How to Get the Right Work Done

Getting things done isn’t about time management.. but rather about how you manage yourself and your choices, within the time you have available to you. – David Allen

Managing Workflow, Projects & Priorities

That’s what time management is really about to begin with. you have a limited resource (time) and an over abundance of activities / requests to attend to. It’s about capturing things we collect and create, deciding what (if anything) we want to do about them, organizing the results of that knowledge work into a trusted system we can review appropriately, and making intuitive strategic and tactical choices about what to do at any point in time from our options.

Stay Focused on What’s Important

Urgent tasks include things like:

  • That frantic e-mail that needs a response RIGHT NOW
  • A sudden request that seems like it’ll only take two minutes but often ends up taking an hour
  • A report you’ve got to write up before a meeting

More often than not, “urgent” is:

  • Putting out fires
  • Busywork
  • Tasks that you’d rather do first because they’re less intimidating than your current project list
  • Usually short-term

Important work is:

  • Moves you and your business toward your goals
  • Doesn’t give you that same shot of adrenaline that the urgent requests do
  • Can involve thinking out long-term goals, being honest about where you are and where you want to be
  • Can be plain hard work that feels boring and tedious


Effective To-Do Lists

Break it down! Then break it down some more. Don’t confuse to-do’s with goals or projects. A to-do is a single, specific action that will move a project toward completion. It’s just one step. For example, “Plan the committee lunch” is a project. “E-mail Karen to get catering contact” is a to-do. In this case, the action of e-mailing Karen is a simple, two-minute undertaking—something small and innocuous that you can do without thinking. The lunch plans won’t be complete after you’ve fi nished this to-do, but you’ll be much closer than you were while you were ignoring the “Plan the committee lunch” project. After it’s done?

Add the next step to your list. Breaking down your task to the smallest possible action forces you to think through each step up front. With the thinking out of the way, it’s easy to dash off that e-mail, make that call, or file that report, and move your work along with much less resistance.
Use specific action verbs and include details; “Call Dr. M. at 555-4567 for a cleaning any time before 11 AM on January 17, 18, or 19” is an example of a specific, detailed to-do

Self-Imposed Deadlines
  • Start your day as early as possible
  • Tackle similar small tasks back-to-back
  • Break a large project into a sequence of tasks, progressing from longer to shorter

In an early blog post I covered this topic of effective Work Sprints & Daily Planning.

Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time

How can your company’s organizational health help you? What are the workflow & organizational effectiveness practices that need to be in place in order for you to maximize your energy?

Management Time: Who’s Got the Monkey?
  • Make appointments to deal with “Monkeys”
  • Specify level of initiative
  • Agree on a status update
  • Examine your own motives
  • Develop employee’s skills
  • Foster trust

Anything you need to get done that requires concentration & a focused effort.. block your calendar in order to get it done.. because we never end-up “finding” time to do what’s most important. You have to make time.

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