"While I never intended to be a productivity expert, people who attend my presentations and seminars have asked me to expand on this topic of productivity. Perhaps one of the reasons why my message is appealing is the simplicity of my approach."
David Horsager, author of The Daily Edge: Simple Strategies to Increase Efficiency and Make an Impact Every Day, is better known for his other book, The Trust Edge: How Top Leaders Gain Faster Results, Deeper Relationships, and a Stronger Bottom Line. Although his main platform and work is on the bottom-line impact of trust, attendees of his speeches had asked him to expand on the topic of productivity after he started implementing some of the techniques he learned and gathered. This book is the result of that request and focuses on “practical ways to be more efficient and effective while honoring relationships”.
The Big Idea
Aim for Excellence, not Perfection
"Excellence is efficient; perfection is not. At some point, you have to stop. I have seen many perfectionist business people get very little done… Part of achieving excellence is doing great work. Another part is doing it on time."
David is not encouraging sloppy work but is encouraging understanding the difference between efforts that improve work and those that don’t. And since part of excellence is making deadlines, knowing the difference—and when to stop—is crucial.
He recommends the following four techniques to help you overcome this hurdle:
- Do it right the first time: As reiterated in some of his other tips, never touch something more than once so do it well the first time around and then move on.
- Give yourself a time limit: Figure out how long the project should take and then aim for that “deadline” and as David mentions, having this self-imposed limit may actually make you work more efficiently.
- Know when to stop: Learn to determine when the project is over and any further changes are not necessary nor actual improvements, just changes; at this point, check your work and consider it done.
- Get feedback: if you can’t determine when to stop, ask for an outside perspective.
Manage Your Energy
"Understanding yourself can boost your productivity significantly. The key is completing the right tasks at the right time. When do you feel at your best? We all have a time of day when we feel most creative and productive."
Now that you understand to aim for excellence and not perfection, the next step is to figure out the right time of the day for given tasks. Since we all have different natural rhythms, figuring out when you are at your most energized and when at your most sluggish can make a huge impact on your productivity if you schedule accordingly, by allowing you to accomplish more in a shorter period of time.
For example, if you are at your most energetic in the morning, that’s when you should be doing the work that requires most focus and effort. That’s when you should implement the “power hour” David suggests: one hour when everyone knows that no calls, e-mails, or any interruptions at all are allowed. During this hour, turn everything off and just do you most important work.
And save the more brainless tasks for when you’re not your best and the energizing tasks for when you’re most sluggish. Since David is an extrovert and enjoys meeting people, he does that in the afternoon when his energy is starting to slump.
Plan Tomorrow Today
"Though an old idea, this is one of the most valuable. It’s hard to get a running start on the day without a plan. An old aphorism says, ‘He who fails to plan, plans to fail.’ You don’t want to waste your creative morning time wondering what you should do today."
Since most people are at their best in the morning, it makes sense not to waste that time on making a plan for the day; instead, spend the last part of every day looking ahead and deciding what needs to get done.
David suggests making a to-do list. One of the types he recommends in the book is the DMA (difference-making actions). Basically, on a sticky note, list your most important goal then underneath it, the five actions in descending order of importance that you can take to accomplish this goal. He suggests DMAs be focused, clear, realistic, and committed.
Whether you prefer a DMA or a regular to-do list, it’s still important to prioritize them. A good way to do this is to first number them by importance (with the most important getting the highest value), then by urgency (again, with the highest value going to what’s most urgent). When you’re done, add up both values and this will clearly indicate which tasks are both most important and urgent and therefore the ones you should tackle first the next day.
David provides many more useful tips on being more effective and efficient and I’ve listed a few more great ones below:
- Focus: ditch the multi-tasking since you can do things better one at a time. (Apparently so can our computers, as he explains under “optimize.”)
- Decide now: throw out anything you won’t go back to and just take the few minutes to accomplish that small task as it comes up so that you need not go back to it either; aim to either do it, use it, throw it away, or complete it now.
- SEEDS first: similar to managing your energy, focus on sleep, exercise, eating right, drinking water, and your source (like religion), all of which will power the rest.
- Efficient e-mail: get to ten e-mails or less in your in-box on a regular basis by either deleting/archiving, dealing, filing, or flagging it for follow-up if you can’t tackle it within two minutes.
He continues with many more tips including ones for phone habits, meetings, going paperless, making the most of business travel and much more. It’s a quick and very informative read, with motivational sayings at the end of each tip, so I highly recommend you pick it up for yourself.
Do you know the difference between excellence and perfection? How about what time of the day is your best? How will you apply this knowledge?