English really is my native tongue. So what do I mean about moving furniture?
Moving furniture = getting things done.
Everyone wants to get more done – or maybe get the same amount of stuff done in less time.
Clients ask me about this all the time, but they don’t talk about end tables. Normally, it’s something like “How in the world can I get all this stuff done?”, which usually is a follow up to our working up the tasks necessary to transform their business.
Like you (I suspect), they’re already pegged with stuff to do, and the list of stuff I give them (or us) just made the list longer.
The obvious way is “Work more hours”, but that assumes that you aren’t already at 24 hours (sorry, I can’t fix that), that your spouse (etc) isn’t going to whack you with a two-by-four for working even *more* hours, and that you don’t require 15 or 20 minutes of sleep now and then.
Naturally, the obvious way isn’t always the best. Yours truly gets caught in that trap from time to time as well. There, I admitted it. Where’s that droll Visine guy when I need him?
An old business partner used to use furniture as a metaphor for getting stuff done. When asking me for that next big thing, she’d refer to this scenario like this: “I don’t need the end tables moved, I need you to move the coffee table.”
All that little stuff on your ToDo list can easily suck up a day while the big stuff continues to sit because you just don’t think you can get it all done in this afternoon. So… for closure purposes, you do the little stuff so you can cross it off of your list.
We’re really simple creatures. We make lists and we cross ’em off.
From time to time, I still struggle with that end table/coffee table thing, but I have a solution.
When it’s working, here’s how I fight my way out of that trap: Two ToDo lists. As if one is not enough, right?
Why two lists?
One list is for end tables, ie: those things that – while important – might only take 15-30 minutes to complete.
So, grab a yellow pad, or Excel, or your Outlook or whatever tool you use to manage your ToDo list. Write down (type, etc) every single one of these items. Avoid the temptation to qualify items for the list. Bottom line – Don’t leave the tiniest task off the list. Every time something new (and short) pops up, put it on the list before you forget it.
Once you have everything on the list…prioritize them. Don’t worry about assigning some silly priority number that doesn’t mean anything, just put them in order. What must be done next and how do you decide that?
Worst case you have to base it on things that must be done vs. things thatneed to be done. I suggest you also use return on investment (even if it isn’t monetary) as a criteria too.
Must vs. need is a subtle difference, but an important one.
The things that must be done will get you in trouble if you don’t do them. Things that need to be done are just as important, but won’t get you locked up in the slammer if you don’t do them.
The other list is for coffee tables, ie: big projects that need to be broken down into achievable tasks. Make that list out, but keep those items separate from the end tables list.
Prioritize the coffee tables as well. Big jobs are like an elephant. You can’t eat them in one bite, but you can eat them a bite at a time. Pass the steak sauce, please.
Once you have the coffee tables prioritized, write down the next thing that must be done on that big project. It’s easier to take a bite than to take on than the whole elephant.
Next time you have 15-30 minutes, move an end table. Next time you can block an hour, a morning or an afternoon, move a coffee table.
Simple common sense? Sure, but why aren’t you doing it?
Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a business, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s site or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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