Getting the Right Things Done

“I have come to learn that part of the business strategy is to solve the simplest, easiest, and most valuable problem. And actually, in fact, part of doing strategy is to solve the easiest problem, so part of the reason why you work on software and bits is that atoms [physical products] are actually very difficult. ~ Reid Hoffman

The 80/20 rule works. There is a choice you can make on what to work on next that has the biggest bang for the buck. However, it’s hard to pick that strategy to commit to when grinding in the onslaught of demands.

Break it down:

  1. What is simplest?
  2. What is easiest?
  3. What is the most valuable problem?

If you are simply stuck in your inbox, you are reacting to other people’s requests and demands. You are playing defense.

I don’t think pushing harder on mediocre activities is great business. It can look like hard work, when in actuality, it is a form of laziness. Thinking about what the next right thing to do is what matters to knowledge work. The hard thinking, rather than the hard working, moves the needle.

So, what is the next right thing to do?

Reduce the Handoffs to Increase Efficiency

Image provided by Today Testing

Every handoff in your business is a failure point. When one person is handling information and moving execution to the next step, often you can get things done without many mistakes or delays.

When you have to hand off a lead, support call, requirements, or project task, it’s risk. What if the information is not correct? Is there nuance and clarity that have to be transferred?

Many projects need teams to deliver. But often, when we are growing businesses, we simply get fat and waste can build up. There are often unnecessary handoffs where it can be faster with less errors by cutting out steps, people or information.

With this season of downtime, what if you took inventory and got rid of handoffs that no longer make sense?

Look at when a customer starts their engagement with your company. How much work do they have to do before they get contacted? Can you automate the first touches?

Here are some other ideas to drive throughput by eliminating or reducing handoffs:

  1. Where does a request get bottlenecked? Consolidate the work with one person or automate the task using software.
  2. Set the expected response time for team tasks. Track this for 30 days. If you get a 3 day average response for something that should take 1 day, get the responsible parties involved and set up a new incentive to meet the customer expectation.
  3. Map out your steps. See if you can cut out steps that do not add value.
  4. For work that needs to be highly responsive, hire a support vendor or get a virtual assistant. It will force you to define what has to be done and you can manage accountability.
  5. Cut out any middlemen and replace it with direct service or engagement.

Handoffs usually develop because we hope to get some kind of efficiency, but we don’t revisit whether we have failure in speed or unnecessary mistakes. Take it back to simplicity, and care about your customer by removing the waste that simply happens because of unexamined workflow.

As the New Year is commencing, you can tighten your workflow up by looking at all those handoffs which create problems and bottlenecks.

Where are you finding handoff issues?

Schedule Working Meetings

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I am a big fan of working meetings. They cut through the back and forth of getting something done. It actually creates time and space to get real work done in real-time with another person or group.

Too often, we talk about the secondary stuff:

What we are going to do.

When we are going to do something.

Who should be a part of the work.

What resources are required.

In actuality, you can save a lot of time and get things moving by simply working.

So, when I see a thread going back and forth too often, my need for closure kicks in. Open loops drive me nuts after a while.

It’s inefficient to hide behind the chatter. Instead, lead. Make working meetings a part of your execution process. It’s energizing to bring together short, focused meetings to accomplish one thing. Here’s a simple way:

  1. Stop. Move an email and conversation that is going back and forth to a meeting instead. “I’m going to get us together to get this done.”
  2. Schedule. I have an article sharing best practices on putting a meeting together using your Google or Outlook calendar.
  3. Work. Open the call, online meeting or in-face time with one goal and let everyone know. “We are here to get this proposal created and emailed.”

In the meeting, simply facilitate and work. Ultimately, this is a process of leadership. You have to lead. Get the decision. Send out what you promised. Write up the new standard operating procedure.

When you find yourself procrastinating, perhaps the task feels undefined and overwhelming. A working meeting can increase the energy and motivation with other people to get clear and move bottlenecks through your pipeline of tasks.

That ability to move from talking to action is critical in an overly competitive and inattentive world. Cut through it with the determination to work with your team and customers. It’s efficient and fits the times.

Hidden Habits


The older I get the less I assume that success and failure is accidental. Something hidden led up to what we see. We simply don’t look behind the appearance enough.

Success in business, life, family, relationships and finances have hidden habits behind them. But it’s not fashionable to think that the slow, consistent and committed day in, day out work or grind are the backstory. That’s painful, boring and not immediate.

Ramit Sethi’s Secret Habits article is a fun read if you want to get a more blunt perspective of what I am talking about. He’s right. I have to admit, I have a lot of hidden habits that I simply don’t share, or I am unaware of my habits that impact my outcomes.

Doing the small things over time lead up to who we are, where we end up and why we get what we get.

Imagine that you would be an entirely different person with a few small tweaks done consistently:

  • Read thirty minutes first thing in the morning
  • Express gratitude to every person who has done you a kindness
  • Walk for an hour a day
  • Drink six glasses of water every day

But those are hard to do. And that’s why so few people get to enjoy success. They don’t look at it as work. They are simply hidden habits that bear out over time.

You can also practice adverse habits regularly and experience a totally different life:

  • Obsess about social media posts and news
  • Gossip
  • Binge on Netflix
  • Get everyone to like you

What do you think would happen over time with such habits? Is discontent or fruitlessness accidental? You get what you practice over many weeks, months and years. And you become that person you practice.

If you’re frustrated, how about swapping out a habit for something you want in order to get to where you want to go?

It’s a fair world. Maybe not digestible, but fair, nonetheless.

The Only Answer is Repetition


At some point, there’s nothing more to change or create. You know what to do and only dogged determination and repetition with accountability will work. This is the part of scaling that moves the ball inches at a time and is quite painful.

Repeating what everyone has agreed to can seem tedious, but it is critical. Articulating your core values until everyone buys in is indispensable. Reviewing what steps need to be taken to make customers happy cannot be compromised. These rituals are relentless and are daily mantras that are part of execution.

Repetition is an age-old habit that gets groups moving in the same direction. While I wish that people could simply download instructions once and execute perfectly thereafter, that is not the case when it comes to scaling. You have to say what you want many times and do it repeatedly until a task, process or habit sticks.

Our temptation is to go back to what we know or did before. Growing is hard and we resist it because our old embedded habits have a grip on us.

The new tasks or habits are there for the taking. We are not necessarily fighting an information misunderstanding. We are fighting ourselves. We have anchors that have been established and something new is a disruptor.

If you are in the business of growing, you undoubtedly will run into the reality of execution. You have to do what you have agreed upon is the new way. And that kind of implementation will come down to saying it and doing it over and over until you see what needs to happen materialize consistently and become the new normal.

What are you trying to execute repeatedly?

Solve Your Slow Workflow Now


Most people are in utter chaos. Try calling someone today in the middle of the day and a random sampling will show you how frenzied and reactive most people are operating. Our heads are spinning from the ridiculous amount of information, most which does not matter. But we still have to give attention to the requests, ideas and project work coming at us.

Do you want to solve the problem? It requires a commitment to productivity and speed. Hiding behind the overwhelming work just makes it less desirable to do business with you otherwise.

Speed is something you can gain in your workflow, but you have to acknowledge the problem – you are slow and overwhelmed.

How about learning to become fast and far ahead of the game? You have to want it. Without this, then it’s just an existence of catch-up and mediocre output.

What if you could be 5-10x faster at email? What if you could make space and time for thinking creatively rather than just getting through tasks?

You need training to make that happen. Training used to be formal and large companies had official programs to help knowledge workers move through management, productivity and projects.

Today, you’re on your own. Noone is telling you what to do. They just marginalize you and avoid doing business with you.

Consider fixing the problem and do a deep dive once and for all to get a return forever. You will spend years working. But will you be able to move efficiently day in and day out?

Want to be faster? Connect with me and I’ll show you a path to productivity. Put it to rest by getting the asset that matters more and more in this age of choice.

The Unapparent Hidden Things

If you look carefully, or care for that matter, then you can see the diamond in the rough. Those are the people that matter a thousand times more than others and have special qualities to help you or support you.

The same is true for the systems that will allow you to be productive and selling. Ignore most of the hype or extra layers that you see. Stick to the winners which make a large impact.

Many times, it’s the hidden things that make the most impact. You have to look under the surface and think through the strategic side rather than simply grinding it out.

If you are pointed in the wrong direction, then a hidden truth and strategy takes time to observe, think about and commit to.

Sometimes, things are not hidden. The best answers are staring you in the face, but you have not put all the pieces together in a way that makes maximum impact. It’s unapparent, though visible.

I don’t think the hidden things are elusive. They just don’t get the attention to make an impact until you think it through. You have to value strategy more than tactics to avoid wastefully working.

Do you look for the hidden things that would bring you exponential gains?

Make Things Happen, Don’t Wait

I am not sure there are many safe places to hide any more. You can’t hang low collecting a paycheck hoping your bosses don’t notice. And everyone’s getting squeezed.

I have already been in several conversations with business owners this past week and we were talking about reducing overhead and running their businesses leaner with less people. It’s common sense thinking for an owner. They are in the business to serve their customers and make money, not necessarily be a professional employer.

The great news, however, is that all this change, all this speed and all this access to tools allows anyone to make things happen.

Living in quiet desperation is painful and unnecessary. If you have been practicing, like most people, the habit of waiting for something to happen, snap out of it. That kind of habit is a sure way of setting yourself up to lose.

Things happen because of the people that go out into the world and make things happen, not waiting for something to happen.

It starts with an idea. And if you don’t have any ideas, then start practicing thinking and sharing your ideas.

When you are clear and determined, start pulling the resources towards your idea. Those are the people, apps, tools and other things you need to make your idea work.

It’s not expensive compared to 20 years ago. You have more resources available to you than ever before. But if you are waiting around waiting for someone else with ideas to approach you and invite you into a gig or opportunity, then you are missing out on the opportunity to develop the skills you need to survive today.

The cheese has moved and the world is quickly favoring those that make things happen, not wait for something to happen.

Try getting someone to follow you today on one idea. Then do it tomorrow and every day. You will be getting in the game around you.

Managing the Ask

If you feel overwhelmed in life or seem to be putting out fires all the time without much forward progress, then consider how you manage expectations.

I can understand that when you want to be helpful or valuable that it is easy to jump at requests. Or sometimes, you may not know that you are being asked for something because of your eagerness.

Someone may want something from you and you see it as helping. Depending on your relationships and the frequency you are asked for help, consider managing the ask with your own ask back.

Someone might say,

“Can you get help me put this presentation together?”


“Could you get this work done for me?”

The ask can come in many different forms. And the thing is that there’s not a cost for asking.

But you can create one for those that might freely use your time, attention or money by simply asking back.

“Sure, can you do me a favor first … ?


“Not a problem. Glad to help. How about you do this first and then get back to me and let me know what you find.”

You can be simple, polite and free. You can lead by seeing if the person requesting your resources is willing to pay a small cost to value the request they make of you.

Why is this so important? So you don’t become resentful. You don’t have to be subject to the whims of people. We live in a fast moving economy and you have goals of your own and only so much energy.

If people can get something for nothing, surely they will. But that’s not their fault. It’s simply deal making.

And you want to exchange value with the traders that are willing to pay a cost, however small, to show a gesture of good faith.

How can you practice asking back to make better deals with others and yourself?

Don’t Hide Behind Spending Money

It is so fascinating to see how exponential growth from lower cost in technology is flattening the world. There is unprecedented democratization around bringing our ideas to market. And it starts with an idea.

Many people that are trying entrepreneurship start out with money. Dumping money into building something perfect is an easy way to hide. It’s the Field of Dreams mentality of “Build it and they will come.”

The reality is that spending money on an untested idea is more like “Build it and you will likely miss.”

There is plenty of technology and platforms to see if your idea even has legs. The concept has to be first put out there to see if you can get people to try it out.

Here’s a simple example. If you have some annoying problem working, cooking or fixing, try putting your idea on Quirky. See if your starting concept gets some other influencers. It was extremely hard to make your idea get to some kind of physical product because of the design, engineering, prototyping, manufacturing, and many other steps in a go-to-market process.

Now, you can use a platform, connect your idea with the world and see how a simple ember of an idea can turn into a bonfire of a product that changes the world.

Don’t start selling your idea. Prove your idea first. Use platforms that are near zero cost. Work hard at seeing if people will even buy in. If you can see if people like and will buy something at a small scale, with imperfection, then scaling with perfection is the second step. Doing the second step first often kills otherwise good ideas and it’s not a great entrepreneurial strategy when you have the resources to help you be a prototyper. No need to be an idealist.

What can you test first?