Priority principles: how to spend time on what counts
Determine key tasks. An important task should add to your bottom line or enhance your reputation, says The Strategic Coach’s Dan Sullivan. If a task doesn’t fall into one of those three categories, then it’s not important and shouldn’t be given priority.
Narrow the field. On a sheet of paper, in one column write down 20 tasks that deserve your attention. Then narrow down the list to 10 tasks in a second column, ranking the tasks in order of importance. Next, draw a line under the top three. “Those are your priorities for the week,” says Sullivan. “The other seven tasks are bonuses.”
Remember the 80/20 rule. Some 80% of your results come from just 20% of your efforts. If you double the amount of time you spend on output-generating activities and stop doing the others, you’ll double your productivity and spend 60% less time.
Take five on Fridays. Spend five minutes on Friday afternoon to set next week’s priorities. Come busy Monday, you’ll save time by knowing immediately where to focus your energy.
Make meetings matter: hot boardroom secrets
Define the times. Set time limits for each agenda item and then appoint a timekeeper to keep the meeting on track.
Leave debates for later. “Avoid discussing a controversial topic at the beginning of the meeting,” says Roz Usheroff, principal of The Usheroff Institute, a training and image consultancy with offices in Toronto and Florida. “You’ll start off with a debate and never get to the next point.”
Let’s get it started. Never wait for a latecomer. Start the meeting on time and don’t recap for late arrivals, which only rewards tardiness.
Stay on Topic Create a “parking lot” page on a flip chart and write down any off-topic items. Recording the item for future discussion acknowledges its importance while keeping the meeting focused on the agenda’s items.
Never forget: easy ways to improve your memory
Let’s try to remember how memory influences productivity. Oh, right: a good memory saves time looking up details and makes you more effective in social situations. To strengthen your powers of recollection…
Connect the dates. “If you want to remember a meeting, find a way to connect that date to one that has meaning for you,” says Martin Wojtowicz, a physiology professor at the University of Toronto. For example, if you have a meeting on January 25, think, “one month after Christmas.”
Focus! Pay attention to detail. We’re bombarded with an overwhelming amount of information every day, but we only remember what’s important to us. Expand what you consider to be important and you will remember more. Imagine you’re a detective, and that every aspect of what’s going on around you is a clue.
Spell their names. When being introduced to someone, spell their name in your head. It will aid recall by forcing you to hear the name, says memory coach Bob Gray, president of Memory Edge Corp. in Whitby, Ont.
Make up a story. To remember a list, make up a story that links all the list elements together. The more outrageous the story, the easier the list will be to remember, says Wojtowicz. Say you need to bring three items to a meeting: financial statements, pens and an overhead projector. Imagine using the pen to write “my dog ate my financial statements” and then placing it on the overhead projector for the staff to view. You can also use acronyms and combinations of names or make sentences using the first letter of every word as mnemonic tools.
Do eight things at once: the juggler’s guide to multi-tasking
We’ve all become masters at doing more than one thing at a time. Or have we? A study by New York-based research firm Basex Inc. suggests that multi-tasking may actually erode productivity. Even dividing your attention among seemingly simple tasks, such as reading e-mail while talking on the phone, can reduce comprehension, concentration and short-term memory.
Pick the right tasks. Know the activities that can best be multi-tasked. Troubles arise when you try to juggle problem-solving tasks that require focus and creativity.
Separate and conquer. You’ll be a better multi-tasker if the pieces of work you’re handling simultaneously require separate resources. For example, you can probably work out a financial challenge while you are clearing your office.
Practice meditation. Meditation emphasizes wilfully controlling your attention.
The 15-minute workout: three simple body builders
Regular exercise improves your stamina and cognition — and you don’t need time for long workouts. Josh Feuer, co-owner of Diesel Fitness in Toronto, shares three secrets to getting enough from a 15-minute workout.
Choose the right equipment. Use a rowing machine or elliptical trainer, which work your legs and arms at the same time.
Go full tilt. If you only have 15 minutes, work at maximum intensity, suggests Feuer. Get your heart rate up as quickly as possible during a cardio workout. If you’re strength training, work muscles to failure. Try wearing a portable music player, because music can help motivate you during your workout.
Change it up. Your body responds best to variety. So, vary your workout. Spend 15 minutes on yoga the first day, strength training the next and run or power walk on the third.