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necessitas non habet legem
Knowledge has to be improved, challenged, and increased constantly, or it vanishes.
― Peter Drucker
How does one manage oneself? Effectiveness is not natural and has to be learned and practiced deliberately. Being effective means doing the right things well. Today one must be ones own CEO and take responsibility for ones own growth.
Success tends to come to those who know themselves – strengths, weaknesses, how one works with others, ones values and where one can make the greatest contribution. One must be working from strengths in order to make ones greatest contribution.
People are often wrong in what they think their strengths and weaknesses are. Most discover strengths through feedback analysis. So, write down what one thinks will happen in a given situation and revisit six months later and compare the prediction vs what actual occurred. It will clearly show one their strengths and weaknesses and then put oneself in situations where one can focus on and improve ones strengths. Recognize where the gaps in ones knowledge are and where ones intellectual arrogance is causing disabling ignorance and overcome it. A rigorous feedback loop.
Being bright is not a substitute for knowledge. Ideas do not move mountains, plans and actions do. However, it is often not very helpful and too often hurtful to try to plan too far ahead. A plan needs to be something that has milestones that can be reached in the short to mid term, it cannot solely focus on the distant future. If one plans to eventually be a billionaire, one needs an action plan to make the first million first.
First, manage thyself. Do what one is made for what one can be world class at. To work on exclusively what one is bad at is foolish and irresponsible but one must address weaknesses which stand in the way of maximizing ones strengths and achieving ones full potential. Work how one works best and let others do the same.
Second, one must focus on people’s strengths and build around that and not on their weaknesses. Find people who are better than oneself and who can deliver in specific areas and bring them into ones circle.
Count time and make it count. This requires the discipline to schedule ones time into blocks. The most effective people do one big thing at a time and don’t let distractions creep in. Create unbroken blocks during ones most lucid time of day and do them with regularity. Create chunks for people and random tasks which must get done. Attend only meetings that are meaningful and ruthlessly limit the amount of time spent in meetings. If one must attend meetings, prepare better meetings by having clear reasons for the meeting and having disciplined follow ups. The worst thing one can do is have an unproductive meeting because that will lead to yet another meeting.
Don’t make 100 decisions when one will do. Inactivity can be very intelligent behavior. Determine what ones distinctive impact can be in a family, organization, or community – the one decision, behavior, or action that might not have happened if one were not there and execute against it.
Stop what one would not start. Most people are too busy to work on truly important things so one must have a stop doing list and refine and rethink daily tasks and objectives. Not everything is worth starting and many things are worth stopping. Do not waste time on things that are non vital to ones overall mission.
Run lean. One must not only stay lean physically on must ensure ones family organization, and community do as well. Fluff is never needed and takes away from he overall effectiveness. For example, an organization is like a biological organism in that the internal mass grows faster than what shows externally – the volume increases as a cube of the linear dimension but the surface area only as the square. One must fight and hold back internal growth which doesn’t help drive profits and goals.
People value what is useful. Be useful, over success, over wealth, over fame - be useful.
A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people to whom it is easy to do good, and who are not accustomed to have it done to them; then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one's neighbor — such is my idea of happiness. ― Leo Tolstoy, Family Happiness
The most effective people have personalities all over the map, but many of them have shared traits.
They ask what needs to be done. One must prioritize this list every couple years. Once one tackles the biggest priority, one must redo the process. One can only focus on a maximum of two priorities at any given time.
They ask what is right and they make an action plan. This must include the name of the person who is accountable, the deadline, who this effects directly and must be made aware, who should be told even if they’re not effected. Planning and subsequent communication are key.
They take responsibility for their decisions. They are focused on opportunities rather than problems. They are always looking to become more effective. They listen first and then speak. They are open to outer stimuli in order to make the best decisions and acquire the necessary information to do so.
The shift from manual labor and work to knowledge work is why the demands of today are so different than before. Effectiveness is so important and must be learned by all people who interact with others. Especially in today’s knowledge-based economy. Knowledge work is not graded on costs or quantity but on results. Those most successful in knowledge based fields are those whose decisions have an outsized impact.
Hindrances towards effectiveness include being part of the system itself and not having enough perspective, not being willing to give up a lifetime of habits and work, not letting others step up, and not delegating enough. One must see how the system functions at high level and not get lost within the system itself.
Events should not drive what a person does. Rather, key criteria which help inform results and contributions should be their main focus. The truly important things are not the trends – they are what cause the trends and is why one should never focus on the events but on what lies behind them.
Effective people know where their time goes.
Effective people start with their time not with tasks because they know time is a limiting factor
They record their time, they manage their time, and then they consolidate their time into long chunks. What can one do away with totally, what can one delegate?
Don’t waste others’ time
Reduce recurrent and predictable decisions. Always automate where applicable.
Reduce poor information
Consolidated time is the key. Most people don’t have more than 25% of their time at their disposal but if they come in chunks, it’s usually enough. Even if it was 75% but broken up, one would never get anything done.
It is hard and rare to over-prune. Cut, cut, cut
Effective people focus on results rather than effort. The focus on contribution over effort is the key. This is what drives how one spends ones time and the decisions one makes. One must focus on contribution rather than effort and make that the norm. Focus on areas where one. an have outsized returns for ones effort. Focus on the the biggest and most difficult things first and the rest will follow. Completion of the big items allows one to not rush details and execution, rushing leads to mistakes and mistakes lead to wasted time. Be slow and deliberate when making decisions so that one can be fast when taking action against them.
One should contribute in 3 areas: direct results, adding to culture and values, building the next generation. One must be able to see through the eyes of others and understand how they will use ones output. This will help one use common language, put information in a usable form, etc. A generalist is simply a specialist who can translate their knowledge to a universal audience
One must always think and put tasks first and not personnel or else one will get politicking clash of personalities. Jobs must be big and demanding for people to see how they live up to it. One must judge the people one is considering by their strengths and what they would need to reasonably fulfill this job and one must have clear expectations and definitions of success.
With every strength comes a weakness so one must focus on and understand how does a person’s strength translate to a weakness. Always staff for opportunities and not for problems. One should remove incompetent people quickly. Not only because of their lack of results, but because if they stay, it will hurt the rest of the culture. This is not a slight on the person, but a slight on the leader who put them in the position to begin with.
Managing upwards is as important as managing downwards. One must make the strengths of ones boss productive as their success and promotions will help one as well. Knowing oneself, and ones strengths and weaknesses, and how to make ones strengths productive is equally as important. This is an attitude as much as a skill.
The key skill is concentration on the first and most important things first and only doing one thing at a time. Effective people also make sure that the organization as a whole focuses on one thing at a time. They review the past and anything which isn’t an emphatic yes, is curtailed or done away with completely, leaving time to focus on the most important things. Organizations need to stay lean and muscular just as biological organisms do.
Fresh eyes which give fresh perspective is vital. Setting priorities and posteriorities (a list of what not to do) is more about courage than knowing what to focus on. One must be future-focused – rather than looking at the past, one must look at opportunities rather than problems, one must be willing to set ones own agenda and make ones own decisions rather than relying on others, and aim high for things which will truly make a difference rather than playing it safe
Effective people ultimately make effective decisions. They take their time, know what’s truly important, focus on a few things at any one time, and know that quick decisions are sloppy and not impressive.
In sum, focus on where one’s time goes, manage yourself first, know how you work best, focus on contributions rather than effort, know what your role is and how you can most impact the organization, few and deliberate decisions, have the courage to not follow the crowd, encourage dissension and sharing of opinions…
Lastly, Id like to mention a productivity tool that I have recently come across and started using - Heyday. Heyday is a research tool that automatically saves the content you view, and resurfaces it within your existing workflows - so you don't need to keep 100+ tabs open. To learn more check out their site where one can reduce the mental clutter and become more effective.