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Put yourself on the line

Put yourself on the line
Football Field

“Why don’t you join me on the line?” Do you think I’m inviting you to get on a conference call? Is the football player in you visualizing the scrimmage line? Does ‘on the line’ mean anything in particular to you?

The line that we’re going to look at today is the line that separates risk from safety. It separates the unpredictable from the predictable. It divides security from opportunity. The line also separates variety from sameness; possibility from lack; and adventure from monotony.

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As we’ve grown most of us have created a line that we don’t cross. The side we’re on is comfortable, familiar, and secure. We have developed a great life on our side of the line. It includes a good circle of friends, colleagues we trust and enjoy, a lifestyle that fulfills, and work that sustains. An example of this is living in an area where we know our neighbors, working at one company for an extended period of time, and engaging in a regular activity such as the tennis league. It is illustrated in driving the same route to the office day after day, stopping at the same convenience store for coffee every day, and reading the same author over and over. Any risk on our side tends to be minimized and controlled. For example, a person might play as a guest on your hockey team. As a guest he’s been invited and approved by someone you trust. Little risk that he’s going to be a mismatch for the personality of the team or an outright jerk.

The other side of the line can also be comfortable and even better than where we are now. If we don’t cross the line by a distance, we might simply move our line out farther and add something to the mix we have now. Benefits of experiencing the other side can range from a new job opportunity, a new locale with more like minded people, or expanded prospects. The other side might simply include things that make our life better. That might mean new conveniences, fewer stresses, welcome cross pollination of ideas. It might expand our capacity to try more because we’ve gone to a place we’re frightened of and succeeded. The benefits are probably unseen because we’ve been comfortable on our side of the line.

Let’s cross the line and do something over there. This does include taking a risk and probably getting out of our comfort zone. It is also likely to build our bravery, increase our inventory of good stories to share with others, and bring us new friends and opportunities. Think of the kid who always asked the pretty girls for dates. He was turned down many more times than accepted. Yet, by simply asking there was the chance that she might say, “Yes.” And some girls did say yes. This guy probably had the ability to bounce back from rejecting, creative ways to approach the girls, and a lot of fun. He likely didn’t take the rejection as a blow to his ego but looked at rejection as simply the need to redirection his attention and try again. Resilience describes that guy!

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So let’s get ready and cross the line with something small like driving a different route to work or big like replacing the usual vacation location for somewhere new. The whole idea is to grow, have fun, and experience something fresh.

Let’s list a few possibilities to serve as triggers for you to decide what to try.

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  • Eat lunch with someone different once a week for the rest of the year so that you meet someone interesting and increase your business network.
  • Get a recommendation for a new author in your favorite genre. Amazon’s suggestions is a place for ideas. Enter you favorite author and Amazon will say, “People who buy this also like….”
  • Try instant messaging if you’ve been technology challenged.
  • Dress in a style that someone else identifies for you. Invite someone with a look you like or whose taste you appreciate to help you select the top, bottom & accessories and give it try.

Let us know what you try and how it goes. The alternative is to stay in same old same old ~ hope you love it there if you do.

Susan Sabo is the creative mind at ProductivityCafe.com. She works with clients to help them get the right things done and to get home at a reasonable time. Her biggest step over the line was into the mountains of Nepal – Torang Pass at 18,000+ feet. Her toes got nipped with frost bite while her limits were reset beyond all previous boundaries.

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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

It is easy, in the onrush of life, to become a reactor – to respond to everything that comes up, the moment it comes up, and give it your undivided attention until the next thing comes up.

This is, of course, a recipe for madness. The feeling of loss of control over what you do and when is enough to drive you over the edge, and if that doesn’t get you, the wreckage of unfinished projects you leave in your wake will surely catch up with you.

Having an inbox and processing it in a systematic way can help you gain back some of that control. But once you’ve processed out your inbox and listed all the tasks you need to get cracking on, you still have to figure out what to do the very next instant. On which of those tasks will your time best be spent, and which ones can wait?

When we don’t set priorities, we tend to follow the path of least resistance. (And following the path of least resistance, as the late, great Utah Phillips reminded us, is what makes the river crooked!) That is, we’ll pick and sort through the things we need to do and work on the easiest ones – leaving the more difficult and less fun tasks for a “later” that, in many cases, never comes – or, worse, comes just before the action needs to be finished, throwing us into a whirlwind of activity, stress, and regret.

This is why setting priorities is so important.

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3 Effective Approaches to Set Priorities

There are three basic approaches to setting priorities, each of which probably suits different kinds of personalities. The first is for procrastinators, people who put off unpleasant tasks. The second is for people who thrive on accomplishment, who need a stream of small victories to get through the day. And the third is for the more analytic types, who need to know that they’re working on the objectively most important thing possible at this moment. In order, then, they are:

1. Eat a Frog

There’s an old saying to the effect that if you wake up in the morning and eat a live frog, you can go through the day knowing that the worst thing that can possibly happen to you that day has already passed. In other words, the day can only get better!

Popularized in Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog!, the idea here is that you tackle the biggest, hardest, and least appealing task first thing every day, so you can move through the rest of the day knowing that the worst has already passed.

When you’ve got a fat old frog on your plate, you’ve really got to knuckle down. Another old saying says that when you’ve got to eat a frog, don’t spend too much time looking at it! It pays to keep this in mind if you’re the kind of person that procrastinates by “planning your attack” and “psyching yourself up” for half the day. Just open wide and chomp that frog, buddy! Otherwise, you’ll almost surely talk yourself out of doing anything at all.

2. Move Big Rocks

Maybe you’re not a procrastinator so much as a fiddler, someone who fills her or his time fussing over little tasks. You’re busy busy busy all the time, but somehow, nothing important ever seems to get done.

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You need the wisdom of the pickle jar. Take a pickle jar and fill it up with sand. Now try to put a handful of rocks in there. You can’t, right? There’s no room.

If it’s important to put the rocks in the jar, you’ve got to put the rocks in first. Fill the jar with rocks, now try pouring in some pebbles. See how they roll in and fill up the available space? Now throw in a couple handfuls of gravel. Again, it slides right into the cracks. Finally, pour in some sand.

For the metaphorically impaired, the pickle jar is all the time you have in a day. You can fill it up with meaningless little busy-work tasks, leaving no room for the big stuff, or you can do the big stuff first, then the smaller stuff, and finally fill in the spare moments with the useless stuff.

To put it into practice, sit down tonight before you go to bed and write down the three most important tasks you have to get done tomorrow. Don’t try to fit everything you need, or think you need, to do, just the three most important ones.

In the morning, take out your list and attack the first “Big Rock”. Work on it until it’s done or you can’t make any further progress. Then move on to the second, and then the third. Once you’ve finished them all, you can start in with the little stuff, knowing you’ve made good progress on all the big stuff. And if you don’t get to the little stuff? You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you accomplished three big things. At the end of the day, nobody’s ever wished they’d spent more time arranging their pencil drawer instead of writing their novel, or printing mailing labels instead of landing a big client.

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3. Covey Quadrants

If you just can’t relax unless you absolutely know you’re working on the most important thing you could be working on at every instant, Stephen Covey’s quadrant system as written in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change might be for you.

Covey suggests you divide a piece of paper into four sections, drawing a line across and a line from top to bottom. Into each of those quadrants, you put your tasks according to whether they are:

  1. Important and Urgent
  2. Important and Not Urgent
  3. Not Important but Urgent
  4. Not Important and Not Urgent

    The quadrant III and IV stuff is where we get bogged down in the trivial: phone calls, interruptions, meetings (QIII) and busy work, shooting the breeze, and other time wasters (QIV). Although some of this stuff might have some social value, if it interferes with your ability to do the things that are important to you, they need to go.

    Quadrant I and II are the tasks that are important to us. QI are crises, impending deadlines, and other work that needs to be done right now or terrible things will happen. If you’re really on top of your time management, you can minimize Q1 tasks, but you can never eliminate them – a car accident, someone getting ill, a natural disaster, these things all demand immediate action and are rarely planned for.

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    You’d like to spend as much time as possible in Quadrant II, plugging away at tasks that are important with plenty of time to really get into them and do the best possible job. This is the stuff that the QIII and QIV stuff takes time away from, so after you’ve plotted out your tasks on the Covey quadrant grid, according to your own sense of what’s important and what isn’t, work as much as possible on items in Quadrant II (and Quadrant I tasks when they arise).

    Getting to Know You

    Spend some time trying each of these approaches on for size. It’s hard to say what might work best for any given person – what fits one like a glove will be too binding and restrictive for another, and too loose and unstructured for a third. You’ll find you also need to spend some time figuring out what makes something important to you – what goals are your actions intended to move you towards.

    In the end, setting priorities is an exercise in self-knowledge. You need to know what tasks you’ll treat as a pleasure and which ones like torture, what tasks lead to your objectives and which ones lead you astray or, at best, have you spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

    These three are the best-known and most time-tested strategies out there, but maybe you’ve got a different idea you’d like to share? Tell us how you set your priorities in the comments.

    More Tips for Effective Prioritization

    Featured photo credit: Mille Sanders via unsplash.com

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