The secret to practicing the highest level of causal management is simple: create a To Do list that allows you to focus on what only you can do and delegate everything else to others. In this material I want to talk about a few different time techniques that you can use to manage productivity–Scheduled creation. Here is how I run my life and calendar.
My To Do List
I have a To Do list. It’s over 600 columns wide at this point. The titles I use are the following: Today, Tomorrow, Soon, Others, and Great Ideas.
Let me tell you how it works. Throughout the week, if it is something I need to do, it either goes under Today, Tomorrow, or it goes under Soon. It doesn’t really have a hard deadline, but only I can do it. If it’s anything anybody else can do, it goes under Others. If it turns out to be a great idea to move our company forward, it goes under Great Ideas.
Right now as a company I have over 500 great idea columns. Each column has 5 ideas in it. That’s a result of using this method. Over the weekend, what I do is to look at all of the prior week’s new to do’s. I sort them. What I and only I can do is determined to be done by Monday or Tuesday, so it goes into Today or Tomorrow because I am going to open it tomorrow morning. If it is something that can wait, it goes under Soon.
Everything else gets delegated to others. I forward that Monday morning to the other people that have to jump on those items and get them moving. The key is I do this exactly how Tim Ferris described it years ago. I shut off all forms of distraction and focus on what makes my business grow.
Now I am 16 years into this method. We have 82 employees and 4 offices. But even if this was Day 1 of a new company, and I had no employees and no help, I would still do it. You can use virtual assistance. You can use interns, helpers, but the bottom line is you can only do what only you can do.
As I have recently found out, it looks like for the 3rd time in 4 years we are going to hit the Inc. 5000 list again. I think that’s fantastic and it’s poignant that I bring it about in this context of time management. Because I am not going to stop using this To Do list method until we double again.
Buffer Days: Preparation & Follow Up Is Key
Let’s talk about a few more calendar techniques I use to manage my time. Remember, time is money. Right now, some of the hottest things being discussed in the men’s group and the Master mind groups that I personally belong to is higher achievers, today, are adding themes to their calendars. Themes.
For instance, when I travel, I never book meetings the day before or the day after I return. These are known as buffer days. Buffer days are used for preparation and follow-up, and follow-up is a critical aspect of relationship building. Without buffer days, I used to drop the ball continuously on my follow-ups.
I cannot imagine what we have lost in 24 years because it is only recently I started adding buffer days when I travel. I can’t imagine the amount of business I lost because I would get back instead of having a buffer day. The very next day I get back from work I would have 400 emails, 5 meetings, and I would never follow up with the people I really needed to follow up with. I probably looked incredibly unprofessional.
So, along with buffer days, what we are seeing in the men’s groups’ todays is a lot of focus and planning days being blocked out on peoples calendars. Like a buffer day, a planning day goes back to the days when IBM and the Hilton hotel chain were reigning in the markets. Their management would schedule corporate planning retreats to get out of the office. So they could do the planning while focused. No distractions from the office. This lost art is now on a strong comeback for many high achievers.
The Pareto Principle
Another time technique that not only has not gone away but is making a resurgence is the Pareto Principle. It states that 80% of all results come from 20% of activities and effort. The 80/20 rule is gaining steam right now worldwide because the world is realizing just how distracting it is to run a business.
When you are running a business, you have emails, skypes, voicemails, you name it. Just stop for a second and ask yourself: what are the 20% of your activities that produce 80% of your company’s results? Once you realize it and jam it into your calendar, you are half way there.
Let’s move a step further. Another good question that I have recently read is the following: What is the one thing I can do such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary? I love that! What I want is to point out a small technique that I started using a while back, about six to eight months ago. It is helping me chew through my To Do list to the point where my To Dos are flying off the list. I am getting to check them off much faster than I used to.
In the old days, I would stack my to dos vertically about 8 to 10 to dos per column. So, If I had 30 things to do, I would have 4 columns of 8. I would open it up in the morning. I would stare at my To Do list and I would experience what I call Work Constipation. I couldn’t quite make up my mind where to start. I would dilly dally and get a coffee. I would go outside and smell the flowers. How familiar does that sound?
Now, on the weekend, when I split my list up, instead of stacking them in 4 columns of 8 deep, I find out what the two most important things that absolutely must get done are, and each one of the top two gets their own column. So, the first column only has one thing in it. The second column only has one thing as well.
Then, after I get these done, I ask myself what are the next two most important things to do. And I stack them vertically. My first column has one and my second column has one, then my third column has two. Then, I am going to go right past the top four and find out what the next three things that are most urgent are. And I will stack them 3 deep. Then, the next columns are 4 deep, 5 deep, 6 deep, and so on. The point with my new technique is that it takes a lot of stress off of me.
When I look at that first column, there’s only one thing on it: I can just focus on that one thing and it’s usually the single most important thing of my day. I feel so good when I crank that bad boy off and hit delete. Then, I go to the next column. I get it done. But now I have got a little bit of momentum. I can feel it.
Then, I go to the column with two and a little side technique I use is sneaking in a couple quick ones, things I can do in five minutes or less. Now I have momentum. I literally feel like I have knocked out three of my six columns.
It’s pure psychology but at the same time, I am feeling victorious. I am building momentum where in my previous method, if I were to do these, I would only be halfway down my first column. It would feel like I have such a long way to go. Where here, it feels like I have done a ton. With the momentum, I feel invincible during the day.
It’s Domino Time
Now, I want to finish with something that relates poignantly, and it’s just phenomenal. This comes from Lorne Whitehead, who showed the world in 1983, in the American Journal of Physics, that if you take dominos, you can stack them so that they can topple over another domino that is 50% larger.
So, if you have 1 domino that is an inch wide and two inches tall, it will actually knock over a domino that is an inch wide and three inches tall. 50% bigger. That one can then knock over a domino that is 4 inches tall. Starting with a 2 inch domino, geometric progression means that 23rd domino would be taller than the Eiffel Tower. The 57th would almost touch the moon.
The point is that you can learn to set your To Do list for the day, the week, the month, so that your smaller tasks start leaning on and knocking over larger tasks. Then in turn, these use their momentum, their own inertia to blow right past any goals you set for the day, for the week, for the month. This technique is powerful. Don’t let the weeks set you. You set the weeks. This is what casual management is all about.