More, Less, Stop

In our frenetically busy lives, we all smack up against the same obstacle: time.  The 24-hour clock is a brutal and unforgiving foe.  It’s easy to fill the hours, feeling busy and anxious, only to look back at a stunningly puny amount of productivity.

With unlimited access to information and frictionless global markets for goods, services, and talent, you need to make each minute count in order to remain competitive.  Sounds easier said than done?  Let’s explore a simple, yet effective, approach to making the most of the clock.  I want you to make three lists:

1. MORE – What do you need more of in your life?  Where are your efforts spent that deliver the highest value? More time in strategy meetings?  Crafting the brand?  Coaching a colleague?  Reading to your kids?  Make a list of the top seven things that you want to prioritize and do more of.  These are the areas that will lead to your biggest goals, drive the most progress, and contribute at your highest capacity.

2. LESS – What do you need less of?  Less time updating your Facebook status, gossiping at the water cooler, or watching reality shows?  You may feel busy by triple-checking a report or holding yet another mind-numbing meeting, but these low-return time investments can rob you of the ability to focus on what matters most.  What are seven items that should be reduced to make room for higher value activities?

3. STOP – We all have to-do lists, but how many of us have a stop-doing list?  This list should include the most notorious and unproductive activities that should be eliminated completely.  Each of us knows what to include for our own lists.  For some it may be junk food.  Some may need to cut out negative self-talk.  For others, they need to stop impulsively checking email while driving (author note: guilty as charged).   These habits are tempting to be sure, but they deplete value and lure you away from your calling.  Make sure to include the seven worst offenders you need to guard against, and then exterminate them as if they were fire ants.

Try this for 30 days.  Three lists, seven items for each list.  While the first week may be a bit rough as you break old patterns, you’ll be delighted with the results by the end of week two.  More time. Higher impact. Focused creativity.  Deeper connections.

Since 1944, Smokey the Bear has told us, “Only YOU can prevent forest fires.”  For those looking to reach their full potential, I’d add that only YOU can take control of your most precious and non-replenishing asset: time.  Your three lists will help you get there before your hopes and dreams go up in smoke.