Almost everyone I encounter these days feels he or she has too much to handle and not enough time to get it all done.
David Allen, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
I was talking to a man this week who supervises eight other people. He is responsible for a chunk of geography within a large plant. He has to keep the people, and the plant itself (at least his corner of it) working well, he has to step up and do triage on all of those crises that pop up EVERYDAY!, and he is always behind. Always!
So, after quite a lengthy conversation, I finally grasped this: he has “started” with a very, usable, practical, workable system time and again, but he simply does not stick with his workable system. So – he then tries another “workable system,” and that doesn’t work either. So, starts and stops, time and again, and the work still piles up and he still does not get everything done.
Sound like anyone you know?
The issue is simple — we have an “execution” problem when it comes to time management & mastery. Knowing a system to use is a good first step. But executing, actually using that system effectively, is really the whole ball game.
You know how the interview goes:
interviewer: “Why did you not get everything done?”
interviewee: “Well, we had a great plan — we failed to execute.”
And to make matters worse, so much of our work is “undefined/mushy.” Allen again, from his book:
In the old days, you knew what work had to be done – you could see it. It was clear when the work was finished, or not finished. Now, for many of us, there are no edges to most of our projects. Most people I know have at least half a dozen things they’re trying to achieve right now, and even if they had the rest of their lives to try, they wouldn’t be able to finish these to perfection.
As we talked, I made a simple suggestion. Will he follow it, I don’t know. But I know enough to know that if you don’t do this, you will never get on top of things.
Here’s the suggestion: make a daily appointment with yourself – for the purpose of working, and staying on top of, your system. (This phrase, “make an appointment with yourself,” is a phrase I heard David Allen say years before he wrote Getting Things Done). In other words, you have to actually make time to work your system. A great system left “unworked” is not as good as a mediocre system faithfully worked.
So – if you want to stay on top of things, then carve out that daily meeting with yourself, to work your system.
You can purchase my synopsis of Getting Things Done, with handout + audio, at our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.