Busy or Productive?

The Busy Day

The day has ended, and you look back at it only to see that you cannot name one major thing that you have accomplished. You worked hard bouncing from one task to another. Often, there were some tasks that you could not finish because there were several tasks that had to be done first. Almost like a domino effect:  “I can’t finish that task until I do this and I can’t finish this until I do that, etc.” And don’t forget there were several that could not be completed because you are still waiting for someone else to complete theirs first. “I have been busy all day, but can’t see where I have accomplished anything,” you sigh. So, have you been productive or just “busy all day?”

The Problems

My biggest problem is distractions. I get bored of the task, or it becomes laborious, and I get distracted. I want to move onto something more interesting, challenging, and entertaining. The second biggest problem is that I get the task/time frame wrong. I over commit or estimate wrong. Many times I have more task than I do time. I will begin the task and then run out of time, and then that task sits idle until I think I have enough time to finish it. Often I have committed to another task that now has screamed for my attention. This leads to busyness, but not productivity. There is a simple solution.

A Solution

pexels-photo-268351.jpeg   I would love to take credit for this but I can’t. It’s not my idea. However, I can tell you without a doubt I have used it to my advantage many times and still do. I won’t recount the whole story here, but I think you can get the gist of it. During the grand railroad building and iron boom of the late 1800s and early 1900s, there was business advisor/consultant named Ivy Lee. He went to see a very successful Charles M. Schwab (not the investor). He promised Schwab that he could help him increase productivity. Schwab told Lee that he only had twenty-five minutes before he had to catch a train and that he needed more “doing” and less “knowing.” Lee took out a 3×5 card and handed it to Schwab. He further gave him directions. Here they are modified to some degree as I have used this method: (You can also find the whole story on the internet)

  1. At the end of the day write down ten (10) things that you have to accomplish the next day. If ten is too much, start with five.
  2. Rearrange these in the order of importance with the most important thing you have to get accomplished at the top and the next and so on down the list.
  3. The next day work on the number one item as much as you can. I mean work that puppy for all its worth either until it is complete or you can do no more on it. Then move on to number two and so on.
  4. At the end of the day sit down and rewrite your list on another 3×5 card just like number one above and the next day repeat steps 1-4.

Go For It

All this may sound too simple. That is what Schwab thought too until he tried it and then had all his managers try it too. It took Lee about twenty-five minutes to explain all this to Schwab. He then told Schwab to pay him whatever he felt the information was worth to him. Several weeks later Schwab sent Lee a check for $25,000. A $1000 a minute is what Schwab felt the information was worth. What’s it worth to you? Try it for a week and then share with me how it has worked for you.

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