Busy but No Accomplishments
Author: Catherine Pulsifer
Do you ever feel like you have been busy all week but have not accomplished anything?
If you had to report on all your accomplishments for the week, would it make a difference?
Reporting Makes A Difference
It is amazing when we have to report what we've accomplished. We actually get done what needs to get done. But, if there is no reporting requirement then we can fill up a week with busy things yet never really accomplish anything. Why is this? It is because we have no focus.
I remember when I worked for my previous employer. Each quarter we had to report on what we accomplished in relation to our targets. You can be sure there was focus on these targets as I knew each quarter I had to comment on what we had achieved. In this situation, not only was reporting required , but if previously agreed upon outcomes were not forthcoming, consequences followed.
Now that I am working for myself, there is no one to report to. So it is very easy to be busy but accomplish very little. An example of this is one of my other websites. In this case, I had no newsletter that had to be done weekly. I had no updates to post. So I worked away on the website but with very little focus. I was getting frustrated as I felt I was investing a lot of time and seeing no progress.
So, I developed a list and each week, if I do nothing else, I make sure I complete the items on the list. I also put up a "What's New" section, each week. So now I am reporting to my readers. If I do nothing then the page would be blank. Not a good incentive for readers to come back and visit this particular site.
It is one thing to think you have important tasks to do but it is quite another to actually write these important tasks on paper. Why? To think to oneself about a priority is subject to loss of focus. The act of thinking does not mean that action has been initiated. And, further, even if action is started, there is no medium that holds one accountable to finish.
As I look back on my time in the corporate world, one thing has stuck like glue. That one thing is the necessity to establish priorities for my work. In fact, establishing priorities at work is really no different than setting priorities in reaching any goal. If you fail to set important tasks or chores in the order in which they should be completed, you'll find you never attain what you want when you want.
At work, I utilized probably what could now be considered as an age old strategy. This strategy is simple to put into motion but a lot more difficult to stick to. Here's what I mean by the strategy.
Begin Your Day
At the beginning of each week is the best time to establish the priorities of the day, the week, and the month. Now, to avoid confusion about the last statement, let's start out with setting task assignments for the day.
Before I begin, I would strongly suggest that you arrive at work at least a half-hour before your normal work day is scheduled to begin. The reason for this early start is to give you the time to adequately prepare your priority list. Now, once you arrive, you have the initial task of sorting through every file or request on your desk, and those you may have stored on your smart phone or tablet. The reason you have to check your emails is that a major or important duty or task may have been assigned to you or drawn to your attention on the weekend. (Note: hopefully, you turned off your email or cell phone during the weekend so you could have time to re-charge your own batteries).
Now that you have all the tasks or assignments available for review, you will need to take several minutes to sort each of these tasks into three separate piles, or lists. I use the term piles even though some of these tasks may be in an email or a phone message and are not actually written on paper. The idea here is to make a pile, or list, of the most crucial tasks that must be performed and completed. Some of these tasks may have already been assigned a due date by a superior, and therefore, the most urgent due date of an assignment must be completed. You might want to call this first list, Priority A.
The next step is to assign secondary tasks, that is those tasks or jobs that are required to be done, or be done by a certain date in the near future. These tasks then comprise a new list that I'd assign as Priority B.
And, finally, there are those tasks that have the least priority, ones that may take only a few minutes but have no urgency assigned to them. These tasks can be assigned to the list called Priority C.
One of the surest ways to maintain focus is to firmly establish the routine of beginning your A list priorities as soon as you officially start your day. Obviously, there are times when a certain activity cannot be initiated immediately because of other interrupting urgent demands. But, nevertheless, your priority remains the same. Now, one trap that derails every good intention of sticking to the A list priorities is the tendency for many to put off addressing a difficult A list priority. Why? Because an A list priority is probably difficult, challenging, or personally unrewarding.
So what inevitably happens is that one's focus turns to something easy and quick to do. This something is usually an item found on one's C list. By using your time for a C list item even though your mind tells you that you are accomplishing something on your list, you have not used your time wisely. Ask yourself this simple question: by finishing a C list item, did I contribute my time to tackling an A list priority? I know you know the answer. You obviously have not done one thing that would help to complete an A list item, and therefore, you have wasted valuable time.
Do not fall into this trap. It's too easy to do but offers nothing of value in return. And, don't make excuses why you spent time on a C list item by saying that you were simply getting into gear or that you felt a little tired and couldn't concentrate on an important task. Sure you may have been busy but your but you have been busy doing was not a priority. Every excuse is simply the lazy way out; let's face it, it's an excuse not worth taking the time to even mention.
My point in sharing my experiences with you is that your time is valuable. Your time once gone can never be gained again. And, while you can be busy, what are you accomplishing? Are you moving towards the goals in your life? Can you see the benefits of your work? And, most importantly, are you focused. Are you doing the right things, or are you just doing things?
Once The Day Is Gone
I recently found a quote card that I previously had hanging in my office. It says, "What I do today is important, because I am exchanging a day of my life for it." Reading this quote reminded me how important it is to be focused and use my time wisely. Once a day is gone you can never get it back!
Inspirational Quotes for Reflection:
"Your ability to set goals and to make plans for their accomplishment is the master skill of success." Brian Tracy
"Successful people have focus. They don't get easily distracted and they ignore things that are completely unnecessary." Penelope Holmes
"Remember that all the time management tools in the world won't get the job done if you either don't use them or don't buckle down and get to work." Julie Lewthwaite
"Life is not accountable to us. We are accountable to life." Denis Waitley
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