth #3 – I don’t have time to prioritize
Busy Pond

    Productivity & Organizing Myth #3 – I don’t have time to prioritize
    As a new guest author to lifehack.org and an experienced productivity consultant I would like to start by naming and dispelling common productivity and organizing myths. This series will be posted each Wednesday until we cover the top 10.

    Myth: You don’t have time to prioritize because you’re so busy doing the things that you’re responsible to do.

    Reality: You don’t have time not to prioritize because you’re busy, responsible, and want a good balance.

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    I call it CEO time – as in Chief Executive Officer meeting time.
    When someone has a meeting with the CEO they show up don’t they? (Distractions and postponements never come from the one invited to meet with the CEO)
    Everyone shows up on time for CEO meetings don’t they?
    If you were meeting with the CEO you’d be prepared, too, right?.

    You are the CEO of your career & life so you should have your own CEO meeting weekly. During that meeting with yourself be sure you’re doing the right things and prepare for the coming week. Schedule your CEO meeting and honor it as the most important meeting of the week.

    Given that you are really busy how do you know that you’re doing the right things? Do you know precisely what you’re responsible to do? Do you consider work and outside work when you think of your responsibilities? Even more poignantly, does anyone complain about how you spend your time? Does your spouse grumble about not seeing you? Do your kids protest about having a baby sitter again?

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    This is a reality check – not to make anyone feel guilty. If it makes you uncomfortable, however, thank you for staying with me.

    During your CEO meetings list the things you are actually responsible for accomplishing – the big picture things. This is for your professional as well as personal life. A list of responsibilities would easily be 20-30 long and related to job and home. The list would include the things that show up on an annual job evaluation and family ‘serious discussions’ list. This list will be the touchstone to determining if one is doing ‘the right things’. Somethings you are involved with might be fun, educational, and valuable for building relationships but not really the core of your priorities.

    For example, Marty is a busy executive with an international software firm. He has a couple of kids and has been married 20 years. Although his job responsibilities change every 18-24 months, it is clear what he needs to accomplish. It’s written in his job description and measured. Coincidently he’s given a cash bonus for meeting those responsibilities. At home he and Marsha have job descriptions, too. They came out of a playful ‘what’s my line’ conversation. They include taking care of the kids, taking care of each other, and taking care of themselves.

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    Marty has scheduled his CEO meetings Friday afternoon at 1pm. This meeting is rarely missed. Marty isolates himself sometime by working at home, sometime by working in a meeting room at the corporate offices, and sometime he is in his cube and hangs a ‘do not disturb’ sign for the 1-2 hours it takes for the meeting.

    During the meeting Marty pulls out his list and runs down it to make his own review of his progress toward goals, completion of projects, and use of his time. He decides what things need to be wrapped up before the end of the day and writes a list of actions for the upcoming weekend with his family and week back at work. Marty has a clearly charted course and continues to be a success as a father, mate, and employee.

    Previous Myths:

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    Susan Sabo is an intrepid traveler who has organized her life to be able to leave the country for months at a time. She’s the author at ProductivityCafe and she consults with professionals on their productivity.

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    Trending in Featured

    1 The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work) 2 How to Master the Art of Prioritization 3 40 Top Productivity Apps for iPhone (2020 Updated) 4 How to Break Out of Your Comfort Zone 5 How to Find Time for Yourself

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    Last Updated on January 13, 2020

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    More on Building Habits

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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