Do what matters first

Priority

In the famous book “Eat that frog” by Brian Tracy, the author advocates that you should start your morning with the task that you are most likely to procrastinate on because you consider it the most difficult part of your day. The logic is if you had to eat a live frog first thing in the morning then you can go through the rest of your day knowing the worst of it is behind you.

I am a great advocate of this philosophy. I believe in utilising your early morning hours to get your most important tasks done. Even if that’s the only thing you got done that day, you can smile when you do your evening review because you know you got one task that mattered out of the way.

A frog on a leaf
Frogs are best eaten first thing in the morning
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Learn to say “No” (ii)

No

Last week’s article was about the power of “No.” A simple word but with great power to help you take control of your schedule. Hopefully by now, you have had some practice with saying “No.” The goal is to eventually reach a level where you learn to say “yes” to opportunities and “no” to distractions.

With practice, it’s easy to know when to politely redirect your colleague’s offer for last minute help on a project they had two months to work on. Outside the workplace, however, it can become more difficult to decide which tasks to give up. Let’s examine the following list:

  • Take minutes of the meeting of market women’s association.
  • Service the generator at the orphanage
  • Do the book keeping for the Youth association
  • Read to five year olds at the library
  • Deliver the opening speech at your nephew’s speech and prize giving day

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Learn to say “No” (i)

No

“Poor planning on your part does not necessitate an emergency on mine.”

-Bob Carter

What do you do when someone asks you to do a task you would rather not? Picture this scenario. You are working on a project early in the morning, trying to build momentum. Someone approaches. They ask if you have five minutes. They need your help to go over a report that they have to submit later today. What do you tell them?

You have three options. The first is to say “No. Go away.” That would do the trick and you might be able to get back to work after that but it won’t win you any allies that way. The second is to say “Yes” and allow the person take control of your schedule for the rest of the morning. You know the report was supposed to have been their responsibility and you feel they shouldn’t bother you. It’s not your job to look over their report. Yet you also feel you could do a better job of it than your colleague. Maybe they need a little help after all and you know you could write a better report than them. So you check the report and it’s a mess and you end up having to rewrite parts of it. By the time you are done, you have “helped” your colleague write a report and they can turn it in just in time. Then you go back to your original task and curse the fact that since you have wasted so much time you now have to work after office hours to finish your work.

No
No words necessary

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They are everywhere

A phone screen displaying "1 new message"

Where is your phone? In your pocket? A handbag? On a table in front of you? Or in your hand reading this article? Another question: How many phones do you have?

A lot of Nigerians have more than one phone. The logic seems to be use your smartphone for social media and have a dumb phone for use as a backup. Wherever you go today, you are likely to see someone happily pressing away at their phone’s screen. It’s no longer uncommon to see two people on a “date” busy typing away at their phones, completely ignoring each other.

A sea of phones
You can have too much of the good thing

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Work from home notes (ii)

A house with a figure inside working at a desk

Last week, I wrote about the pros and cons of working from home. Many people have had to adjust to a new reality of working during the COVID-19 pandemic. The adjustment has not been easy for some. If this was your first time having to work from home, you might have found yourself facing more distractions, incurring more expenses and not knowing when work ends and personal life begins. To aid your adjustment, I will share a few tips that worked for me: Continue reading “Work from home notes (ii)”

Work from home notes (i)

A house with a figure inside working at a desk

2020 has been a difficult year for many. The COVID-19 pandemic hit the world hard exposing weaknesses in political and healthcare systems. The economy has also not been spared. A lot of people have lost jobs. If you are among the lucky who still have your job, you might have had to adapt to a new way of working: work from home.

In a bid to limit the number of people under one roof and by so doing curb the rate of infections, employers have had to ask staff members to work away from the office. For many Nigerians, this was their first time working from home.

A sticky note that says "Please stay home"
Dream or nightmare

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Not all hours are created equal

Clock gears

If you ask most people, what hours they would consider their peak periods of alertness, they would say early morning hours. After a good night’s rest, they are fully rested and have the energy to dive into almost any task with greater enthusiasm. It also helps that at those hours, there are often fewer distractions. People are yet to have their first arguments for the day and as a result are often in a happier place.

Unfortunately, the early morning hours are the time that a lot of people waste on trivial tasks. Many people wake up at dawn, reach for their phones and start checking social media. Unless you are managing the social media profile of a company for a living or work in customer care, that is probably not the most productive use of your time. How much more could you get done if you learnt to harness an hour or two each morning?

Hourglass against a backdrop of dawn
What did you do this morning?

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Nothing will get done if you don’t set boundaries

A chlakboard drawing of an unplugged socket

Most people work in teams with other people. They also have obligations to their families and friends. As a result of these, we have to contend with the fact that:

  1. It is necessary not to isolate others.
  2. It is also necessary not to let others take advantage of you by dumping their work on you.
  3. It is ethical that you also not try to take advantage of others by dumping your work on them.

A silhouette man
Only For your deliverables

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Your tech habits could be the reason you aren’t getting anything done

A glitzy image of internet connected devices

Technology is supposed to make life easier. You are able to read this article on your device thanks to technology. I have a list of favourite productivity apps that wouldn’t exist today without advances in technology. Used properly, technology can be your best friend as you work towards achieving a more productive life.

Technology, however, is a double-edged sword. On one hand, you have apps and resources that can help with your productivity. On the other hand, you have social media and addictive games that are productivity traps.

A laptop, a tablet, a mobile phone and a camera on a table
How do you use your devices?

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What is distracting you today?

This is a distraction, ignore it and get back to kicking ass

Distractions are a part of life. When your neighbour says hi while you are in the middle of a complex calculation and you stop to say hi back only to find that you have forgotten what step you were on and have to start again from the beginning, that is a distraction. It is impossible to eliminate distractions from your life. You can’t stop your friendly neighbour saying hi when you’d rather work in peace. You also can’t predict when your children will try to get your attention with the latest picture they have drawn. What you can do is choose how you manage distractions.

Broadly speaking, the distractions we have to manage fall into two categories: internal and external. An internal distraction is you suddenly curious to find out the year popcorn was invented while doing your business accounting. An external distraction is that phone call from your friend while you are in a meeting.

Social media icons
Social distraction, sorry, media

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