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Less-Is-More Blog by Pierre Khawand

Do the most difficult first; 3 ways to get the ultimate business result and for managing stress

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Sun, Jan 31, 2010 @ 10:30 AM

It is a human tendency to take the path of least resistance. To do the easy stuff first. As we do the easy things first though, what is ahead of us is always more difficult than what we currently have. We end up living a "difficult" life with a persistent anxiety about what is next. After all, with this approach, what is next is always more difficult and we end up with more stress and less results:

Business Results

Let us take a look at the alternative. If we reverse this tendency and do the most difficult first, observe what happens:

Managing Stress

What happens is that our anxiety is gone. The next task is now easier. Most importantly, we face the real issues, get real data, gain experience, develop skills, and increase our confidence. We most often rise to the occasion and reap the benefits. Even if we don't fully succeed at the task, we still succeed at learning from it, and being able to apply this knowledge again and again.

Here are 3 ways that can help us adopt this new approach of heading towards the most difficult first:

  1. Start with sound task design. As I suggested a few weeks ago (see When the task seems overcomplicated or overwhelming, reconsider the "task design"!) start by setting the right expectations, then line up the necessary resources, and don't forget to break down the task into manageable components.
  2. Get support and advice. More often than not, the help we need to approach the most difficult is just around the corner or even in front of our eyes. All we have to do is look around and ask. People are more willing to help and provide support when we make it easy for them to do so.
  3. Just do it. We have heard the "just do it" a million times but hearing it and applying it are two different things. It is only when we dive into the action that we can truly experience the learning and the emotions that go with it. It is all wishful thinking until we action.

Your turn to get better at managing stress and getting business results through action with the most difficult action first! Your comments below!

Topics: business results, time management tips, getting organized, managing stress

When the task seems overcomplicated or overwhelming, reconsider the "task design"!

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Fri, Jan 15, 2010 @ 09:25 AM

Task ListAre you struggling with a task (or a whole task list) and don't know where to start and therefore keep postponing it or avoiding it, or maybe get started and feel lost and overwhelmed? More often than not when I face a task that I perceive as over complicated or coach people who are facing such a situation, here is what we realize among other things:

  • The task is actually a bunch of tasks that are disguised as one.
  • The task includes several sub-tasks that require different skills, different tools, different approaches, or different moods.
  • The effort it takes to get the task done is way under-estimated, like thinking we can get it done in a couple of hours while in reality this requires at least a couple of days or even weeks.
  • Substantial thinking and strategizing is necessary before undertaking the task, which we may not have realized or thought we could bypass.
  • Some documents or tools or people are needed to help or support the task but aren't available or easily accessible.

There are many other factors that play into this, but there is one important theme about the issues highlighted above and that is: They relate to what I call "task design." If we spend some time, maybe a few minutes for a simple task or longer for a more complicated one, strategizing and thinking through the task, we are likely to uncover these potential obstacles and:

  1. Be able to set the right expectation (our own and others) of what it is going to take to get this task done.
  2. Get ready for the task by lining up the necessary information, tools, and people.
  3. Break the task down into manageable components and a more reasonable timeline that we can then approach with enthusiasm instead of fear.

When you review your task list or to do list (hopefully the more strategic to do list that I have been describing recently), reconsider task design. This will help you avoid inefficiencies, avoid feeling overwhelmed, and better managing stress, and most importantly it will lead to a successful task execution.

For more insights about task design, check out the article I wrote in March 2008 about "The power of working in iterations! Give yourself the freedom to do so, and celebrate victory against procrastination and perfectionism."

Topics: to do list, time management tips, managing stress

Not ready for a full blown to-do lists bailout, ok, read the 3rd law of usability!

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Wed, Jan 13, 2010 @ 09:47 AM

time management tipsI am not going to leave this to-do lists bailout issue alone until I wrestle it to the ground. Until you agree with me that these to-do lists could very well be the barrier that is holding us back and that a fresh start is of utmost importance.

Yesterday, I described a full blown to-do lists bailout strategy. If you are not ready for the ultimate bailout, here is a milder version of a bailout that can still give you some great benefits.

This version follows Steve Krug's advice on how to enhance the usability of web pages and make them more effective (even not related to to-do lists, but quite applicable). In his book Don't Make Me Think, Steve Krug states his third law of usability as follows: "Get rid of half the words on each page, then get rid of half of what's left."

I suggest that the same law applies to to-do lists. Applying Steve Krug's 3rd law of usability on to-do lists, would result in having about 25% of the original list. Not bad. I would even go a bit further. For those of you who have read my book or attended my workshop, you may have guessed where I am headed with this. I am going to suggest getting rid of 80% of the items on the to-do lists, and focusing on the core 20%. After all the 80/20 rule says, 80% of our results come from 20% of our effort.

Instead of getting busy with insignificant time management tips, or attempting at managing stress with inconsequential small steps, or getting really busy trying to get organized, it is far more impactful to address the root causes in our to-do lists. Cannot do the bailout, go for the 80/20!

Topics: time management tips, getting organized, managing stress

Taking the 3Rs of environmental awareness to your productivity practices

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Tue, Oct 20, 2009 @ 06:23 AM

Environmentally aware consumers are producing less waste by practicing the "3 Rs": Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. When it comes to productivity and accomplishments, we can use these same guidelines and reap some enormous benefits:

Reduce = Reduce the scope

Follow the 80/20 rule which says "80% of our results come from 20% of our effort". Reduce the scope of most tasks by focusing on the core parts that produce the highest returns, and reduce or even eliminate the parts that are less impactful.

Reuse = Reuse what you do

Work on items that have multiple "applications" and that can be leveraged in many ways. If you are creating a marketing collateral for instance, could it be used on the website and on the blog. But don't stop here! Why not include an excerpt and a link to the blog entry in your newsletter. 

Recycle = Recycle the useful parts

Reflect on the projects and activities that you do, and see if you can identify components that can be repurposed. It maybe the actual content, the logic, or the process that can be adapted or re-engineered and then redeployed.

Try them out and report back

With applying the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle principles to managing your priorities and tasks, you are likely to discover valuable time management tips, streamline your getting organized effort, and even succeed at better managing stress!

Topics: time management tips, getting organized, managing stress