The other day I was reading Brian Tracy’s Eat That Frog and it contains some simple yet very effective personal time management tips. In fact, you probably know these tips only that they are given from very practical perspectives in this book.
Whether you are employed with laid out roles with continual supervision or self-employed with complete freedom in how you work, these tips will increase your productivity and overall self-esteem.
This book, about doing more in less time, is 144 pages but I will try to outline the major points for me.
Clarity is a prerequisite
When setting out on a task or project, once mind has to be very clear about the objectives to be achieved at the end. A major reason why we fail is vagueness on what we are trying to do, in what order and for what reason.
The best way to achieve clarity is to plan on paper, even before you start your most basic task, seven steps to take as below;
- Decide exactly what is expected
- Write it down
- Set deadline and sub deadlines
- List activities to be done to achieve the goal
- Organize the list into a logical sequenced plan
- Begin immediately on the first task
- Do something every day
Note however you might not have thought of everything in advance therefore you can review and edit your list as you continually undertake the tasks.
Finally, having clear written goals has a powerful effect on your conscience, they stimulate and release your energy enabling you to overcome procrastination. Small tasks help the project not seem insurmountable.
– “If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.”
Plan every day in advance
As I’d earlier stated that these are tips you already know since time immemorial, planning your day in advance has been drilled into us since early school-days.
However, only hearing about it and not putting it into practice are two very distinct realities.
The top goal at work is to get the highest possible ROI of your mental, emotional and physical energy. It has been proven that every minute spent in planning saves as many as ten minutes in execution. It’s that critical.
Making your list the night before makes your subconscious work on it while you sleep. Ultimately you will often wake up with great insights and ideas to get the tasks done faster and more efficiently than if you had not planned for it at all.
– “Taking action without thinking things through is a prime source of problems”
Consider the consequences
In personal development seminars I’ve attended they always talk about having a compelling reason to accomplish something notable. Most people however just want to ensure they provide for their family at the end of the day. The usual life stuff.
They do not harbor such lofty ambitions as Elon Musk’s space travel.
For this crowd I’m inclined to believe that considering the consequences of doing or not doing something is more pivotal. Evaluating the significance of a task determines what actions to take more immediately.
This is best achieved by having a long term view – five years, ten years or more. Think of what you’d like your life to look like in the future vis a vis actions you are currently undertaking. Will these actions get you to where you want to be a year from now?
Delay gratification and make sacrifices in the short term to reap far greater rewards in the long term.
Not easy when your peers are driving around in sleek, high end cars. Just remember ultimately this is a very personal decision and you carry all the consequences for your choices now.
– “The things that matter most must never be at the mercy of the things that matter least.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Using the ABCDE method
In relation to the prior point is using the priority setting technique, the ABCDE method.
It works like this, once you have a written down listing of tasks to be accomplished in the coming day, proceed to label each item with letters A through E. These letters indicate the item’s priority or order to be done.
- “A” item – A very important task that must be done, with serious positive or negative consequences if done or not done.
- “B” item – These are tasks with mild consequences, important but nowhere as important as an “A” item. It might make a customer or coworker aggrieved or inconvenienced, will only rock the boat but not tip it over.
- “C” item – Meeting for lunch or coffee with a friend or running personal errands at work hours count in this category, tasks that have no consequences on your work life.
- “D” item – Items that can be delegated to someone else to do
- “E” item – Tasks that can be done away with altogether. These might have been important at one point but no longer relevant, only been done out of habit and takes critical time away.
The rule is that you should never do a B task when an A task is incomplete, and the same goes for the other categories.
– “There is never enough time to do everything, but there is always time to do the most important things.”
Prepare thoroughly before you begin
When cooking rarely would you find anyone start to cook without an adequate assessment of availability of all the tools and ingredients upfront. Ingredients are usually laid out on the counter top.
Cookware, even if not immediately put atop the cooker, a clear image of where they sit within the arms’ length cabinets is always at the back of your mind.
Why is it then any different for other sorts of work? Like compiling a report or putting together a craft.
When you prepare beforehand, it gives your brain more firepower to work longer and efficiently as you are only concentrating with the tools and job you have at hand. Distractions are also avoided when you interrupt yourself to look for a missing piece as you encounter other things not associated with the task at hand.
This starts with creating a comfortable work space that you enjoy being around. The cleaner and neater your space is the more motivated you feel getting on with the job.
– “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”
Alexander Graham Bell
Other equally powerful tips
As I’d alluded earlier I was only laying out my key takeaways, the book has fifteen more ways, albeit related, to increase your productivity and time management skills framed from a very simple and practical perspective.
Eat That Frog is available at Amazon. With a 4.7 out of 5 rating it is highly recommended and available in Kindle and Paperback versions.