Be a Ruthless Pruner

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We are always working on yesterday’s commitments. And when we have committed, it’s so easy to make those decisions sacred. Such reverence for our past commitments builds up continual clutter, drag and mediocrity in our work and lives. Without knowing it, we are managing many subpar projects, possessions and relationships at the cost of what could be the best. We don’t have room to invite, entertain or adopt the best.

Pruning cuts out what is less than optimal so the main part of what matters can grow stronger. It’s a habit that has to be practiced daily in order to make room for the best.

If you find yourself in a slump, prune. You will gain energy from getting lighter.

If you need new creative direction, you don’t simply get inspired with more creativity. I don’t think there’s even a lack of creativity. In fact, creativity shows up when you make more time or free up resources.

Ruthlessly prune projects that simply don’t have a payoff anymore. Your brain wants to fill that time and space with new options. The brain can’t help it.

Nature hates a vacuum and when you prune, you create a vacuum to be filled.

In the process of pruning, you might also discover the things that really matter. Double up on those commitments, projects and relationships. The pruning revealed what is gold and truly matters. Frittering away your life, energy and resources on things that don’t matter or create high value simply spreads you thin at the cost of what is best.

It’s a hyper-competitive world with millions of people. You likely have a few things that you can go big on and add real value to carve out a place for yourself or stand out. How can you get there managing, struggling and emotionally attaching yourself to commitments that don’t have any potential of big payoffs?

What’s one thing that doesn’t matter right now you can ruthlessly prune? 

Set Important Decisions to Opt-out

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There is such a thing as decision fatigue. Your willpower and ability to make effective decisions changes over the course of a day from mental weariness. When it comes to trying to respond and keep up with the demands of knowledge work, it’s hard to stay sharp and it’s easy to push out things that are important in exchange for the urgent.

There are important things I want to happen regardless of the tsunami of inputs. I want to spend time with my wife and kids. I want to fit into my pants and be able to climb a mountain without problems. I want to enjoy good friendships and fun. I want my responsibilities as a business owner, family man and consultant to be done well and on time.

Thus, I put the important things in my Gmail task list and my Google Calendar. They are recurring and for me to skip an appointment or task becomes a decision to opt-out. I think important things should be opt-out. Otherwise, the decision has to keep being evaluated, and depending on circumstances, I may bypass what I already decided was important.

It’s better to see that date, my workout or my weekly list of deliverables in my calendar and task list. I show up and get it done. The decision was already made and it’s one less item I have to think about.

What do you want to get done every week or month? How about making a list and getting those things into your calendar. Book that room, pay for that membership, send the invitation or develop a weekly list you have to opt-out of each week. You have effectively saved yourself some decision making fatigue in this crazy world that can easily topple you off your game.

Manage Oneself

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That one can truly manage other people is by no means adequately proven. But one can always manage oneself. Indeed, executives who do not manage themselves for effectiveness cannot possibly expect to manage their associates and subordinates. Management is largely by example. Executives who do not know how to make themselves effective in their own job and work set the wrong example. ~ Peter Drucker, The Effective Executive

I side with Drucker. I do not think that managing other people is adequately proven. Most of the conversation I have experienced about work is complaining about employees and managers.

The one thing I can control is my own effectiveness. I work hard to improve my habits and get output from my labor. A lot of this is keeping to rituals, pushing to learn something new every day and staying humble.

Last week my lists of projects were getting out of hand. It was one of those cycles where the pile was keeping me from seeing the important things to get done. So I do what I always do:

  1. Cut out things that don’t matter
  2. Completed and shipped low hanging fruit
  3. Simplified my lists
  4. Identified the big things that did matter

I can’t control the chaos, but working through my own management processes over the years has been cathartic and effective. It’s extremely satisfying to manage my own effectiveness and see where that might spill over and move the needle elsewhere.

These Are Never a Waste of Time

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My days, like many of yours, are jammed with demands that relentlessly pull at me. It’s not hard to simply jump into the chaos and push forward on every front. It can feel productive, but often times it is simply reactive. And, if I’m not careful, I’m simply treading water. I have a lot of activity without results. No fun. Wasteful.

I try to keep a short list of important things that feed me and add to my well-being. I always tell people, “You cannot give what you do not possess.” If you want to be a person of value, then you have to increase your own value consistently. That’s why I don’t carry guilt, and I try to make time for these priorities when the world is swirling. They are never a waste of time:

  • Books. I read as much as I can during the days. It’s a way to rest and stretch the mind beyond tasks and projects. I get insights that others have explored in their fields of expertise without having to live an entirely different life. It is always worth it to read, think and grow.
  • Sleep. My emotions can get pretty raw on little sleep. I’m no good to the people that need me – my family, friends and customers – if I’m sick or tired. It’s never a waste to get extra shuteye. Getting to bed early, taking naps and even sleeping in help me be valuable to others and move through days with clarity and calm. Check out Arianna Huffington’s The Sleep Revolution to see how important it is to be fully rested.
  • A kind word. Everyone has problems. It’s a tough world we all live in. It’s never a waste of time to pause, be thoughtful and care. I like sharing a favorite proverb with my kids, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” It’s such a beautiful picture of what an exquisite gift and setting it is to provide the right word in the right moment to the right person. It takes thought, care and everything inside you working together well to be a person that can give a kind word. Making someone’s day is so fun.
  • Gaining wisdom. Taking time to think about life’s lessons or listening carefully to the wisdom from others saves a lot of grief. I like to stop and examine what has happened to me and how to avoid temptations, scenarios and people that get me into circumstances I don’t like. Why repeat negative experiences? A little thought and thoughtfulness is never a waste of time. Repeating foolish mistakes takes far more time and energy.
  • Family. My wife and kids refresh me. We laugh, play, support each other, banter, and love each other. Our times together help all of us to take on the world. We are there for each other. We entertain each other. We grow together. It’s always time well spent to be together as a family.

I don’t like wasting time. And as life and work keep moving along like a treadmill, I indulge in these things to keep me going and keep me growing. Perhaps you can keep a short list or take a few of these ideas to default to regularly to keep your own personal growth a priority.

Lead with Your Calendar Invitations

 

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How are you managing your calendar?

Peter Drucker said it best when it comes to the work we do today, “In knowledge work, the task is not given. It has to be determined.”

We are in a world where there is a lot of information flying around. Sometimes, we are being social. Other times we are trying to get clear.

One of the best leadership habits you can drive to get deals and projects done is to put full attention on a goal. And the way to lead efficiently is to master your online calendar. Make it a leadership tool by setting time and space to have meaningful focused conversations with your prospects, clients and partners.

I use Google Calendars within my Google Apps workflow. Most of the business world either uses Google Apps or Microsoft Outlook. Either one works. The key is to master appointment setting in either scenario.

Here are best practices you can use to stop wasting a lot of energy and time on back and forths and drive decisions with a set aside meeting time:

  • Move from ambiguity. If you find yourself going back and forth in emails and texts, simply say you will send a calendar invitation so you can discuss and make a decision.
  • Write clear subject lines. Put the goal in the Calendar invitation subject. Making it something like “Deal Decision with Don” keeps the focus on the outcome you are wanting and avoids wasting time.
  • Fill in the “Where” field with what is easy. If you have to show something on your desktop then simply use a tool like join.me which also has a Google Chrome extension to auto-fill calendar invitations in an integrated way. Or you can put your phone number or the invitees so you don’t have to remember it. When the calendar event comes up everyone knows where to call. Make it easy so you don’t have to think when the time comes.
  • Write a clear personal note in the Description field. If you are like me and have many meetings, you don’t want to have to think. You are moving fast. Write a clear personal note that informs you and your invitees what the meeting is about and what the goal is. This way you can move from meetings and be oriented to what you want to accomplish. Using numbered lists and goals is also a great way to focus the conversation. Give you and everyone in the invitation what you need to make it a productive time.
  • Add invitees. The mechanism for inviting people is extremely helpful. They can accept, reject or tentatively accept the meeting. This drives commitment to a time to talk. You can avoid inefficient back and forths, especially with a large group of people. Everyone can use the calendar invitation automation to converge on a time that works. Your invitee list will display who has accepted or rejected. You can simply move the meeting to better times accordingly as well.

If you take a few minutes of work to ensure you understand the features of your calendar invitation system it can pay immense business dividends. Effectively, you become a knowledge worker that is leading. You can drive conversations that lead to clarity, deals and opportunities. This is especially critical where there is a large amount of inattention and disorganization.

How can calendar invitations streamline your workflow and productivity? What do you think?

Want More Play? Then Commit to This

Playing in the mountains.
Playing in the mountains.

“The more you like to play, the more self-disciplined you should be.” ~ Robert Ringer

I like to play. Maybe work is your life. Not me. My work building businesses and growing ventures is a lot of fun and fulfilling, but ultimately, I play as much as anyone I know.

And because I like to play, I focus on extreme productivity, self-discipline and execution. It’s a first things first mentality. I get a reward if I keep things simple, focused and vigilant when it comes to getting things done.

Entrepreneurship has a lot of ebb and flow to the opportunities and the work that percolates. That’s why keeping your energy high is critical.

Furthermore, your ability to make money will be correlated to your creativity. I like spend a lot of time thinking, reading and playing. My productivity allows me to do this and my creativity feeds my productivity. They are symbiotic and necessarily so in entrepreneurship.

Grinding it out daily can be disheartening and demotivating without regular rewards. Play keeps me self-disciplined so I can do more of what I want.

So, what about your self-discipline? Could you use these strategies to increase your own effectiveness?

  • Commit to extreme productivity
  • Be sure to touch ten people daily
  • Grow in your knowledge and share it daily
  • Manage your calendar like a pro for yourself and scheduling meetings
  • Most things don’t matter, so say, “No,” often
  • Get to bed early and wake up fresh

You have to want self-discipline. It’s unnatural. That’s why such intentionality is required. And I think it’s easier to want something when the reason is clear.

For me, more play is a priority. How about you?