When is the last time you felt overwhelmed by all the things you need to do?
Was it today? Life is so much more complex than even five years ago (before email and LinkedIn and Facebook came to our smart phones). If we could only simplify and have a few things to do, could we get more done?
Recently a friend who runs his own business complained about all the things he wasn’t getting done. And then he showed me something amazing. It was his seven-page to-do list! That would be enough to paralyze anyone.
As more and more studies emerge indicating that we are much more effective when we focus more and multitask less, I offer ways to focus, i.e. keep things simple, so we can get things done. Here are some simple ideas at nearly every level of business:
Prioritize as much as possible:
Identify what should be done first, second, and third.
Then list everything else.
Do the first thing first (A friend once said: “First things first; second things never.”)
Once the first thing is done, the next become the new first thing.
Try doing the highest priority task before opening your email.
Email has a powerful distracting effect.
Set meeting rhythms:
Make necessary meetings occur on a regular, predictable basis.
Set a very simple and focused agenda, perhaps with only two or three topics;
Set a brief time for the meeting so everyone focuses and gets things done and can be on their way.
Keep company mission statements very brief:
Keep them very brief and sharply focused (“simple”) so every employee can remember them and say them.
Many people remember Walt Disney’s mission statement:
“To Make People Happy.”
I’ll bet every single employee knew it, could say it, and felt good about it.
Unfortunately, the Disney corporation has made it so much more complicated today:
“The mission of The Walt Disney Company is to be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information. Using our portfolio of brands to differentiate our content, services and consumer products, we seek to develop the most creative, innovative and profitable entertainment experiences and related products in the world.”
I wonder how many Disney employees can say THAT without looking.
Razor sharpen your company’s strategic focus:
Develop three to five key strategies, no more.
This keeps everyone in the company focused on the same themes.
Make simple goals:
Here’s where lots of people get bogged down.
They make a long list of goals and start chipping away at them, only to fully accomplish a few.
Instead, list three to five goals, accomplish them, and then list more.
Make each goal compelling and attractive to you so you want to achieve it.
Set time targets/commitments for achieving your goals
Use financial “KPIs:”
Many people in business, even at top levels, don’t want others to know that they cannot understand the company’s financial statements.
Instead of attempting to read every line of every financial statement, one can keep it simple by identifying key numbers, or “Key Performance Indicators”—KPIs.
Possible KPIs to track every month include:
Gross profit percent
Net profit percent
After only a few months of tracking KPIs, people are much more confident in “the numbers” and can make much better decisions on a timelier basis.
Plan daily tasks the night before:
If you can clear your desk and your mind at the end of each day, the next day is likely to be more productive.
Finish off your emails for today.
Identify and write down the top three priorities for tomorrow.
Clear your desk.
Can you make time for balance in your life?
These are but a few examples of things that get done better when simplified. As you think about your complex and busy life, is there one thing that you can focus on to simplify? Focus on one thing, keep it simple, and increase the odds that it gets done well. And then the next task can be done well. Pretty soon, you’ve done many things well.
What tips have you discovered that can help make you more effective? More efficient? Please share your ideas!