Subtract Tasks From Your World; Don’t Let Them Multiply

by Jim Stovall

We succeed by doing a lot of things very well.  There are people who do a lot of things but don’t do them well, and people who do things well but don’t do many things.  We don’t succeed based on what we meant to do, intended to do, expected to do, or made a note to do.  We succeed or fail based on what we actually do.

I find a lot of people in the business world today who confuse activity with productivity.  They take on a lot of tasks but get very little done.  These people often allow their work to create more work.

For example, something will come in the mail that requires them to respond.  Their response might take 10 minutes to accomplish.  Instead of just taking care of the task and moving on, they will set it aside, create a file, diary it on their calendar, move it to a later date, find the file weeks later, address the task at hand, mark it off their list, and close the file.  These people can generate several hours’ worth of work and mounds of clutter over one, tiny, little task.  They allow their work to multiply.

As a general rule, whenever possible, handle all communications via writing, phone, or email once.  Certainly there are exceptions when the task will require more time or thought, but for most mundane tasks, it’s much better to do it now.

Efficient and successful people accomplish many tasks in this manner.  There are several occasions every day when someone has asked me to respond, and if I take a few moments and do it now, I am able to accommodate the request.  If I let the task multiply, I am likely to never do it as it is prudent to give this individual a few moments, but I can’t afford to give them a few hours.

If you work alone, this is important, but if you interact with an organization each day, it is critical.  If you allow your own tasks to multiply, they will explode geometrically throughout the organization.  If someone else takes care of your calendar, coordinates your schedule, or handles your filing, your 10-minute task today can be a two-hour task for you later that creates many more hours of effort and energy for your entire team.

Being effective and efficient is often a matter of deciding what to do and what not to do, then budgeting how much time you can expend on each task.

As you go through your day today, subtract tasks from your world.  Don’t let them multiply.

Today’s the day!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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