Amy’s Mantras for Getting Things Done

If we try to focus on everything we focus on nothing.

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I am an action taker and I’m organized. I love making that list and crossing those things off. I get things done. I don’t even have to try because Baby, I was Born this Way. On my refrigerator at home, I have a grocery list. You’re thinking, “So what, I have one too.” My grocery list is a template. It has categories for Costco, Target and the regular grocery store. And each of those categories is divided into subsections organized in the order in which you walk through the store. I mean, how many times have you gotten to the check stand only to realize that you forgot something in the far back corner. Then you say, “Forget it, I’ll get it next time.” My system eliminates that problem. I do a lot of speaking and when I tell this story, I can see most of the men in the audience thinking, “Thank goodness I’m not married to her!” Trust me, I’m thinking the same thing!

My core consulting business is “Getting Things Done.” The executives set the programs and strategies, I come in and focus on implementation and execution better known as getting things done. My technical background is software engineering and I spent several years in marketing so I am a good utility player. I have deep experience in software and medical devices but it really doesn’t matter what the industry sector is.

Here are my mantras for getting things done:

1. The importance of saying no

  • The only truly finite resource you have is time – every time you say yes to one thing you are saying no to something else by default
  • If you don’t make your decisions, your decisions will make you

2. You can only have one #1

  • The importance of discrete priorities
  • It doesn’t mean you can’t do more than one thing at a time but forcing discrete priorities makes focus fall into place like magic

3. You can only eat an elephant one bite at a time

  • Strategic initiatives can be overwhelming
  • Critical to break them into small, actionable pieces
    • Defined by assigning an owner and due date

The Importance of Saying No

Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to say NO? Some people find it nearly impossible and end up with too many commitments. Do you ever say YES and then regret it?

Most companies struggle more with saying NO than saying YES. Oddly enough it’s far more risky to say NO than to say YES. What if you were the one who said NO to the billion-dollar idea? Remember that time is your one finite resource. When you say YES to one thing you are inevitably saying NO to another.

If you don’t make your decisions, your decisions will make you.

You Can Only Have One #1

I try to force the executive teams I work with to assign discrete priorities to their key initiatives. This means you can only have one #1. It doesn’t mean you can’t do more than one thing, but it forces them to choose the most important thing. It’s difficult to do. In companies, setting discrete priorities causes things to fall into place all the way down the line. Each worker is clear how to prioritize all the little (and big) tasks that come up each day. Suddenly everything is aligned and progress is made like magic each and every minute.

Think about your own business or work, are you clear on your #1? If you set discrete priorities, every time you sit down at your desk, you know exactly what to work on. No more spending the first 10 minutes deciding what to work on. Imagine how much more efficient and effective you will be!

If we try to focus on everything we focus on nothing.

You Can Only Eat an Elephant One Bite at a Time

I learned this saying from one of my first mentors out of business school and I love it. So many projects are overwhelming. Everyone has good intentions but they sit around trying to figure out what to actually do right now, this afternoon and tomorrow. Breaking things into bite-sized pieces is so important. It’s also important to realize that bite-sized pieces will mean different things for an experienced manager versus a customer service representative. It can sometimes be difficult to do it for yourself so don’t be afraid to get help if you are stuck.

So, if you

  1. Make the tough decisions, which usually means saying NO rather than YES
  2. Force yourself to set discrete priorities, and
  3. Break things into bite-sized pieces

You can get anything done! Now go take on the world!

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