by Jeffrey W. Cox

It is hard, but it is possible to be close to 100% effective in all areas of your life. Being 100% (let’s call it 95% — no one is perfect, so they say) effective can be done by focusing on one area at a time – usually by concentrating on one “project” at a time. In addition, you do it by only concentrating on one task at a time on each project. Finally, the whole time you have to work hard at staying motivated – a challenge in itself.

h3. It Is Hard

In today’s world of fast personal computers, stable operating systems, and fast information delivery (Blogs, The Web, E-mails, IM), people feel like and are forced to attempt to multi-task just like those fast personal computers. Last year, Bill Gates wrote the following in his Executive E-Mail column:

A recent study showed that 56 percent of workers are overwhelmed by multiple simultaneous projects and interrupted too often; one-third say that multi-tasking and distractions are keeping them from stepping back to process and reflect on the work they’re doing. In the United Kingdom, it’s estimated that stress accounts for nearly one-third of absenteeism and sick leave.
(Source: http://www.microsoft.com/mscorp/execmail/2005/05-19newworldofwork.asp)

That stress factor shows that multitasking like that is not how our brains work, or should be asked to work. (Side note: I am not a psychology major, nor have I studied such. This is strictly a personal opinion I am expressing.)

h3. But It Can Be Done

Awhile back, I had a conversation with a good friend of mine. He said “It is so <insert your own expletive here> hard to be 100%effective in all areas of my life at once. It is easy to get one or two areas working well at any given time, but not ALL at the same time.” I reminded him that one of our favorite motivational speakers, Joel Weldon, coaches us to “just keep improving everyday.” Also, I was about to write “Do you want us to rip your proverbial engine open and install a cam to make all the cylinders fire in 100% perfect timing?” when I realized that maybe that is the “improving” we can work on – getting our “timing” right. You do not have to be 100% perfect in all areas of your life at that one particular moment. You just need to focus on, as David Allen says, the "next action," or in other words the very next step, and only the next step, you can take on the project. Then, when that next action is completed, fire “cylinder number 2” and move on to the next action (or switch to another project if it has a higher priority).  Using this focused mentality will let you stay 100% (well, again, let’s say 95%) effective in all areas of your life, but, it takes motivation.

h3. Staying Motivated

You have to stay motivated to be effective. It is hard; we all know that. Sometimes all of your work is overwhelming. Sometimes it is all just very boring. However, you have to just suck it up and stay on track. One way to do this is to remind yourself why you are staying motivated.
Tom Peters provided a good example of this in his blog awhile back:

This may be day 45 and mile 76,000 for me, but for the Client it is D-Day for an Important Event (often their year’s #1 event, for God’s sake); hence my exhaustion and accompanying short temper must be thrust aside … and downright cheeriness and spirited engagement must become the invariant orders of the day. Besides, such cheeriness, even if feigned, cheers me up first and foremost!
(Source: http://www.tompeters.com/entries.php?note=008294.php)

Another quote I personally use is one from Will Smith in the movie Hitch“Wake up every day, as if it was on purpose!” Saying this to myself after clicking “Ok” to the alarm from my Palm usually is the difference between getting up and snoozing five more times!

h3. “You Can Do It!”

Like that goofy guy on the Geico Car Insurance commercials says, “You can do it!!” (Who is that guy anyway?) It is hard, but, effectiveness is achievable – even though it feels out of reach as you pop open that To Do list and stare at an average of 150 items. It just takes constant work and some self-motivation. In the end, however, the feeling of being that effective is oh so worth it.

h3. About Jeffrey W. Cox

Jeffrey Cox is an entrepreneur who lives in Phoenix Arizona, his adopted home state. He has been a recognized and successful IT consultant for over 20 years. Last year, he made a shift to focus on his passion, personal productivity and organization, by starting Foresight. Foresight is a company with a mission to help people get their To Do lists done by being more successful with their lists, projects and goals. You can sign up today for his insightful newsletter as well as stay informed about Foresight’s forth-coming product launch – an add-in for Microsoft Outlook that will truly let you focus on getting the right things done.

Jeffrey can be contacted at jeffrey@FixYourToDoList.com and blogs at
http://www.FixYourToDoList.com/blog

Start your own business. Incorporation services. Nevada, Florida, Texas or any U.S. State.

7 Comments on Achieving Effectiveness

  1. Anonymous Coward says:

    “‘You can do it!!’ (Who is that guy anyway?)” => Tony Little, America’s personal trainer

  2. Like many, I struggle with multitasking. At any given time my to-do list has a healthy number of tasks ranging from the most strategic to the smallest and most mundane. I’m constantly tempted to knock off the small tasks for the instant gratification I get when the list shrinks in number. What I force myself to do is re-rank my to do list every morning and start with the first item before moving down the list. In the end, I’m gratified when I know at the end of the day I worked on the right things and made progress, even if the total count didn’t go down.

  3. Kelly says:

    Personally, I like Rob Sneider’s “you can do it” on the Adam Sandler movies much better than Tony Little’s.

  4. Dean Hebert says:

    Jeff,

    Good article. And by the way, you’re right, our brains DON’T think about things simultaneously. Actually, it very rapidly does things in a sequential way. Those who are better at “multi-tasking” actually are just better at focusing and refocusing on different tasks… sequentially not simultaneously.

    Dean
    http://www.mindsetforperformance.com

  5. Achieving Effectiveness

    Today, Keith over at To-Done! was incredibly kind and gracious to publish an article I wrote, called “Achieving Effectiveness.”  Please take a minute and check it out; I think you will like it.
    Many thanks goes to Keith and To-Done!  Keit…

  6. ekapa says:

    interesting post. and why u use a palm instead of an ipaq, i dont know :P

  7. Mia says:

    Take a look at this new video ad from Factiva on the subject of motivation. Great advice on inner office harmony, expanding your horizons and lighting fires under employees’ chairs.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5Es2ryNzKE

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