I got an advertisement in the mail from the Harvard Business Review. They were offering me a subscription for $109 for one year of print and iPad editions along with some other freebies. They claimed that this offer would save me $320.90... if I subscribed now. It was very generous offer and perhaps something I might have taken advantage of if it weren't available online and in print at the Brandel Library of North Park University.
It was the headline of the brochure of one of the featured freebie books that grabbed my attention: How to Get More Done. I have been thinking exactly about that recently. Actually, I think about that almost every day, sometimes several times during the day. I have thought enough about and read plenty of articles with similar titles. I have read all kinds of articles offering all kinds of various tips and easy to use tricks with the promise of increased productivity and improved task management. The articles have been in newspapers from the USA Today to the New York Times and magazines like Fortune, Inc, Fast Company, Forbes, and many others. I may have already read similar pieces in the Harvard Business Review.
This is a popular subject because many people struggle with exactly this issue. Setting goals and achieving them. The scope changes from the most strategic major lifetime goals to the very tactical as in “what do I want to accomplish in the next hour.” My recent focus has been on the more tactical side of this question.
I have two basic thoughts in this regard. First, the most important thing is to simply get started. I tend to procrastinate and easily lose too much time doing all kinds of mundane things like getting ready to work, reading the news, checking email, and all kinds of silly diversions. It is best to follow the advice of good people at Nike with a slight modification: Just Start Doing It. There is an old German proverb that applies in this case: Start sewing and God will supply the thread.
Secondly, I am always underestimating the amount of time these tactical tasks will take to accomplish. By far the majority take me longer to finish than what I allocate or plan for them. I am like how the US Airlines used to be. They set departure and arrival times and were always late. When the government started track on-time departure and arrival rates, the airlines got much better, and more realistic, at the times set in their schedules. The airlines set theoretic schedules that assumed that everything would go perfectly with no delays. I do believe that is what I do. There are always distractions and delays that I just do not account for.
Along the way, I read about something that resonated as very practical. The idea or technique is called “5 before 11.” The concept and goal is very simple: complete 5 high value tasks before 11 am each and every day. It is something to track each and every day. I Googled the term in order to be able to attribute the concept to the right person. As far as I could tell, it comes from a time management system called The 7 Minute Solution on allysonlewis.com. The technique is called "5 before 11®" and apparently trademarked. The website recommends setting the tasks the night before and then to track the accomplishment of the five tasks. When as task wasn't accomplished the reason why should be given. Over time the reasons why tasks were not accomplished can be analyzed and changes can be made to increase the rate of accomplishment until the "5 before 11®" method is part of ones daily routine. It makes a lot of sense.I tried it this morning. My accomplishment rate was a paltry 2 out of 5 or 40%. There is definitely room for improvement.