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Getting More Done

January 9, 2009
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It is a new year and that means time, of course, for new year’s resolutions. Everyone always has great, glorious, and huge plans starting on Jan. 1. (At least, I usually do.) This year, however, I suggest taking a different approach and trying to do small things that will lead to goals you can actually achieve and are slightly less arduous than running a marathon, or writing a best-selling novel. (Full disclosure: running a marathon and writing a best-selling novel have ever been on my resolutions list).

So, of course, faithful reader, I have a couple of articles that should help you on your way towards accomplishing more, stressing less, and managing to make 24 hours in a day really seem like enough time to get everything that is important done.

First we have this great article on the art of radical exclusion. Now this is going to be very, very difficult for those of us who are people pleasers and volunteers of the world. You know who you are. But just read the article and think to yourself, what is more important: saying yes to everything that everyone ever asks of you or having your sanity at the end of the day. For those who feel stretched too thin, take heart and try the art of radical exclusion.

On the other hand, those of you who never volunteer, make it your resolution to help out those who do volunteer. Volunteering can be great and lifting your own weight in work, and in life, is always appreciated.

This next article I find really, really interesting. It discusses Gladwell’s book, Outliers, which postulates that social forces are incredibly important in shaping individuals that accomplish great things. But what I find really interesting is Brooks’ argument that individuals who actually accomplish the most are those who are fantastic at controlling their attention. I think this makes complete sense, especially relevant in our hyperlinked, 24/7 world. People who are okay with tuning out email, IM, twitter and other interruptions do get more done. Maybe we won’t all become the next Bill Gates by controlling our attention, but we will get more done.

I know that when I turn off the email, I get tons more accomplished in a day. A few months ago I tried an experiment where I only opened my email account at 4 specified times during the day. At first I was afraid that I would miss important messages, but after a couple of days I found that not only did I get more work done, I didn’t miss any messages that were totally crucial to my work or life. I fell off this bandwagon during the last couple of weeks of the year and am trying to reinstate this in my life as being tied to the computer and Internet all day is a recipe for complete distraction.

So all I’m really saying in this post is: stop multi-tasking and trying to do it all! You can’t do it all. There are only 24 hours in a day and you don’t have a time-turner (if you don’t get what I just said, I suggest reading Harry Potter). Focus your energy and you’ll be able to achieve a state of flow more readily and get more accomplished while being less stressed. All in all a great recipe for not only becoming healthier in the new year (stress really is a killer) but also being a better person to others as you will be less stressed–everyone likes people who are calm, not stressed.

Happy Friday, good luck on controlling your attention and let me know your tips for getting more done and being less stressed.

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