1-on-1: Prioritize and Get Productive

The Experts Up Close
Cynthia Kersey
is president of Unstoppable Enterprises Inc., a speaker, performance and productivity coach, and best-selling author of Unstoppable, 45 Powerful Stories of Perseverance and Triumph from People Just Like You.

Paul J. Meyer is the founder of the Success Motivation Institute and best-selling author of many books, including The Five Pillars of Leadership and Chicken Soup for the Golden Soul.

Leo Babauta is the owner of Zen Habits and the author of The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essentials… in Work and in Life.

Q: I know watching TV and surfing the Web can be big time-wasters, but what are some less common behaviors I can quit doing to squeeze more time out of my day for the things that matter most?
Paul J. Meyer:
The most common time-waster is procrastination. Salespeople will postpone, do paperwork and not schedule time on the phone because of fear and call reluctance. They are afraid that people will strike back where it hurts us most—the desire to be loved, liked and appreciated.

A big time-waster for 90 percent of people is a lack of focus. People who are masters of time organization wear success blinders. They do not look to the left or to the right. They know what their goals are. They have a passion and are willing to pay whatever price they have to, and they do not mind putting forth the work it takes to achieve their goals.

Cynthia Kersey: The No. 1 behavior that helps people maximize their time and eliminate time-wasters is planning their day. I have a plaque on my wall that says, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Once you’ve created your goals and the action steps to achieve it, you must get them on your calendar.

Give yourself the gift of at least 15 minutes or so each morning or evening. If that means getting up 15 to 30 minutes earlier than normal, so be it. Give yourself time to plan and reflect. You’ll reap enormous benefits in focus, energy and direction that will enable you to complete the steps necessary to keep working toward your goal.

Look at your sabotaging behaviors. Do you procrastinate in any of the following ways?

Talking too long on the phone

Incessantly preparing and not taking action

Being unable to say no to the things that don’t move you forward

Not having a clear objective

Failing to ask for help

Waiting until late in the day to do tasks, causing you to be so tired that you risk not following through

Having a disorganized office

Focusing on unproductive tasks

Adopt positive behaviors that spur you into action:

Focus on priorities first thing in the morning

Tackle the most difficult issues first

Carry work with you so that you can be productive when free moments occur, such as when you’re waiting to pick up your children or sitting at the doctor’s office

Don’t take phone calls in the morning until your priorities are complete

Go to sleep earlier so that you wake up rested and ready to start your day

Plan your day just like a job

Q: What’s the biggest difference between people who accomplish a lot and those who don’t?
Paul J. Meyer:
I wrote something 40 years ago that has been framed and distributed several million times: If you are not making the progress you would like to make and are capable of making, it is simply because your goals are not clearly defined.

People who have a hazy goal get, at best, a hazy result. People who have an indefinite goal get, at best, an indefinite result. Successful people share these traits: They accept personal responsibility for their lives. They have initiative, self-reliance, a healthy self-image, confidence, desire and determination. They are willing to put in the hours and the time to accomplish what they want to accomplish.

The people who do not accomplish a lot do not have those traits. They are, so to speak, looking for something for nothing. They are waiting on Santa Claus, and he ain’t comin’.

Cynthia Kersey: The foundation for all successful and high-performing people is the realization that, ultimately, they alone are responsible for the quality of their lives. Period. No matter what hand life may have dealt them, if they want to improve any area of their lives, it is up to them to make the changes necessary to make that happen. Personal responsibility is the key to change, growth and freedom.

Q: What’s the one thing people do or fail to do most often that keeps them from meeting their goals or making progress?
Leo Babauta:
Progress on a top goal is most often derailed for two reasons:

Other things take precedence, and the goal is pushed to the background.

Motivation is lost when the goal seems too difficult and people give up.

Primary goals are often pushed to the background when we take on other goals or other demands come up. You can overcome this by, first, being aware that this might happen and being on the lookout for it. Second, make your top goal the first thing you work on each day so that nothing else pushes it back. Decide what step you’re going to take to move your goal closer to reality, and do that before you start on anything else, including e-mail.

The loss of motivation is another big goal-killer. To overcome this barrier, a great method is to post your goal publicly—e-mail it to your boss and co-workers, put it on your blog, post it on an online forum. Report your progress publicly each day to sustain motivation and accountability. Then, get excited about the goal and make working on it a pleasure. If you enjoy an activity, you’ll look forward to it rather than put it off.

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