Josh is a research analyst at a multinational pharmaceutical company. In his role, Josh is responsible for researching new innovative drug solutions to help people with different ailments. This role requires him to be very organized and manage tasks effectively throughout the day. However, Josh has been finding it difficult to meet all his obligations. He often finds himself switching from one task to another and focusing too much time on unimportant tasks that don’t get him closer to his overall goal.
How can Josh improve his task management skills so that he can perform his job effectively and take on more responsibility with the organization? I recently read a book titled “Eat that Frog” by Brian Tracy. As one of the world’s premier thought leaders on the subject of time management and effectiveness, Mr. Tracy provides unique insight on how to improve in both categories. In this article I’ll provide actionable strategies that I’ve used in the past to effectively manage tasks and increase my productivity.
Eat that frog (#1 goal)
I bet you’re wondering “What in the heck do you mean by Eat That Frog?” In the book of the same name, Brian Tracy describes the concept with a scenario. He tells his readers to imagine eating a frog each morning. That would be a horrible experience right? His logic is that if you eat a frog each morning, there are very few things (if any) that could be worse that. The same logic can be applied to task management.
Your one big hairy audacious task (Frog) should be the first task you engage in each morning. Brian recommends defining that one task and dedicating your full concentration to it until it’s complete. By completing this one task, all your other daily tasks will be a cake walk. So what’s your “Frog” task? Define it and start working towards completing it.
Another awesome concept described in the book is how the Pareto 80/20 principle can be applied to task management. Vilfredo Pareto discovered the principle in 1906 while analyzing land data for his native country of Italy. He found that 20% of the people in Italy held 80% of the land. As he began applying this principle to other areas of his study, he found that the pattern held true in many cases. As it applies to task management, the logic holds that 20% of your tasks account for 80% of your results.
Take some time to write out 10 things that you want to accomplish for the day. According to the principle, there will be 2 items on your list that will account for 80% of your results. What are those two tasks for you? By defining them, you’ll better able to focus your attention and brainpower on completing the tasks that will bring you the best results.
Break goals down in chunks
When Brain Tracy was younger he traveled through Algeria on his way to Johannesburg, South Africa. In order to cross Algeria and head south to Mali, he had to traverse 500 miles of desert. Over the last 20 years, more than 1300 people had died trying to cross that strip of desert. He describes how he was able to cross the desert by looking for the black 50 gallon oil drums placed every 5 kilometers. When he and his travel partner would hit each black drum, they would look for and shoot towards the next one.
By approaching the 500 miles of desert one 5 kilometer stretch at a time, he was able to break down his big goal into little pieces. This helped him and his travel mate maintain a positive moral and build momentum towards their goal. Do you have a BIG goal that you’re intimidated about starting? Try breaking it down into smaller pieces and begin working towards each little piece. In no time, you’ll begin to see results and be encouraged to keep going.
I’ve discussed this concept in previous articles so I was excited to see it talked about at length in this book. The ability to focus on a task until it’s completed is the single most important habit you can adopt to transform your productivity. With the ever increasing presence of technology in our lives, it can be easy to get distracted and focus on other things. Emails, Social Media and other less important tasks are constantly bombarding us throughout the day and demanding our attention.
These distractions can reduce our productivity by as much as 40%! One of the things I found most effective for keeping me on task is turning off instant notifications to my cell phone and computer. This change alone has helped me stay focused for longer and get more done as a result. Make the commitment to stick with a task until it’s completed. I’m sure that this small change will drastically improve your productivity.
Bringing it all together
After Josh had a talk with his boss, he knew he had to make a change in how he handled task management. He began by writing down a to do list each morning and defining his top 2 tasks for the day. When he got to the office, he would attack his most important task until it was complete and then move on to each subsequent task. Any time he felt overwhelmed by a particular task, he would take a few minutes to break it down into small actionable pieces. Once he outlined his plan of attack, he felt better about his chances of completing the item and got to work towards completing the task.
After a few weeks of this routine, he began to see positive results at work and was eventually entrusted with leading a high exposure project for the organization. Time management is something that often gets over looked in our technology centric society. If you’re willing to apply these principles into your daily life, you’ll put yourself above the competition.
My book recommendation for this article is “Eat that Frog” by Brian Tracy. In the book, Brian delves into his top ways to improve how you handle tasks and increase productivity in your life. Brain Tracy is a world renowned expert on the subject of task management and productivity and this book is one of his best. I highly recommend it and I’ve provided the link below: