Do you feel your efforts at work are being ignored? Are you often overwhelmed by a long list of tasks and chores, unsure of where to start? If you could benefit from a new focus for your energy, spend a few minutes considering this tried and tested advice.
Productivity expert Brian Tracy believes the crucial factor in becoming more successful is to identify the actions and tasks which will produce the greatest benefits. In his 2001 book, Eat That Frog!, he states: “There are so many good things you can do that your ability to decide among them may be the most critical determinant of what you accomplish in life.”
Tracy’s advice is to select the most important task at each moment, the one which will have the greatest positive impact on your life. This applies both to the workplace and life in general. One useful tool in this process is to try to predict the consequences and evaluate the significance of each action. Accurate “long-term perspective” is a vital skill.
He also advises that you identify your special talents and commit to working on them. Consider those things that you do easily that other people find challenging. What are you often complimented on? What has brought you the greatest success so far? What do you do that leads to the mental state of “flow,” in which everything feels effortless and you lose track of time? Tracy says that “one of your great responsibilities in life is to decide what you really love to do and then to throw your whole heart into doing that special thing very, very well.”
Try writing a list of goals you would like to achieve in the next 12 months, then select the one which will make you happiest above all the rest. Once selected, map out how you can achieve this goal including the resources needed and a deadline. Break it down to smaller, logical segments and think of ways to take action toward it every day. Although it may take large amounts of energy to get going, it takes far less energy to keep going, so make a start, no matter how small. In this way you will get the highest possible return for your effort. Stepping back to take this point of view, and acting on it, will lead to positive feedback which will produce a “high,” and will become habitual.
To motivate yourself to complete the task you have identified, consider the rewards and benefits. Imagine the satisfaction and pride you will feel. Counter any pessimistic thoughts with positive ones because your self-esteem, “your reputation with yourself,” is central to your motivation.
Tracy makes the point that there will never be enough time to do everything on your list, and he understands the temptation to clear up the smaller, less daunting tasks first. But he urges us to “eat the biggest, ugliest frog first.” The essence of time management, he believes, is control over what you do next. It’s crucial to remember that “picking up always means putting down.” Most people find this very difficult at first. But bear in mind that time will pass whatever you do, so the real question is how you use it and where you end up.
Ten practical tips for increased effectiveness:
- Decide exactly what you want. Clarity is essential.
- Identify your areas of weakness and make a plan to improve them.
- Prepare in advance of a task by gathering the resources you need.
- Familiarize yourself with the subject matter to feel more confident.
- Acquire the core skills and competencies in your field.
- Ask yourself why you haven’t achieved your goals so far. What is holding you back? Then alleviate the main “limiting factor.”
- Identify the times of day when you work best. Use these times for the most demanding tasks.
- Refuse to let the unavoidable difficulties and setbacks of daily life affect your optimism.
- Think creatively: “How can I be more productive?”
- Motivate yourself. No one will do it for you. In other words, choose your own frogs and make yourself eat them!
Tracy, Brian. 2007. Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.