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Achieve Your Goals by Focusing on Critical Activities

Achieve Your Goals by Focusing on Critical Activities

    What are your critical activities? Critical activities are those activities that directly move you towards your goals.  Every goal has critical activities.  The problem is that most of us spend significant amounts of time doing things that are not critical.  Often we convince ourselves that they are something we ‘need’ to do to be successful, but usually they are things that are not critical.

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    Step #1 – Identify your goals

    You can’t know what the critical activities are if you don’t first have a clear understanding of what your goals are.  You need to understand where you are going before you can know how to get there. Go beyond just labeling something as your goal, get a grip on WHY you want to achieve your goal.  Before you plan how to get to your vacation destination you first need to know where you are going and what you want to do when you get there.  Your destination is your goal, and what you want to do when you get there is your WHY.

    Step #2 – List major outcomes needed to achieve your goal

    For each goal make a list of the outcomes that you need to complete in order reach that goal. These outcomes should be the major results that lead to achieving your goals.  You may view these as the steps along the way, or the main accomplishments needed to move you forward.  If your goal is to increase your coaching business your major outcomes will be finding new clients and keeping your existing clients.  These would be the two major outcomes that if you continue to do will certainly help you achieve your over arching goal.

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    Step #3 – Determine the activities needed

    In this step you need to take your outcomes from step #2 and break them down into all of the activities that are needed to get you to those outcomes.  There are likely several activities needed for each outcome. These can be broken down into small bite sized action chunks.  Continuing with the goal of expanding your coaching business, you would list all the activities for each of the two major outcomes.  For example for finding new clients you would have things such as building your prospect list, networking, phoning potential prospects, increasing your web presence, offering seminars or podcasts etc…  Think through all the things you do to move you towards each major outcome.

    Step #4 – Limit the list to the critical activities

    Once you have your list of activities you need to reduce the list to only those activities that are absolutely critical for achieving your goals.  These are the things that must be done.  To find out if one of the activities you have recorded is critical or not, ask yourself what would happen if you stopped doing it. If you quit doing one of the critical activities you will quit moving towards your goals.  If you quit something that is not critical you may miss it but it won’t prevent you from reaching your goals.  Often the critical activities are not the easy activities.  They require stepping out of your comfort zone.  For each goal you should aim to have between 4 and 8 critical activities.

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    Step #5 – Take action on the critical.

    After you have identified the critical activities you need to take action on those activities.  Reduce the time and focus you give to the non-critical activities. By now you have likely realized that some things you spend time on are not critical.  Non critical activities for me include cleaning my office, surfing the web endlessly, communicating with friends on Facebook etc..  Certainly there are times where these activities are appropriate and even needed, however that is not when I am working towards my goals.  When you have set aside time to focus on your business or other goals only do critical activities.   To do this you may need to block out distractions.  This might mean closing your email boxes, shutting of your twitter tweets, and perhaps even turning off the ringer on your phone.  Get rid of the non-critical things that might distract you from the critical.

    Step #6 – Do this for each goal

    Likely you will have more than one goal in your life.  You may have business goals, work goals, family goals, fitness goals etc.  For each goal area you can work through this process. If your goal is to lose you may identify the major outcomes of eating better and exercising more.  From there your critical activities might be: 1. exercise daily  2. cook better meals 3. measure our your servings 4. record everything you eat.   Every area of your life has critical activities and time wasters.

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    By taking the time to work through these steps you can focus on the critical and avoid the time wasters.  You will make more progress towards your goals more quickly.

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    Last Updated on November 18, 2019

    How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

    How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

    Everyone of my team members has a bucketload of tasks that they need to deal with every working day. On top of that, most of their tasks are either creativity tasks or problem solving tasks.

    Despite having loads of tasks to handle, our team is able to stay creative and work towards our goals consistently.

    How do we manage that?

    I’m going to reveal to you how I helped my team get more things done in less time through the power of correct prioritization. A few minutes spent reading this article could literally save you thousands of hours over the long term. So, let’s get started with my method on how to prioritize:

    The Scales Method – a productivity method I created several years ago.

    How to Prioritize with the Scales Method

      One of our new editors came to me the other day and told me how she was struggling to keep up with the many tasks she needed to handle and the deadlines she constantly needed to stick to.

      At the end of each day, she felt like she had done a lot of things but often failed to come up with creative ideas and to get articles successfully published. From what she told me, it was obvious that she felt overwhelmed and was growing increasingly frustrated about failing to achieve her targets despite putting in extra hours most days.

      After she listened to my advice – and I introduced her to the Scales Method – she immediately experienced a dramatic rise in productivity, which looked like this:

      • She could produce three times more creative ideas for blog articles
      • She could publish all her articles on time
      • And she could finish all her work on time every day (no more overtime!)

      Curious to find out how she did it? Read on for the step-by-step guide:

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      1. Set Aside 10 Minutes for Planning

      When it comes to tackling productivity issues, it makes sense to plan before taking action. However, don’t become so involved in planning that you become trapped in it and never move beyond first base.

      My recommendation is to give yourself a specific time period for planning – but keep it short. Ideally, 10 or 15 minutes. This should be adequate to think about your plan.

      Use this time to:

      • Look at the big picture.
      • Think about the current goal and target that you need/want to achieve.
      • Lay out all the tasks you need to do.

      2. Align Your Tasks with Your Goal

      This is the core component that makes the Scales Method effective.

      It works like this:

      Take a look at all the tasks you’re doing, and review the importance of each of them. Specifically, measure a task’s importance by its cost and benefit.

      By cost, I am referring to the effort needed per task (including time, money and other resources). The benefit is how closely the task can contribute to your goal.

        To make this easier for you, I’ve listed below four combinations that will enable you to quickly and easily determine the priority of each of your tasks:

        Low Cost + High Benefit

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        Do these tasks first because they’re the simple ones to complete, yet help you get closer to your goal.

        Approving artwork created for a sales brochure would likely fit this category. You could easily decide on whether you liked the artwork/layout, but your decision to approve would trigger the production of the leaflet and the subsequent sales benefits of sending it out to potential customers.

        High Cost + High Benefit

        Break the high cost task down into smaller ones. In other words, break the big task into mini ones that take less than an hour to complete. And then re-evaluate these small tasks and set their correct priority level.

        Imagine if you were asked to write a product launch plan for a new diary-free protein powder supplement. Instead of trying to write the plan in one sitting – aim to write the different sections at different times (e.g., spend 30 minutes writing the introduction, one hour writing the body text, and 30 minutes writing the conclusion).

        Low Cost + Low Benefit

        This combination should be your lowest priority. Either give yourself 10-15 minutes to handle this task, or put these kind of tasks in between valuable tasks as a useful break.

        These are probably necessary tasks (e.g., routine tasks like checking emails) but they don’t contribute much towards reaching your desired goal. Keep them way down your priority list.

        High Cost + Low Benefit

        Review if these tasks are really necessary. Think of ways to reduce the cost if you decide that the completion of the task is required.

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        For instance, can any tools or systems help to speed up doing the task? In this category, you’re likely to find things like checking and updating sales contacts spreadsheets. This can be a fiddly and time-consuming thing to do without making mistakes. However, there are plenty of apps out there they can make this process instant and seamless.

        Now, coming back to the editor who I referred to earlier, let’s take a look at her typical daily task list:

          After listening to my advice, she broke down the High cost+ High benefit task into smaller ones. Her tasks then looked like this (in order of priority):

            And for the task about promoting articles to different platforms, after reviewing its benefits, we decided to focus on the most effective platform only – thereby significantly lowering the associated time cost.

            Bonus Tip: Tackling Tasks with Deadlines

            Once you’ve evaluated your tasks, you’ll know the importance of each of them. This will immediately give you a crystal-clear picture on which tasks would help you to achieve more (in terms of achieving your goals). Sometimes, however, you won’t be able to decide every task’s priority because there’ll be deadlines set by external parties such as managers and agencies.

            What to do in these cases?

            Well, I suggest that after considering the importance and values of your current tasks, align the list with the deadlines and adjust the priorities accordingly.

            For example, let’s dip into the editor’s world again.

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            Some of the articles she edited needed to be published by specific dates. The Scales Method allows for this, and in this case, her amended task list would look something like this:

              Hopefully, you can now see how easy it is to evaluate the importance of tasks and how to order them in lists of priority.

              The Scales Method Is Different from Anything Else You’ve Tried

              By adopting the Scales Method, you’ll begin to correctly prioritize your work, and most importantly – boost your productivity by up to 10 times!

              And unlike other methods that don’t really explain how to decide the importance of a task, my method will help you break down each of your tasks into two parts: cost and benefits. My method will also help you to take follow-up action based on different cost and benefits combinations.

              Start right now by spending 10 minutes to evaluate your common daily tasks and how they align with your goal(s). Once you have this information, it’ll be super-easy to put your tasks into a priority list. All that remains, is that you kick off your next working day by following your new list.

              Trust me, once you begin using the Scales Method – you’ll never want to go back to your old ways of working.

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              Featured photo credit: Vector Stock via vectorstock.com

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