As well as needing to make more and better decisions, we need to be choosy, processing information to sort the wheat from the chaff and the big opportunities from the even bigger ones. Ruthlessness isn’t just about how we process information, it’s also about our ability to protect our time and attention, focussing only on the things that add the greatest impact, even at the expense of other things that are ‘worth doing’.
Time Management Tip #1 : Be choosy, say “No” to ourselves
With abundance of information such a problem, being choosy is the only way. It goes against the western, protestant work ethic culture that we’re so familiar with to decide not to do things, but that’s exactly what we must do. Being much choosier about what we say “Yes” to is an important skill – and learning to say “No” to ourselves means not biting off more than we can chew.
If you do get into situations where you’ve bitten off more than you can chew (and I do this regularly,by the way!), it’s about realising that renegotiating your commitments to yourself and others is better than burning yourself out trying to meet them all.
Time Management Tip #2 : Unwanted work: saying ‘No’ to others
Picture this. You’re in a meeting that you thought you were attending purely to contribute to, and the meeting discussion begins to come around to some decisions and commitments about actions people could take at the end of the meeting. There’s a particular set of actions that you’re renowned for being good at, and just as it’s mentioned, several pairs of eyes turn and focus on you. Saying “No” to others is tricky. It requires steely resolve, a ruthless streak and some great tactics so that you come out smelling of roses.
Time Management Tip #3 : Interruptions
Our attention – particularly that proactive attention when we’re most alert, in flow and on top of our game – is arguably our most precious resource. It needs to be nurtured and valued. At the same time, there are a million interruptions out there: emails, phone calls, thoughts, stress, colleagues, social media, the next big crisis, the next big thing.
We often like to be distracted because it’s the perfect excuse for procrastination and thinking less. Facebook or Twitter win over the report we’re supposed to be finishing simply because it’s easier to be in those places, having conversations, than it is to get into the difficult thinking we’re supposed to be engaged in. (more on dealing with interruptions here)
and one extra! Time Management tip #4 : 80-20 and the power of impact thinking
Using the 80-20 rule, we can start to recognise that not all of what we do creates an equal amountof impact. 20% of what we do accounts for 80% of the impact. Often, there’s a temptation to aim for perfection. In some areas of our work, this perfection is healthy and even necessary but in other cases, it can be avoided and the impact on the final result hardly even noticed. So we need to be ruthless in our planning. What are we trying to achieve? Has someone else solved this problem before? Could we beg, borrow or steal?
I hope you enjoyed this article on increasing productivity by developing the ninja skill of ruthlessness. If you have any other time management tips, please feel free to share them below!