Are you working too hard?

Ask anyone ‘how they are?’ and there is a good chance that they will tell you that they’re busy.

I’m so busy — working hard — hustling and ‘getting things done’.

But many of us assume that if we are busy, we are also effective — and the two are completely different. The ability to know the difference separates the high performers from everyone else.

The following article helps you understand the difference.

Priorities

Busy people have many priorities. Effective people have one. What is the one thing that if you achieve today, will get you closer to your goal? What is the lead domino that if knocked over will make the other things easier? If there is more than one priority, you have a ‘to do’ list. ‘To do’ lists are a system to stop you forgetting things — they are not priorities. Effective people know the difference.

Saying No

Busy people say Yes to too many things. Effective people say No. If you aren’t saying No from time to time, you are saying Yes to everything. If you are saying Yes to everything — you will be spreading yourself too thin. This will mean that you can’t focus on your priorities.

Time to Reflect

Busy people don’t have time to reflect. Effective people reflect. They take time to stop and think about what is working and what isn’t. They then adjust their approach based on what they have learned. They plan — they do — they reflect — they learn. This is the loop that they follow to make sure that they learn from their experience.

Spend time getting better every day — follow the Ben Franklin Five Hour Rule — Keep Orientating. Effectiveness comes from doing things differently — not more of the same!

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Control of their Environment

Busy people do not control their environment. They allow themselves to be accessible at all times. You can always tell because they respond to their emails quickly. Their phone notifications are always ‘on’ and they react as soon as they receive an email or a message.

Effective people control their environments. They choose when they are going to respond to their emails because emails are never urgent. They always respond but it is in a slower more considered manner. They know that ‘notifications’ are ‘distractions in disguise’ so they turn them off.

The Pomodoro Technique is a great tool for increasing focus. Set a 20min timer. Work on your priority. If you get distracted by a phone call, message, email — you reset the timer. How many ‘pomodoros’ do you do in a day? That’s a measure of effectiveness.

Time

Busy people never have enough time. They work longer hours to try and fit more in. Effective people know that you can’t get any more time — all you can do is manage how you use it. That’s why they say No and have few priorities.

Busy people measure hours because they confuse hours with productivity. ‘If someone spends more time at work, they will get more done’. That’s rubbish.

80% of your results come from 20% of your work. Effective people understand this so they focus on the 20%. They don’t care about hours worked because they know that they are a poor measure of output. They focus on value. What am I doing today that gets me closer to my vision? Everything else is just noise.

Change

Busy people say ‘I need to change’ but they never actually do it. Effective people know that they always need to be changing. They spend time today improving themselves for tomorrow. They are always working on themselves because they know that they’re not perfect. But they understand that perfection doesn’t exist. The pursuit of continuous improvement is the closest that we can get to perfection. That’s why we have to keep changing.

The first step in solving a problem is admitting that one exists.

So are you busy or are you effective?