Take yourself seriously

Get more productive, as productive as those CEOs should be (even if they're not) by borrowing some of their good habits.

What if you were the CEO of a multi-million dollar company?

Would you let yourself kill an hour of your morning playing Angry Birds?

Would you tweet what you had for lunch, what you wish you had for a snack, and what you hope you’ll have for dinner?

Would you convince yourself it was more important to leave twenty-three blog comments than to get that project done?

Would you feel the urge to Like ten new Facebook pages and send a few text messages before you got started?

Would you do all the detail work, read all the forwarded emails, or answer every phone call?

Or would you realize that your work was too important for that sort of mess?

Would you take yourself seriously?

Would you consider the size of your paycheck and feel a teensy bit guilty about wasting time on Farmville?

Don’t bother with the stuff that doesn’t matter. 

You know what? The world will keep on going.

Delegate what you shouldn’t be spending your time on. 

You can’t ignore stuff that has to be done; if someone isn’t made responsible, then it will pile up, a big undone mess, and you’ll still be responsible.

Outsource (there are many frugal and creative ways to do this) and delegate. Make someone else responsible. Or find a way to not need to get that thing done.

Identify and eliminate your biggest time wasters.

Phone? Turn it on silent while you work. Check it every hour when you take a (timed, ten-minute) break. Email? Close your email tab, turn off new email notification. People? Close the door. Lock it. Get child care. Go somewhere else. Put up a do-not-disturb sign. Chain a large dog to your desk. Hire a bodyguard.

The people you love the most are usually the biggest time wasters. It’s true. It’s not that time with them is wasted time. But interruptions cause wasted time. When it’s time to be with people, be with them. Give them your attention, all of it. When it’s time to work, fight against wasted time by saying, “Not now, please,” and closing the door.

Plan time to plan.

Planning can turn into procrastinating, yes. But adequate planning, with real-life strategies to carry out your plan, keeps you on track. You need to know where you’re going to know if you’re getting there.

Don’t get sucked into drama. 

Drama sounds like, “Can you look at this presentation right now? I need to have it for a meeting in an hour.”

Drama sounds like, “Mo o oooo o ooom, I’m boooo ooooo ored.”

Drama is other people’s urgency infringing on your priorities. Stop letting it. Drama is other people’s unhappiness invading your focus.

You don’t have to let it.

I love my kids, but I’m not responsible for their entertainment. If they’re bored, that’s a problem they need to solve. Learning how to solve that problem for themselves is an important lesson in life. I won’t do it for them because it’s not my job. It’s theirs. And they’re capable of handling it. I know they are because I respect them enough to see their skills and intelligence and take them seriously.

I care about my colleagues and friends, but I won’t allow their stress to become my stress. I will help when I can. I like helping people. But I will not pretend everything is a crisis. I will not walk into their self-imposed tension. I will not enter their whirlpool of reactivity. I will not mirror their negative emotions.

You don’t need to freak out in order to help someone.

Drama is a big waste of time. Drama creates need when there might not be an actual need. Take yourself seriously and be objective and calm and figure out if there’s an actual need. Then deal with it on your terms.

Don’t do other people’s jobs for them.

Your kid can dress himself? Let him.Your sister can book her own flight? Let her. Your partner can feed himself? Let him. Your mom can choose her own outfit? Let her.

Do your job – whatever that entails in family, social, and work circles – and stay out of everyone else’s responsibilities. Take them seriously, too.

Your assignment

Make a list of things you will not do, starting today. Write at least 10 things. Then add 5 more.

It helps to go by area or category: things I will not do at work, things I will not do at home, things I will not do for my family, things I will not do for my friends…

So on.

Is this difficult? Do you feel mean? Do you feel guilty about using your energy for yourself first?

That’s cultural training.

It’s not based on a real set of right-and-wrong values; it’s based on our desire for security and our fear of rejection. It’s okay to question this stuff. It’s GOOD to question it.

You are not support staff. You are not here to help other people fulfill their missions. You have your own goddamn mission. Get after it.