Low Hanging Fruit Can Be a Distractor

Let’s tackle the low hanging fruit first. We’ve all heard that expression. It sounds great — doing the easiest, fastest work to cross out the most items on our list. Feels gratifying, right?

But, it can be a distractor.

In a recent talk I attended on website usability, Steve Krug, author of Don’t Make Me Think, cautioned the audience about being tempted to go after the deliciousness of the low hanging fruit, whilst ignoring that one big, glaring hard problem. Instead, he advises, “Do the least amount of work possible to make your biggest problem, no longer be your biggest problem.”

At first when you hear, “Do the least amount of work possible,” that might ring of being lazy. But read that again. It’s actually smart time and resource management. Once your biggest problem is no longer your biggest problem, you can repeat that approach. You can do the least amount of work (again) and make your new biggest problem no longer your biggest problem.

Low hanging fruit feels good to power through. But it can be a distractor from your priorities.

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My “6 List” – Focusing on What’s Important

Being effective and productive in your work means focusing on the right things and saying “no” to a lot more things than you’d think. Of late, I’ve been using a tool I call my “6 List” — it’s an an approach that I grabbed from the book, The Ultimate Sales Machine, by Chet Holmes.

TO DO LIST TOO LONG?

One common problem for the working professional, is having a daily to do list that’s just not achievable. We list out the important things that need to be done. Sounds great! But if we added up the time it’d take to do them all, it’s about 4 days of work we expect to pack into one day.

Even if we haven’t done the math, subconsciously we know we’ll never finish it all. Often, we give up before we start or get mired into doing the things “in front of us” versus what’s most important. Then, when the end of the day comes, we haven’t even made a dent in our priorities.

6 THINGS, 6 HOURS

In his book, Holmes talks about how in an 9 – 10 hour work day, we should identify the top 6 things that must get done. We should expect that our actions on them for today will total about 6 hours. If the 6 things total more than 6 hours, then some management of expectations (yours, your team’s, a client’s) should replace one of the 6 things, so your 6 List is achievable.

6 HOURS + UNEXPECTED STUFF = A FULL DAY

You need the 6 List to account for only 6 hours because you will need the rest of the time in your day to manage the unexpected things that WILL come up. Some of those unexpected things can just get done. Some will need to replace one of your items on your 6 List (re-prioritization). Some can be deferred to a later date. But that deferment takes a little management (to make sure you’re equipped to be reminded to do that other thing at the right time).

KEEPING YOUR EYE ON THE BALL

Once you’ve got your 6 List, you need to keep it near you to make sure you’re sticking to it and to make sure that the unexpected things aren’t going to keep you finishing your 6.

I’ve been using this technique for a couple of months and I’ve found it quite helpful.

Xtine’s Law of Perpetual Energy

I have this theory and the more I tested it, the more I realized it was not just a theory. I decided to make it a law. (My second law, at that.)

And it’s just this:

You can keep your productivity (and enjoyment of what you’re doing) very high by:

1. Working where you’re inspired

2. Switching gears when your productivity starts to lag. This literally FRESHENS your energy.

Example: I’m a CEO, a door-opener, a designer, a mom, a wife, a writer, an athlete, a dabbler at piano, a person who enjoys mowing lawns, “straightening things” and vacuuming, and more.

When I’m doing a lot of “thought work,” I will find it restful and energizing to write a blog post, or design a marketing flyer. OR, I might enjoy reading a book to my kids.

Often, after a long day of work when I’m tired, the first thing I want to do is go dig into an insane cardio workout. To the outside observer it looks like, “Damn, she’s still going!”

But actually, because the new activity uses DIFFERENT parts of my brain, body and being, it rests my tired parts. And it gives way to the energetic parts of me that are bursting to be used.

I call it Xtine’s Law of Perpetual Energy. And while it does require supplements of good nourishing food and periods of sleep, it’s pretty self-sustaining in all other ways.

 

 

Five Minutes Can Mean the World to a Kid

This morning, I’m all in my head. Mentally, I’m already at work. I’m thinking about deadlines and clients and deliverables.

Last night, I had grand plans of being at the office by 6:30 am. Yeah, but there’s the time change. So it’s 8:15 am and I am feeling behind. Add to that the fact that we’re a one car family and today is my turn to be on the bike trail to work. A longer commute, even if it’s one I enjoy. But it takes more time.

Ian, my 6-year-old is leaving for the bus stop (on his scooter which he’ll lock up) at the same time I’m pulling my bike out of the garage. He asks, “Mommy, can you please wave to me when I’m on the bus?”

I start to think, I can’t do that. I’m already late. And the bus won’t be along for another 5 to 8 minutes.

Wait.

I’m only late for a timeline I set for myself. Five to eight minutes will mean the world to this kid. This kid who always has a big hug and a kiss for me as he’s boarding the bus. And who waves with such energy and vigor and a smile on his face. How can I miss that? How can I deprive him of that.

Max, his older brother is a great kid. But he’s too cool for any of this cute stuff. Ian won’t want hugs and kisses at the bus stop forever. He won’t want to wave to me like this always.

I say, “Of course, Ian. I love waving to you.”

And after school, when he asks me, “Mom, will you go scootering with me?” … The answer is easy. “Yes, Ian. I’d love to.”