The 2 Essential Steps of Time Management

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I have read hundreds of books on time management and have recently even written a book called Get It Done on the topic. There are all kinds of systems out there for managing time, and many of them are good. But really what it all comes down to is two essential steps:

  • Step 1: Identify the most important thing to work on.
  • Step 2: Work on it until you have finished it.

Effective time managers do these steps and repeat them regularly. All other time management literature is useful if it helps you you accomplish these steps. So, what is the most important thing for you to be working on, right now?

January 2018 Book: GET IT DONE!

A couple of years ago, our family expanded from 3 to 7. That's right, a more than double increase in size. My wife and I found that with 5 children, there is definitely a TON more work to do, and a LOT LESS TIME to do it in.

Through this and other experiences, through my own research, and through surveying and interviewing dozens of successful individuals, I have written a book about how to GET IT DONE - 4 simple strategies to stop procrastinating and get the right things done

Consider the following questions:

  • Does it feel like you’re always working but never actually get anything accomplished?
  • Do you wish you had more time to focus on the things that really matter to you?
  • Do you find your important work is often disrupted by less-important things?

Get It Done will help you find focus and will teach you how to devote time to what’s most important and meaningful to you. This book offers four simple strategies for getting the right things done, and a variety of specific action plans that you can apply to your everyday life.

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7 Ways to Create a Crappy Life

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I have spent a lot of time learning about what it takes to create and enjoy a positive, fulfilling life. I have also spent a lot of time messing up and watching others create really unpleasant situations for themselves. Based on these experiences, I have developed what I call the 7 ways to create a crappy life

Do These To Create a Crappy Life

  1. Think only of yourself. If you want a crappy life, don’t think about or do things for your family, friends, and associates. 

  2. Get addicted to something. A nice addiction will severely reduce your ability to live with power and focus.

  3. Don’t plan. Just go with the flow so that you don’t have to do any hard thinking. 

  4. Do what is easiest. The hard stuff is just so… hard.
  5. Do only what brings “instant gratification.” Live for the moment and don’t work toward the future.
  6. Don’t write down your goals and action plans. Make sure your dreams are vague and forgotten.
  7. Let other people dictate how you use your time. Just give in and give up on setting your own direction.

If you are interested in having a terrible life, then get to work on these actions. I can guarantee that within a matter of days, you will find that your life has become crappier. Worst of luck, to you!

10 Things I Would Fail At (And Picking Your Passion!)

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Here are the Top 10 Goals that I Would Fail At:

  • Chinese Checkers Champion of the Western Hemisphere
  • Master of Ceremonies at the Annual Weevil Hall of Fame Breakfast
  • Chief Director of the Center for Studies of Boredom
  • Grand Master of the Society for Healthy Hair Roots
  • Chief Engineer for the Innovative Potato Peelers ©
  • CEO of Chewing and Swallowing Consultants, LLC
  • President of Pancake Testers, International
  • Tiddly Winks Hall of Famer
  • Black Belt - Level 8, Armpit Odor Detection
  • Lead Scientist, Phlegm Labs

Why would I fail at these things? Because I DON'T CARE ABOUT THEM. Of course this list might be silly (to some people, anyway) but there is an important lesson:

If you care about it, you are much more likely to be successful at it. If you don’t care, you probably won’t be as successful.

Think about it - at work, there are probably some things you care a lot about and are pretty good at, right? I love working with people, collaborating on creative projects, and designing solutions, and think I perform those tasks very well. However, I do not like projects that seem endless, dealing with a lack of information, and working on insignificant details for projects. Therefore, I probably don't do as well at those projects because I don't like or care about them as much.

The Trick

The trick, then, is to find work that aligns with who you are and what you love most perfectly. Pick work that plays to your strengths, that brings out your best passions, strengths, and capacities. If you want to be excellent, find a career or start a business that plays to your passions and gives you satisfaction. 

Answer These Questions

So, here are some questions that will help you build more clarity on what excites you:

  1. What would you do with your time if you no longer needed to earn money?
  2. What do you find yourself reading, watching videos about, and studying in your spare time?
  3. If you could start everything over, what career would you select, or what business would you start?

I challenge you to answer these questions - the answers will be revealing and refreshing, and they just might illuminate an exciting path forward. Who knows, you might even find yourself pursuing your dream to become Chief Director of the Center for Studies of Boredom, or even President of Pancake Testers, International!

5 Things Great Teams Do

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Working in teams is a normal part of life, but sometimes we work with people who interact in ways that are negative and damaging, which stunt the effectiveness of the team. Based on my experience working in teams, the following principles should guide all work interactions within a team. Using these principles will yield a greater likelihood of success.  

  • Purposeful – Great teams focus on the projects and activities that achieve the organization's goals. They are not distracted by the things that are not centered on key organizational strategies. If there is no focus, there is no success.
  • Respectful – Great team members respectful one another. They avoid useless criticism, gossip and focus on success. They are professional in their interactions.
  • Open – Great teams have no secrets. They give and receive feedback and are open to new ideas and strategies. They share knowledge openly and work together in an open, positive manner to achieve their goals. 
  • Collaborative – Great team work together effectively. They build off our teammates strengths and successes. They support one another in their work projects. 
  • Constructive – we are proactive and focus on solutions. We focus on reaching goals and fixing problems. 
  • Bonus: Confidence - Great team members are competent and confident in their skills, strengths, and abilities. They do not shrink from opportunity but move forward with confidence and personal strength. 

If you have found yourself struggling within your team, I recommend that you take a close look at yourself and make sure that you are using these principles effectively to achieve success in your work. 

5 Ways to Be a Lifelong Learner

Many people mistakenly believe that after high school or even college, they have learned everything they need to succeed. However, knowledge and technology are advancing at an incredible pace, and much of the knowledge and technology we will be using in the near future has not yet been created. To succeed, you develop habits of lifelong learning.

 5 strategies for lifelong learning.

5 strategies for lifelong learning.

Become a Lifelong Learner

To be successful in your life and in your work, you must become an excellent, independent, lifelong learner. But what are the best ways to become a lifelong learner? Based on my experience and research, here are the six most important ways to take control of your learning.

1. Discover Your Interests
To be successful at learning, you must have specific learning goals. What do you want to accomplish? What do you want to work toward? What do you want to be able to do? To gain?
For me, I find that I love learning about goal-setting, motivation, learning, habit change, instructional design, strategies for success, leadership, management, spirituality, and martial arts (in no particular order)I might shift my focus depending on what I am working on at the time, but I am ALWAYS learning about one or more of these topics. And, for each topic, I have a specific goal in mind, something I want to accomplish as a result of my learning.

2. Form Habits of Learning
You must also form habits of learning. These habits can be receptive (in which you are acquiring information) and productive (in which you are creating knowledge or using knowledge). For example, my habits include the following:

  • Reading in the morning. I usually wake up around 6:00 am. This gives me about 30 minutes to read religious materials, meditate, pray and write in my journal. I find that this habit helps me start my day in a more centered manner.
  • Listening to books, podcasts, and conferences. This is a major method for gaining new knowledge. I listen to books while I am walking, driving, working out, and working in the yard. I usually listen to books related to the topics above, and I typically read or listen to 40-50 books per year. This is not to mention conference talks or podcasts I listen to.
  • Blogging and writing. I write a lot about the topics I am interested in, particularly my learning and instructional design blog, and this blog on time management and personal success. I use this blog for self-development and related topics. I also write academic articles for academic or practitioner audiences. Writing about my interests allows me to process and refine my understanding of what I learn, and it also gives me the opportunity to share my knowledge with others.
  • Attend conferences and webinars. Many experts highly recommend this practice, and I try to attend a conference every year, when possible. There are often free or inexpensive conferences and webinars held by universities, and an individual need only find out when they are held. And many organizations host webinars on a regular basis.
  • Get a formal education. Attending classes and earning degrees is an extremely powerful, efficient way to build your knowledge. My formal education has given me a foundation that I will build upon for the rest of my life, and I continually receive benefits from my formal education. It is definitely an investment, but the benefits will far outweigh the costs.

3. Use Learning Technologies
There are many technologies out there that can make learning relatively painless and meaningful. Here are some of the methods that I use, and there are literally hundreds of methods out there.

  • The Internet. Google is still a great way to gain knowledge. You can find a TON of information from simply searching. Videos, tutorials, blogs, wikis, websites, podcasts are all excellent ways to boost your knowledge. YouTube in particular has become an incredible instrument for learning.
  • Audio Books. I have found that listening to books is a great way to maximize my time. As I mentioned, when I run, walk, drive, work in the yard, or shop, I do my best to be sure that I am listening to something meaningful. I have listened to literally dozens of books over the last year or so, and I have many more on my list.
  • The library. Yes, the library. I visit the library in my town at least once a week. I am constantly checking out books and audio books and very often I will browse the "new books" section and serendipitously find books that have a deep impact on my life and my learning.
  • Friends. While friends are not necessarily a technology, simply having a great conversation can yield great knowledge. Some people exude knowledge, and I try to spend as much time as I can with them.
  • Apps. There are a bajillion apps out there that can be used for learning purposes. The main thing is to find those that fit your specific needs and learning goals and interests.

There are literally hundreds of technologies, apps, and media that can be utilized to make your learning more efficient and effective. Your technologies will likely change and adapt over time - the above are what are working for me right now, and I will continue to seek out new knowledge. 

    4. Work Toward Your Goals, Adjust as Needed
    An important aspect of successful lifelong learning is developing and working toward learning goals. For all of my interests above, I have goals. I study karate because I am working toward becoming a black belt in that discipline. I study spirituality because I am a devout Christian and have the goal of refining my discipleship. Whatever your interests and goals, be sure that you are setting goals that will help you succeed. Having goals will also help you chart your own progress as you move forward in your life.

    5. Focus on Improvement
    Learning should serve a higher purpose. Focus your energy on self-improvement and on improving the world. Focus on what is meaningful and can impact your life and others' lives in a positive way. We can all have a lasting, meaningful impact on the world and on the people we interact with. We have the capacity bring light, comfort, strength, opportunities and help to others, to relieve burdens, pain, and discomfort. I believe that we each have a destiny and a calling in life, and doing what we can to learn and grow enables us to better fulfill our purposes.

    6. Bonus! Learn From Experts!

    A bonus strategy! One of the most critical, powerful ways you can become an effective lifelong learner is to learn from people who have done what you want to do. Find people you can spend time with and interact with. Follow them on social media and learn everything you can from them. Find experts that are willing to mentor or guide you as you move forward in your goals. This is perhaps the fastest way you can learn and move toward your goals with efficiency.

    Get Started

    Get started on improving your lifelong learning! Start to make simple changes now. Write down interests and set goals for what you want to learn about and accomplish. Start to form habits that will help you succeed at lifelong learning. Start listening to books while you commute or exercise. Use technologies to efficiently increase your knowledge. The key is to simply get started! Sometimes it can feel like no progress is being made, but I assure you it is. Just keep learning, and you will be surprised at the great knowledge and skills you will have amassed. 

    To Reach Your Goal, Ask Yourself This Question

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    Sometimes it can be extremely difficult to know what to focus our attention. I recently I just had an interesting and slightly stressful experience that highlights this fact. Within about a 5 minute time period, I had the following take place:

    • My brother contacted me about a work-related issue he wanted to talk through.
    • My coworker popped into my office and asked me if I wanted to take a quick walk to a nearby cafeteria.
    • I was trying to read through an article on instructional design leadership.
    • My boss sent me an instant message asking if I could meet with him briefly about something he was concerned about.
    • My wife called and asked me if I could meet with her and the kids for an impromptu lunch.
    • All of this happened with several key production, reporting, and management tasks calling for my attention. 

    So, this brought me to ponder on a critical question that most of us should work to answer regularly: What can I do right now to reach my goals? 

    A Common Issue

    Our world and our work move at a fast pace, and it can be very difficult to know what to focus on. The options are endless, and the right decision is not always immediately obvious. But you have to decide and move forward with confidence, adjusting your actions based on how things seem to be going. And hopefully you have guiding principles that provide you with guidance on how to move toward what is most important.

    What is the Solution?

    At the highest level, this is a matter of building priorities and focusing on those priorities. That doesn't mean that the answer is simple, but if you never do the work to clarify what is most important to you, it will be impossible to know how to focus your attention. In this case, I decided to check in with my boss, schedule a time later to spend with my wife, and schedule a phone call with my brother during my commute home. 

    A few reflective questions:

    • How do you focus on what is important to you? 
    • What should you do right now? 
    • What will help you achieve your goals? 
    • What will uphold and support the values that are most important to you?
    • What is absolutely essential?

    If you are struggling to answer some of these questions, I invite you to read my new book Get It Done. It provides some simple, usable strategies for identifying what is most important and for working to hard to get those things done. The book will be published in January 2018.

    Otherwise, thanks for stopping by!

    10 Ps For Getting Your Project Done

    You probably have a lot of projects that you want to get done. But, sometime when you are working on a big project, it can be difficult to figure out how to start and how to finish. I recently decided to take on the complex project of writing and publishing my upcoming book GET IT DONE. This project was complex, and I found it pretty difficult to get traction and get moving on the project. I needed strategies for managing my time and effort toward completing the project.

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    In the process of writing GET IT DONE, I surveyed or interviewed 60 successful business, community, and family leaders to learn how the recommend tackling big projects. Based on their insights, I have created THE 10 Ps of PROJECT COMPLETION.  There is some great advice in the ideas below - read through these ideas and consider how you could use them to get one of your own big projects going. 

    1 Purpose

    • Know what you want to do and where you want to go.
    • Define what you want to accomplish and why.
    • Remember that your goals are worth working hard at
    • Know what you are doing so you can defend it and persuade others to see your vision.
    • Make sure you’re passionate about it and that completing it’s important, perhaps answering
    • some burning question that you have.

    2 Prioritize

    • Create a priority list.
    • Do things in order of importance.
    • Get a look at the big picture so little tasks so it doesn't seem overwhelming
    • Find some way to move what you really value to the top of your list-- for me, this is an ongoing issue, as it's always easier to work on things where there are deadlines/accountability, and my own creative work doesn't have those built in.

    3 Plan

    • Set achievable goals and “chunk” them into manageable “bite-sized” pieces.
    • Set deadlines for the smaller-chunked items
    • Use a calendar to plan.
    • Schedule time as needed for focusing on the tasks.
    • Set aside enough time - be realistic and then add some time on top of that.
    • Clearly define what it means to accomplish the project
    • Understand the resources you have to work with: time, money, collaborators.
    • Understand the needs of ALL the project's stakeholders.
    • Don't work on open-ended projects-- set a deadline for completion-- even if it seems arbitrary or unnatural.
    • Set specific times to work on the project.
    • Google is your friend. The more information you have, the better your plan will be.

    4 People

    • Allow others to assist in areas that require more help than you can do alone.
    • Find a mentor and solicit their input.
    • Determine who you need to involve to get it done, share your goals with them, and ask them to hold you accountable.
    • Tell other people about your plans to work through issues you may come across.
    • Be accountable to someone.
    • Don't be too afraid to ask for help, but learn who to ask.
    • Delegate what you can.
    • Utilize the people around you. Even if it’s not their field of expertise, sometimes a fresh perspective helps.
    • Have a support group if possible.
    • Don't work alone.
    • Find people to work with, start with a timeline early on, and schedule monthly meetings.
    • Be flexible to other ideas. Sometimes the breakthroughs come from others.

    5 Prepare

    • Get a lot of sleep so you can focus.
    • Anticipate what you’ll need to have on hand so you don’t get side-tracked.
    • Start the project in your mind well before you are ready to really start it - that is, give yourself time to think about it and have your subconscious work on the problem.

    6 Plunge

    • Get started on the project as soon as you can - don't wait until it’s right on top of you to get
    • ahead.
    • Don't wait till you can see the end before you begin. Oftentimes, if you step out before you have all of the answers they will come to you as you need them. If you wait till you can see how it will end, you'll never begin.
    • Try even if you don’t think you can do it.
    • Just get started on part of it.
    • Start right away; don't delay the whole project. Start part of it as soon as you can.
    • Act early enough on tasks and don’t leave them until the last minute.
    • DO IT NOW; don't procrastinate.
    • Sit down and do it. There is no substitute for work.

    7 Prototype

    • Refine in passes - in other words, just get a version of the project done then go back and clean it up. Then go back and clean it up some more. Don’t try to be perfect along the way.
    • Fail fast, so you can improve and get better.

    8 Persevere

    • Find some ways to make working on that project an everyday routine. If you have the habit, it
    • will be much easier to get work done every day, and you'll feel better about it
    • Don’t ever give up.
    • Exert continuous effort - don’t quit until it’s done.
    • Life is a marathon...just do it one step at a time and focus on what's immediately in front of you while making considerations for the road that lies ahead.
    • Work hard and don't make excuses.
    • Don’t stop, even if it gets tough.
    • You can take breaks, but make sure to get back to your plan.
    • Work on it every day until completed.
    • Turn off your email and instant message programs for blocks of time while you focus on your project.
    • GET OFF THE INTERNET! Why do you need to open so many tabs, ya maniac?!!?!?
    • Eliminate distractions
    • Don't work at the project until you are sick of it. Takes breaks and take advantage of distractions
    • (not all distractions are bad). I feel I solve the most problems when I walk away and come back
    • fresh.
    • Work on it a little every day when you’re not busy. This will reduce your stress the closer you get to the end of the project.
    • Don't give up when it gets hard. Take a break for a day and then regroup.

    9 Perspective

    • Keep your eye on the things that matter most and don't let anything else sidetrack you. Be aware of your priorities.
    • Write down goals and record your progress.
    • Practice realistic optimism.
    • Cultivate a sense of humor.
    • Celebrate along the way, as well as when your plan becomes a reality.
    • Think of the next task. That way, you won't get overwhelmed.

    10 Permute

    (yes permute. It really means to change or Make Adjustments but we wanted it to be a P word, so I chose permute. Please don’t judge.)

    • Sometimes you've got to take a step backwards in order to advance forward. (often around an obstacle or to access a better path);
    • Set goals to get you started and if things change, re-evaluate your goals, rewrite them and keep going towards your end goal
    • Know that setbacks will occur and plan how you will address any setback in advance
    • There have been occasions where I have abandoned a project and without the weight of the project on me, I was mentally able to look at it from hindsight perspective and discover a solution to the show-stopping issue, find a different way to take the project, or a new solution presents itself when it was previously not there.

    Why This Blog?

    Have you ever met someone who was highly intelligent but who just never got around to doing anything significant with that knowledge? I have one great friend who I have known for 20 years, and this guy has AMAZING capacity for knowledge. He has earned half a dozen degrees and can talk with confidence about many subjects. But he has never really done anything with his depth of knowledge. He hasn't created anything substantial that adds true value to his family or to the organizations he might serve. 

     Genius who do nothing are the same as dummies who do nothing. Image source flickr: DieselDemon

    Genius who do nothing are the same as dummies who do nothing. Image source flickr: DieselDemon

    This blog is for people who want to do more and reach their goals in their lives.

    It doesn't matter if have a bunch of college degrees like my friend. You can accomplish and reach your dreams. All you have to do is learn what to do to reach your goals and do it. I've studied the strategies and attitudes of highly successful people for 20 years, and this blog is one of the ways I am sharing what I have learned. 

    I am creating this blog, sharing my book GET IT DONE, and sharing my newsletter to share what I have learned over the years about how to create positive change for myself, my family, and the organizations I serve. I've learned these skills over several decades of study, through MANY mistakes, and by watching others who have achieved great things and touched many other lives.

    I am a scholar in higher education, specifically in human performance improvement and instructional design. I will also show how the tools and strategies in these field can be applied to the important work of GETTING IMPORTANT THINGS DONE. Thanks for reading!