Work is a lot like buying a bigger house. At first you don’t have enough furniture and several rooms are empty. Then, somehow, before you know it, every room is cluttered. Every closet is full. You have too much stuff and you can’t imagine adding more—and you decide you need an even bigger house.
Work is often the same way. If you work eight hours, you fill those eight hours. Some tasks are productive. Many aren’t as much so. Still, you feel busy—too busy. You can’t imagine adding more responsibilities to your already overbooked day.
Oddly enough, one of the best ways to be more productive is to take on more responsibility.
Taking on more responsibility naturally forces you to limit the number of items on your to-do list, which is a great way to actually increase your productivity. After all, a to-do list with ten or twenty major items is a wish list, not a to-do list.
When you have “too much” to do, the first things to go are the unimportant tasks. That’s a good thing, because it frees up time for accomplishing the tasks you really need to complete. We all have mission-critical tasks, and those should always be tackled first.
And to make sure you get off to a great start tomorrow, prioritize the next day’s to-do list tonight. Then you won’t waste time deciding what to tackle first; you can jump right into that day’s crucial tasks.
Take on more responsibility and you’ll soon realize just how many unimportant tasks you can streamline.
You might even find tasks you have to eliminate.
Taking on more responsibility naturally forces you to challenge basic assumptions about your regular habits.
Do you really need to hold that meeting? Do you really need to create that report? Do you really need to respond to that email? In many cases you don’t, but you do anyway simply because that’s what you’ve always done.
When you have too much to do, you’ll start eliminating as many “nice to do” tasks as you can. Then you will have more time to be effective where it really matters.
You have to change how you view progress.
Say I give you an hour to write a report. How long will it take you to write that report?
Invariably, it will take about an hour. You have that much time, so you’ll use it.
Taking on more responsibility naturally forces you to focus on results, not on time. Once you start evaluating yourself by what you actually get done rather than the time it takes to get something done, you’ll notice a big difference in how you work.
A great way to jump-start the process is to keep a “done” list or running tally of what you’ve completed each day. That will also help you focus on results, not time, and will help you get a lot more done.
You have to rethink “Yes” and “No.”
We can’t say yes to everything. (Okay, we can, but we won’t get everything we say yes to done, so in effect we’re still saying no.)
Take on more responsibility and saying no gets a lot easier. Now you truly don’t have time. Now you truly don’t have bandwidth. You don’t have to feel bad about declining a request because you really don’t have a choice—and you can easily justify, rationally and objectively, the decision you need to make.
In short, taking on more responsibility ensures you will consider the effect of external requests on your most important goals, and you’ll quickly realize that automatically saying “yes” will also automatically take time away from what you need to get done.
You’ll feel a lot more motivated.
Boredom is infectious. Once you feel a little bored you soon start to feel more bored, and your lack of motivation spreads to other people. Soon you’re all bored, and you’re all getting a lot less done. (And having a lot less fun.)
Success is also infectious. Finishing a task—especially a difficult task—is rewarding. We feel good about ourselves. We love the feeling. It’s natural to want to re-create that feeling. Think back to times when you felt like you were in the zone, and you’ll understand exactly what I’m talking about.
Accomplishment breeds more accomplishment. Success breeds more success. Give yourself more responsibilities to accomplish and you’ll harness the power of self-fulfillment.
And in the process you’ll set an example others will start to follow. Then you’ll all have a lot more fun.
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