I get automated emails from LinkedIn every now and then which contain links to articles that on the odd occasion seem kind of interesting. Like this one about being successful. I read it and I thought wow there’s some really great suggestions! But then I also felt a little bit skeptical, because how does this person know what successful people do? Has he conducted research? Apparently he didn’t conduct research, but another guy by the name of Kevin Kruse did. But only 200 people. I’m sure there are a heck of a lot successful people out there so I’m not convinced that 200 means these are accurate representative results.
I wanted to take a look at what’s suggested. Whether or not you’d call me successful I think depends on what your own perception is. I feel that I am successful. I came into my role as a Service Delivery Manager a little over three and a half years ago with zero experience, one year later I was promoted to Team Leader, above others who had been working there for longer than me. About a year and a half after that I was promoted to Manager of not just that team, but another team as well. So my working methods can’t be doing too badly!
Keep a minute by minute schedule
Apparently successful people don’t go hour by hour during their day but minute by minute. I can almost feel my anxiety swell at the thought of that and I feel pressured already to get, well, nothing done.
Personally I still like to work with blocks of time, but 15-30 minute chunks. My brain whizzes away on a task intensely, and then I stop and go “ahhh” and let that go and come back to it later if I need to.
I also don’t keep a schedule. Well, not really anyway. I know when all my regular meetings are, I have blocks of time in my calendar every week for my set tasks. But my work is so random and is basically answering questions all day that it’s difficult to schedule it out beyond that.
Focus on one thing
This advice is a little ambiguous, it talks about focussing on one task for say 2 hours every morning without a break, and the task you focus on should be geared towards maybe getting you promoted.
I can kind of understand why you would want to do that but can you imagine the brain strain of sitting there for 2 hours without a break? I can’t even read one of my favourite books for that long without needing to take a break and do something else to refresh my mind!
Don’t use to-do lists
I have heard this being wildly contested, there are so many different ways of doing lists, but the recommendation here is to throw them away and instead schedule them in your calendar because according to the article 41% of things on the to-do list don’t get done.
Probably true, but I still love my to-do list. But it’s not the only way I get things done. My to-do list is broken down with things that I need to get done like add performance goals to the HR system for my team. But then I have the reoccurring ones for which I do schedule in my calendar. Then I have other things that I do when I might have 15 minutes spare at the end of the day like maybe a little PD. The combination of methods has worked really well for me. I find if I micromanage my time too much I balk and don’t get anything done, but if I don’t have a to-do list I forget half the crap I’m supposed to do.
Time travel anyone?
God knows how you’d do this one. It starts off with “your future self can’t be trusted”, gee thanks. So what can you do now to ensure that you don’t procrastinate and not get shit done? Maybe refer back to the rest of the list and book yourself a meeting, or you know what Just Freaking Do It!
Another suggestion I’ve heard to beat procrastination is to tackle the hardest task in the morning because by the afternoon your brain is tired and can’t really focus as well as you potentially could. So you run the risk of maybe missing a different solution or making the wrong decision. Make sure the hard stuff gets done in the morning! This actually works really well for me I find.
Always make sure you’re home for dinner. Totally agree with this one. Sometimes there’s the temptation to stay late at work and just get those extra things done but to be honest, you never get that time back, so why do it? Make sure you get the hard or urgent crap done first and everything else can wait. But always, always make sure you have that work/life balance.
The handiest, dandiest things ever. I have an online notebook that syncs with absolutely everything and that’s where I track day to day stuff, but, I also have a paper notepad. I find sometimes when I’m talking to someone on the phone for example it is easier for me to write this in the notebook first as some rubbish scrawl, and then go back after the call and decipher it all and decide how to action it.
Only manage emails a few times a day
Apparently successful people schedule time in their calendar to specifically go through emails, and might only do this a few times a day.
As someone whose whole job revolves around answering emails, this isn’t an option for me. I live on my emails every day. The only time I don’t check them is when I’m in a meeting or doing one of my scheduled tasks, of which there might only be one or two a week. When I’m in a meeting with people I like to give them my full attention, I like to actually listen. I see some of my staff trying to multitask in these and they mishear or misinterpret things from discussions because they weren’t fully focussed on it. So when I see them doing that now I ask them to stop and focus.
Avoid meetings, avoid avoid!
I hate useless meetings. And so many people schedule them which really annoys me. When you sit in the same office as someone, why not just walk over for a chat right then and there? When we have meetings I like to get right to the point, discuss and maybe resolve the issue then and there, or at least have actions. Some people oh my gosh, they just get lost waffling about examples of this or that and the meeting drags on for so long. It can be a real challenge managing those meetings and so I tend to avoid those ones at all costs when I know they’re going to be like that.
What I do really like are coffee and lunch catch ups. I’ve achieved so much by just catching up with someone for a general chit chat, it’s amazing. Because it’s so informal you can build the relationship with the person, build up some of that goodwill and then ask for favours or changes.
Say no to near everything
So many people have an aversion to saying no. The advice here is if it’s not something that makes you go “hell yeah!” don’t do it. That’s a little impractical and I think you’ll probably end up failing at work if you do that, but I agree that people shouldn’t be afraid to say no. Some seem to feel it might make them a bit unpopular if they say no, but if you can justify your reasons then you have a leg to stand on.
Personally, I like to give careful consideration before providing an answer so if I can’t see the benefits of doing something for me or for my team and the company, then I might take it away to think about and then say no. Sometimes though I might say yes depending on who it is because I want to build some goodwill with them that I can use when I need something.
It’s all give and take people. If you say no to everyone, they’ll start saying no to you and then where will you be?
The 80/20 rule
So apparently 80% of results come from 20% of activities. Does that mean I only need to work 20% and still see a buttload of results? Apparently so, as long as those activities are the ones that will really drive success. And then you should ignore everything else. Or maybe you should have said no to it.
I don’t know about you but I’m not suckered in by that. I think you need to be strategic about what you’re going to be doing and find the best possible way to do it (lazy people can be amazing at doing that) so that you can get those wins. But sometimes you need to suck it up and put in a bit of effort to get a massive win and boost your clout that way.
Delegate, delegate, delegate
This can really piss me off. Apparently successful people don’t ask how they can get something done but how it can get done in general and you know maybe find someone else to do it.
Delegation can be appropriate if you need help with something but it needs to be something that you’d be equally as willing to step in and help out. For example, my team do reports every month and we have a QA process. One of my team was away and I could have delegated that work to the other two in my team who were under the pump enough or I could step in and help out. I chose to step in and help out. What I’m saying is, there’s a time and a place for delegation but it shouldn’t be seen as shirking your responsibilities.
Do it the first time
Admittedly when you look at the example they use here I’m really bad. The example is getting a bill, you should pay it then and there not put it down and come back to it. Or in my case, look at it and put it in my work bag to pay a couple of days later when I remember it.
The idea here is that if it’s something simple, say you get an email and it will only take a few minutes to reply, do it then and there. If it’s going to take a bit more looking into circle back to it. This part though I am actually really good at. I’ll check my emails, filter out the crap I don’t need to read or that’s just an FYI, then reply to emails that’ll take only a couple of minutes. If something is going to take longer e.g. adding goals to the HR system and then letting someone know, it goes on my to-do list somewhere and I file the email away to come back to later. Having a clear inbox helps to reduce stress for me I find.
Make sure you start the day with a routine. Whatever it is, a good breakfast, exercising, meditation, make sure every day starts the same and this will get you off to a good start. I find that if I’m following my normal routine the morning just feels so easy but if I haven’t I feel a bit all over the place and like I’ve missed something.
This is a load of crap; you need to start viewing food as fuel for your body, plain and simple. Energy is a big key player to how we feel and how we power for the day, so I can agree we need to be making sure we’re getting enough sleep, water and food, but to the point where you don’t see food as a pleasure but something functional to get by I can’t agree with. Maybe it works for some people but not so for me.
Lots and lots of tips there for being a successful person. I think a lot of them might come down to not only personal preference, but also the kind of job that you have. What works for me as a pencil pusher may not work for a carpenter.
Do you have any methods that you find have really aided your success?