Stephen Covey’s third habit from The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is centered around a factor that most everyone must face on a daily basis: efficiency.
PUT FIRST THINGS FIRST
As habit no. 2 directed, having a vision for your desired end goal is important. Once you have the visualization, manifesting that goal requires dedication, perseverance and in many cases, prioritization. We operate in an age of information, and as technology has come to drive the sharing of that information, we’re also challenged by over-stimulation. Becoming distracted at any point throughout your day is nearly unavoidable. Smart phones push regular updates on breaking news, social media reminders ping, often, and strictly work-related, many of us are overwhelmed by the number of daily emails that come through our inbox.
Take a step back.
Start each week with determining the three most important projects you need to get completed before Friday to feel as though you’ve taken a move forward toward accomplishing your goal — realizing your vision. Be realistic about the time it will require for you to actually complete the project. Then, plan each day to allow yourself the necessary time to make progress on those important projects.
Beginning your day with this allotted time will generally yield the greatest success in your actually taking that planned time. Don’t get sucked into that handful of emails that came through late the evening before or in the early morning hours. It is easy to get into the habit of being reactive. Instead, recognize that the individuals who sent those emails aren’t waiting idly by for your response; if that request demanded an immediate response, the email would have stated such, or a phone call would have followed the send. By planning ahead and maintaining focus on the most important tasks, you can prevent a frantic scramble for meeting deadlines, others’ and your own.
Next, learn the power of efficiency. Once you have sufficiently completed today’s project requirement, move on to the items demanding your attention. Prioritize those that are most critical or time sensitive. For those that require another’s action before you can contribute or respond, take a moment to issue asks for the information you need to move forward. Know when delegating to others on your team can contribute to greater efficiencies or prevent bottlenecks. In some cases, understand when the only forward progress you can make is to simply make a decision.
Finally, after a few weeks of abiding by this new schedule, review your progress. Take a look back and do a gut check. Did you feel more accomplished or less frenzied at the end of each day? Were you able to spend fewer hours recognizing greater output? Ask yourself if your efforts have led to significant progress toward your end goal. And remember, keep putting first things first.
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