Time Power: Developing the Work Habits to Get Things Done

03/03/2023by dang tin0

Developing the Work Habits to Get Things Done

‘‘Man is not the creature of circumstances; circumstances are the creatures of men. We are free agents, and man is more powerful than matter.’’ BENJAMIN DISRAELI

Good work habits go hand in hand with success in every area of endeavor. There is nothing that will bring you to the attention of your superiors faster than developing a reputation for being a good, dependable worker. How you work determines the quality and quantity of your rewards. How you work determines how much you earn, how effective you are, how much you are respected in your organization, and how much real satisfaction you get out of your job.
Unfortunately, most people are poor workers. They are unorganized, unfocused, and easily distracted. They work at about 50 percent of capacity. Sadly enough, they don’t even seem to know how to work any differently. Even if they wanted to, it is like speaking a foreign language; they wouldn’t know how to do it without flrst being taught.

Much of the blame for poor work habits goes back to the school system and the attitudes of teachers toward academic excellence and parents toward homework. If people go through ten or twelve or even flfteen years of schooling and never have to learn how to settle down and produce good quality work, it’s not surprising they will have a hard time producing high-quality work when they enter the job market.

The Habits of Highly Productive People

In this chapter, you will learn how to develop the habits of highly productive people. To begin with, the foundations of good work habits can be summarized in two words: focus and concentration.

Focus on What Is Important to Your Most Important Goal Focus requires clarity concerning the desired results and the relative priority of each step that you need to take to achieve those results. When you think of focus, think of a photographer adjusting his lens to keep the key subject sharp in the center of the picture.
To be truly effective at work, you must be continually adjusting your lens to be sure that what you are working on is the most important thing you could be doing at the moment to achieve your most important goal. The worst waste of time is doing something very well that need not be done at all.

Concentrate Your Energies

Concentration requires the ability to stay with a task until it is 100 percent complete. Concentration means that you work in a straight line to get from where you are to where you want to go without diversion or distraction. Concentration requires that you stay on task, without getting sidetracked into doing things of lesser importance.
There is a story of a traveler in ancient Greece who met an old man on the road and asked him how he could get to Mount Olympus. The old man, who turned out to be Socrates, replied by saying, ‘‘If you really want to get to Mount Olympus, just make sure that every step you take is headed in that direction.’’

If you want to accomplish your goals, you must be sure that everything you do is taking you in that direction. This decision alone will dramatically increase the quality and quantity of what you get done each day.

Four Steps to High Productivity

There are four main steps to high productivity, and they cannot be repeated too often:

1. Set clear goals and objectives in writing. Think through what you are trying to accomplish before you begin. Ask yourself, ‘‘What am I trying to do? How am I trying to do it?’’ Whenever you experience frustration of any kind, go back and repeat these questions.

2. Develop a detailed plan of work and action for achieving your goal. Setting clear goals answers the ‘‘What am I trying to do?’’ question. Making detailed plans of action answers the question of ‘‘How am I trying to do it?’’

3. Set clear priorities with each of your work tasks organized in a hierarchy of value and importance to the desired result. Apply the 80/20 rule over and over, day by day, and hour by hour, before you embark on any task or activity. Discipline yourself to work on your highest priority before you do anything else.

4. Concentrate single-mindedly, without diversion or distraction, on the most important thing you can do to achieve the goal. This is the real key to getting things done.

The Benefits of Concentration

There are several beneflts from learning how to concentrate. First, important task completion is a source of energy, enthusiasm, and self-esteem. On the other hand, failure to complete important tasks, or to complete them only partially, is not only a major source of stress, but it depletes your enthusiasm and self esteem.
When you complete an important task, you experience a surge of energy and well-being. But when you work on an unim- portant task, even if you complete it in a timely fashion, you get no feeling of satisfaction or personal reward at all.
Disciplining yourself to concentrate on a job until it is flnished gives you a feeling of confldence, competence, and mastery. It gives you an experience of self-control, so you feel that you are in charge of your own destiny.

The Habit of Task Completion

The habit of completing your tasks, flnishing what you start, is an essential part of character building. You cannot imagine a fully mature, fully functioning person who is unable to flnish what she begins. The development of this habit is the key to long-term success.

You can accelerate the process of becoming a highly produc- tive person by regularly visualizing yourself as focused and chan- neled toward high achievement. See yourself as a highly productive, efflcient person. Feed your subconscious mind with this picture until it is accepted as a command. Remember, the person you ‘‘see’’ is the person you will ‘‘be.’’

Your subconscious cannot tell the difference between a real experience and one that you vividly imagine. If you create an imaginary picture of yourself performing in an efflcient and effective way, your subconscious mind reacts exactly as if that is what you were actually doing at the moment. Each time you replay

this image of yourself performing at your best, your subcon- scious mind records it exactly as if it were happening again. It then adjusts your words, actions, and behavior so that your actions on the outside are consistent with the picture you have created on the inside.

Each time you remember an occasion when you were performing at your best with confldence, your mind imprints it into your self-concept. The more often you see yourself as the very best that you can possibly be, the more rapidly this becomes your automatic behavior. You program yourself for success by feeding your mind with positive pictures, either images that you create, or repeat pictures of previous peak-performance experiences.

Combine Thoughts with Feelings

The principle of emotionalization is powerful when you use it in conjunction with visualization. There is a formula that says ‘‘thought times emotion equals result’’ (T X E = R). What this means is that if you create a clear mental picture of yourself working efflciently and well, and you combine that with the emotions of enthusiasm and enjoyment, your subconscious mind accepts this picture more rapidly as a command. Therefore, it more rapidly becomes your current behavior.

A powerful method for reprogramming your subconscious mind with the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of highly pro- ductive people is for you to ‘‘act as if’’ you were already the efflcient, effective person that you desire to be.

Assume the Position

It turns out that there is a physical position for almost every mental or emotional state. There is body language for good work habits as well. For example, if you work at a desk and you sit up straight, erect, and lean forward, you actually trigger a feeling of being more productive. If you walk briskly, with your head up, your shoulders back, and your chin held high, you tend to feel like a more confldent and productive person.

The Law of Reversibility says that if you feel a particular way on the inside, you will act that way on the outside. It also says that if you act as if you already felt the way you desire, your actions, which are under your direct control, will create the feel- ings, which are not.

If you want to be confldent, act confldently. If you want to be courageous, act courageously. If you want to be efflcient, behave as if you already are an efflcient person. Your actions generate your feelings and beliefs, just as your feelings and beliefs deter- mine your actions.

Sit Up Straight

On the other hand, if you slouch in a chair or walk slowly with your head down, you will feel lethargic and unproductive. If you put your feet up, or lean back and relax, your energy levels will drop and you will lose your enthusiasm for any kind of productive work.

Throughout the workday, you should stop regularly and ob- serve how you are sitting and doing your work. Ask yourself, ‘‘Would a highly effective person sit and look like this?’’ If the answer is no, then change your posture and your position so that it is more consistent with the way you think a highly productive person would sit and work.

Perform Like a Genius

Some years ago, Reader’s Digest reported on a study of geniuses. The story examined the life and habits of many geniuses over the ages in an attempt to determine what characteristics they had in common. The magazine flnally concluded that all geniuses seemed to behave the same in three ways. Fortunately, ordinary people with average intelligence can develop these three qualities or behaviors and dramatically increase their mental produc- tivity as a result.

The flrst quality was that all geniuses seemed to take a sys- tematic and orderly approach to problem solving. Whenever something went wrong, they would stop and analyze it carefully, step by step, before jumping to a conclusion or taking action to resolve it. As a result, when they flnally did make a decision, it was better than those of people who simply reacted to a problem rather than thinking it through.

The second quality that the geniuses in the study seemed to have in common was a sense of wonder—the ability to look at situations in a fresh, almost childlike way.
Geniuses keep an open mind and a flexible attitude toward all subjects. They allow their minds to ‘‘float freely,’’ and they examine all the possible ways of approaching a situation or solving a problem before they come to a conclusion. They are continually asking themselves the question: ‘‘What else might be the solution?’’

The third quality of geniuses is that they seem to have the ability to concentrate with greater depth and intensity than the average person. Thomas Carlyle once said, ‘‘Genius is simply an inflnite capacity for taking pains.’’ Almost anyone who can discipline himself to concentrate single-mindedly on a single subject until he completes that task or masters that subject will begin to perform vastly better in that area.

This ability to concentrate single-mindedly applies to sales, management, parenting, negotiating, or anything else. All great achievements are the results of long periods of single-minded concentration, focused on a single task or objective, until the job is complete.

Steps to Better Concentration

There are several ways to develop the qualities of concentration common to exceptional men and women. These are all business skills, and they can be learned by anyone who possesses enough determination to practice them repeatedly until they become habits.

First, before you start work, clear your workspace of every thing except exactly what you need to complete your highest- priority task. Simplicity and order tend to be more conducive to highly productive work, for average people as well as for geniuses.

Second, plan your days and organize your work so that you create blocks or chunks of time to work on completing major tasks. Use your ingenuity to flnd ways to take time from other activities, and consolidate this time into blocks of a minimum of sixty to ninety minutes each. Because of the time it takes you to settle into a task, it is usually not possible for most people to accomplish meaningful tasks in less than sixty-minute to ninetyminute periods. By meaningful tasks, I am referring to creative work such as writing reports and proposals, as well as holding meetings and discussions with and about people and projects. Almost all important tasks require unbroken periods of time where total concentration is possible.

You cannot rush important conversations, discussions, or negotiations. You need blocks of time. To be able to concentrate your attention, you must become creative in flnding these blocks of time. There are many ways to accomplish this.

Early to Bed, Early to Rise

One very effective technique is to work at home in the morning for an extended period, before you go in to work. You are usually fresher and more capable of concentrated effort flrst thing in the morning than at any other time during the day.

For example, you can go to bed early and get up at 5:00 A.M. Start work immediately, and work without interruptions for three or four hours before going into the offlce. You will be amazed at how much you get done in these unbroken, uninterrupted chunks of time, early in the day, when you are rested and at your best.
It is amazing how many great men and women practice this way of working. Thomas Jefferson once wrote, ‘‘The sun has never caught me in my bed.’’

When you get up and get going early, you can get the equiva- lent of an entire day’s work done before the normal working day even begins. If you work from 5:00 A.M. to 8:00 A.M. and then go to the offlce, you will soon be on top of all your major tasks. Everything else you get done during the day will be a bonus.

Work Without Interruptions

Many companies in large cities will often rent an apartment near the offlce and furnish it with desks, chairs, and offlce supplies so that executives can go there and work without interruption away from the telephone and drop-in visitors. This dramatically increases their productivity, especially when they are working on important tasks and projects that have to be done on a speciflc schedule and completed by a certain deadline.

The very fact that you know that you will not be interrupted enables you to concentrate better and produce more. If you are working at home, you should disconnect your telephone so that no calls can get through to you. Working without interruption for long periods is an extraordinarily powerful way to increase your output and get more and better results.

Start Earlier, Work Harder, Stay Later

There are three other simple techniques that you can use to double your productivity and to accelerate your results.

1. Go into the office one hour earlier, before the workday begins. By leaving home early and getting into the offlce early, you will avoid most of the trafflc. Since there is no one there to interrupt you, you can get started immediately. Often you can clear up an entire day’s work in that one hour.

2. Develop the habit of working straight through the typical lunch hour when almost everyone else has left the office. Company policy permitting, there is no law that says that you have to go for lunch when everyone else goes. There is no law that says that you have to eat lunch from twelve to one each day. You can take your lunch hour before noon or after one o’clock. In both cases, there will be no lunch-hour crowds or delays. You can eat quickly and be back at work with very little downtime. You can get in and out faster and you will get better service.

3. Stay in the office and work one extra hour after everyone goes home. This is one of the best ways for busy people to stay on top of their jobs. During that uninterrupted hour (which, as you know, is worth three hours during the day), you can clear up all your responsibilities, write your reports, dictate your cor- respondence, and plan the next day in detail. The key is to take those sixty- to ninety-minute chunks of time and work without interruption. Close the door, unplug the telephone, put your head down, and work without stopping.

The Paradox of Work

The paradox of work is, ‘‘You can’t get any work done at work.’’ Fully 75 percent of the time in any work environment is spent in conversation and discussions with other people. There are never-ending distractions, interruptions, and telephone calls. As much as 50 percent of working time in any environment is taken up with idle chitchat among coworkers as they go back and forth throughout the day.

If you start one hour early, work through lunch, and stay one hour later, you will add three hours of productive time to your workday. You will, in effect, double your productivity, perform- ance, and output. Your results will skyrocket. You will get vastly more done than the other people who work at regular hours. You will be so far ahead of your coworkers that people will be amazed at how much you get done.

Hard, sustained, concentrated effort is essential to high productivity and the successful achievement of anything worthwhile. Every great accomplishment in human history was preceded by an extended period of concentrated effort for a long, long time, sometimes for months or even years. Your job is to create these chunks of time.

Minimize Idle Conversation

Some of the great time wasters or time savers, depending on how you handle them, are conversations and discussions with coworkers and staff. Since conversation and interaction are inevitable and unavoidable, the way you handle discussions can have a substantial impact on your overall productivity and results.

When you have a meeting with someone, arrange your offlce and organize your time so that you concentrate single-mindedly on that person during the meeting. Do not allow the conversation to go off on tangents. Listen intently to the other person when he speaks and resist the temptation to digress from the topic being discussed.

The very act of listening with intense concentration dramati- cally reduces the amount of time that it takes a person to communicate his full message. It is amazing how much time is wasted or lost because of continuous digression from the subject or distractions, such as a ringing phone or people walking in. The more you can control these interruptions, the less time it will take you to have a high-quality conversation that achieves the results you desire.

Develop a Compulsion for Closure

There is something in the human brain that thrills to any completed task. One of the most important habits you can develop is that of closure, or completion. Set speciflc deadlines for yourself, and use them as a ‘‘forcing system’’ that enables you to concentrate single-mindedly on tasks. Discipline yourself to do one thing at a time, and then to complete that one task before you begin something else.

Each time you satisfy your brain’s needs for closure, it releases endorphins into your bloodstream. These endorphins give you a sense of happiness and well-being. They increase your energy and creativity. They improve your personality and make you feel good about yourself. Disciplining yourself to complete important tasks improves the overall quality of your life and dramatically increases your productivity.

Reward Yourself Regularly

One of the ways that you can condition yourself for task completion is to set up a structure of rewards for each thing that you do. Just as animals are trained by their handlers giving them a sugar cube or a biscuit when they perform a particular trick, you can condition yourself by giving yourself a little reward each time you complete part of a task. You can then give yourself a large reward for the completion of the total job.

Psychologists have found that 85 percent of your motivation to engage in a particular action is determined by the beneflt that you anticipate enjoying as the result of taking that action. When you set up a reward system for yourself, you motivate yourself, both consciously and subconsciously, to continue working without distraction toward task completion.

Share the Rewards

When you need the cooperation and understanding of members of your family while you are working on a big task or completing a major assignment, discuss and agree upon a reward for the entire family when the job is done. It can be something as simple as going out for dinner or to a movie. It can be a vacation or a trip to Disneyland. When everyone knows that there is a reward at the end of the road, the people around you will be more understanding and supportive, and they will even encourage you to keep working at the job until it is flnished.

Many companies with sales forces use this system of family rewards with great success. They organize their sales contests and quotas in such a way that the top producers get a trip to a resort in Hawaii or the Caribbean if they hit their targets. They send the brochures describing the resorts to the spouses of the salespeople at their homes. The spouse at home, who is now also motivated by the idea of the reward, will constantly encourage the salesperson to make the sales necessary to qualify for the trip.

Rewards are wonderful incentives to high performance. You should create as many of them for yourself as you can think of. Even if it is something as simple as going for a walk after flnishing a report, the anticipation of the reward will drive you onward and help you to concentrate on the task.

Talk to Yourself Positively

You can improve your ability to concentrate on any task by using positive affirmations. Whatever commands you repeat to yourself are eventually accepted by your subconscious mind. Your subconscious then motivates and drives you to behave in a way consistent with that command.

When you talk to yourself in a positive way, with the emotions of enthusiasm and conviction, you flnd yourself internally driven toward higher productivity. You can develop a trigger phrase when your attention wanders. Keep repeating, ‘‘Back to work! Back to work! Back to work!’’ whenever you flnd yourself getting distracted or you feel like procrastinating. This will jolt you into getting back on task, and keep you working on the job until it is done.

When someone else wants to talk to you or distract you from your work, you can break away by simply saying, ‘‘Well, I guess I have to get back to work!’’ Whenever you say that you have to get back to work, the other person will usually stop talking and leave you alone.
Each time you repeat these words, you will be surprised at how easy it is for you to return to your work and start concentrating again.

Practice Single-Handling

One of the most powerful methods for getting things done is to practice what is called ‘‘single-handling.’’ Single-handling means that once you start a task of any kind, you resolve to stay at that task until it is 100 percent complete.
If you pick up a letter, begin a report or proposal, or initiate a sales call or conversation, discipline yourself to stay at it until it is flnished. This simple technique can increase your productivity by as much as 50 percent the flrst day you start using it. It is one of the most powerful habits of time management you will ever learn.

Get Onto the Learning Curve

Take advantage of what time-and-motion experts call the ‘‘learning curve.’’ When you do a group of similar tasks together, the amount of time it takes you to do each subsequent task declines. If you have to make ten or twenty telephone calls or distribute that many reports, you can decrease the amount of time necessary for the completion of each of these tasks by as much as 80 percent by using the learning curve. Every time you do one of these tasks, you get better at it, so it takes you less time to do it even better next time.

The learning curve only works when you do similar tasks one after the other, repeatedly, until they are all done. This is why it is essential to bunch your tasks and do them all at once rather than sporadically through the day.

Personal Productivity Techniques

There are a series of techniques you can practice to increase your productivity and performance, and improve the rate at which you get things done. These are methods used by the highest-paid and most productive people in every fleld.

1. Concentrate your powers. Use the principle of ‘‘concentration of power.’’ This requires that you concentrate your talents and abilities where they will yield the highest payoff to you at the moment. It is the key to personal productivity and is essen- tial to success in personal strategic planning.
In corporate strategy sessions, managers focus on the goal of increasing ‘‘return on equity’’ (ROE). The purpose of business strategy is to allocate the company’s resources in such a way that they yield the highest possible flnancial return on the equity invested.

Here is another kind of ROE for you. In setting personal strat- egy for yourself, your goal is to get the highest ‘‘return on energy.’’ Your job is to allocate your talents and abilities in such a way that you achieve the highest possible return on the mental, emotional, and physical energies that you invest in your work. Your highest return on energy is almost always that task where you combine your unique talents and abilities with the speciflc needs of the situation. You then focus and concentrate singlemindedly on that one task, which is the key to high productivity. Whenever you have a new job to do, ask yourself: ‘‘Does this job give me my highest return on energy invested?’’ Discipline yourself to apply your skills where you can achieve the greatest results and rewards for both yourself and your company.

2. Concentrate where superior results are possible. Resolve to concentrate on the few areas where superior performance will bring outstanding results. Usually less than 5 percent of what you do accounts for most of your results. Continually ask yourself, ‘‘What can I, and only I, do that, if done well, will make a real difference?’’
Discipline yourself not to work at those tasks that, no matter how well you do them, cannot help you or advance you in your career. They do not give you as high a return on energy as something else.

3. Do things you’re better at. When you do things at which you excel, you get more done, make fewer mistakes, and achieve greater personal productivity. Not only that, you enjoy your work more when you are doing things that you do well. What are the few things that you do better than anyone else? What is it that you do easily that seems to be difflcult for others? Focus on your unique talents and concentrate on those few areas where you can achieve superior results. This is the key to peak performance.

4. Focus on opportunities. Concentrate your strengths, and the strengths of others, on your major opportunities. Focus on the opportunities of tomorrow, rather than the problems of yesterday. Concentrate your best talents and energies, and those of your best people, on those few areas where major breakthroughs are possible.
Many companies make the mistake of putting their best people to work to salvage the mistakes of yesterday, rather than de- ploying them to maximize the opportunities of tomorrow. Keep asking yourself, ‘‘What are my biggest opportunities for the fu- ture? Where can I make a real breakthrough if I concentrate?’’

5. Fish for whales. Fish for whales, not minnows. Remember that if you catch 1,000 minnows, all you have is a bucketful of flesh. But if you catch a single whale, you will pay for the whole voyage.
In business, you must look at your marketplace and try to determine who or what the whales might be. You then make a plan to go after them. Sometimes, landing one big customer, or selling one whale of an order, will be enough to make a business or an individual successful.

6. Focus on key result areas. Identify the key results you are expected to get by answering the question: ‘‘Why am I on the payroll?’’ Once you’ve identifled your key result areas, work in them exclusively.
Each person has flve to seven key result areas where they can make an important contribution to their job and to the organization. It is only when you concentrate your efforts on your key result areas that you will achieve the most signiflcant results pos- sible for you in the shortest period of time.

7. Set and keep deadlines. Set deadlines for important goals and stick to them. Deadlines force you to work harder and more effectively as the deadline approaches.
A goal or an assignment without a deadline is usually an exercise in futility. It has no motivational force behind it. It creates no compulsion for closure. It is something that you easily procrastinate on and put off until the last minute.
Set deadlines for everything you do. Promise other people that you will flnish certain jobs by the deadline. When you promise others, you motivate yourself to fulflll the promise. When you place your honor and your ego on the line by making promises to others, you flnd yourself internally driven and motivated to get the job done exactly as you said, on schedule.

8. Allow enough time. Allow enough time to do everything well. Take the time to complete the job in an excellent fashion. Practice the ‘‘30 percent rule,’’ which says to always allow yourself an extra 30 percent of time to complete any task. Build in a cushion for unexpected difflculties, delays, or setbacks. Highly productive workers always allow enough time to do the job right.

9. Maintain a steady pace. Don’t hurry or rush around frantically to get the job done. Maintain an easy pace and work steadily. Remember the fable of ‘‘The Tortoise and the Hare’’? Highly productive people work with a certain rhythm that allows them to flow through enormous amounts of work without becoming stressed or anxious. As Thomas Carlyle said, ‘‘Our great business in life is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.’’
A hallmark behavior of successful salespeople, executives, and entrepreneurs is that they do one thing at a time. They do the most important thing in front of them, and they stay with it until it is complete. They set priorities and they single-handle their tasks.

10. Think about results. Result orientation, the ability to get things done, is a key quality of all peak performers. You can develop the ability to concentrate single-mindedly through practice and repetition, over and over, until it becomes an ingrained habit of success. Once you develop the skill of getting things done, the skill will serve you for the rest of your life.

‘‘Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.’’

Action Exercises

1. Plan your work thoroughly in advance; have everything you need before you begin work, and then resolve to focus and concentrate.

2. Bunch your tasks; do repetitive or similar jobs all at once, one after the other, taking advantage of the learning curve.

3. Work on those tasks that give you the highest return on your investment of mental, emotional, and physical energy.

4. Create blocks of time when you can work for extended periods without interruptions. This is the key to the accomplishment of important tasks.

5. Set deadlines for yourself for each task, and give yourself rewards for task completion.

6. Develop a compulsion for closure. Discipline yourself to work steadily, without stopping, until the task is complete.

7. Keep repeating the words ‘‘Back to work!’’ throughout the day to keep yourself focused and concentrated on your key result areas.

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