It is easy to spend so much time worrying about being efficient — planning your day, listing your tasks, prioritizing your tasks — that you never get anything done.
I picked up some good advice in the book, Four-Hour Work Week written by Timothy Ferriss.
Don’t worry about being efficient. Just be effective.
So, I sat down and tried to figure out how to be more effective. I am a journalist/writer. It seems obvious that what I do that would have the the most effect would be to write. Not trying to figure out how to do book cover designs. Not trying to decide if Facebook is better than Twitter is better than whatever, than marketing, or if any of those are really marketing.
What I do is write. The way I am most effective is to write. And, I don’t do that by making lists of things that I need to write. If it is important enough to write on a list, I just write it, or do it.
I don’t even make lists of what needs to be done for each article I write. It will become apparent when I am writing, and much of what I used to put on a list I found I really didn’t need to do anyway.
I was writing lists because I thought it would make me more efficient. At best all it did was make me more efficient at doing things that were not effective.
Now, it is true that if you are writing a book, eventually you are going to need a book cover. That was not something I knew how to do, nor was it something I wanted to learn. I really think the latter is more important than the former.
However, I am writing a book, Sometimes Things Break. I needed a cover.
So I farmed it out.
I found an artist/graphic designer at Fiveer.com, sent him two or three sentences on what the book would be about, and for $15 he did a book cover, and a web banner for me. $15!!
I don’t know how long it would have taken me to do this cover, or if I ever could. But I know for sure that even one hour of my time is worth more than $15.
The thought of how much time I spent making lists every day staggers me. Taking a look at that notebook in my Evernote app is shocking. So many lists. So little effective result.
Instead of writing a list of what needs to be done each day, I just do what needs to be done every day.
Yet, I don’t kill myself doing it.
I don’t work 18 hours a day, or even 12 hours a day, or even 8 hours a day. There is nothing noble about working yourself into exhaustion, and I have found the longer I give myself to work each day, the more I fail to be effective.
It isn’t surprising. When I have 18 hours to work, I don’t have to be effective. There’s always one more hour to do whatever needs to be done, like writing a list for tomorrow.
One more thing. I realized the other day I was spending so much time reading stories about being productive that I didn’t have time to get anything done.
Don’t make that mistake.
When you finish this blog, delete it.
Then go out and be effective.
P.S. You might be thinking that I was dropping nothing but a shameless plug into this article when I mentioned the book I am working on, Sometimes Things Break (Oops. There I did it again.)
Well, you would be half right. There is no shame in a plug.
P.P.S. Hang on. Here comes another plug that is even more blatant.
Rod Kackley has written for Crain’s Detroit Business. The Detroit News, MiBiz and is a former news director for Grand Rapids’ WOOD-AM/FM
He is also the author of Last Chance Mile: The Reinvention of an American Community. For an autographed hardcover or softcover copy, please go to www.rodkackley.com.
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