3 tips for being more effective without being ruthless

Your diary is stacked. Your to-do list is stacked. You've got holiday coming up soon and can't see how you're going to get everything done in time.

When you work out how to get it all off your plate, you'll feel more in control and able to relax a bit. This could turn out to be a pivotal moment, with you finally doing what you're best at.

But not if you take this approach:

"I describe it as 'machine mode' ", she said. "It's that state of being so utterly focussed on something that I don't let anything or anyone get in my way. I get so much done when I'm like that. But sometimes it leaves what a colleague called a 'high body count'.

"So I'm working hard to change it. It's more important to be real, to be human, than a machine"

We all face a similar challenge from time to time. We might take it as it comes and then pull a really late night, because we think that'll not impact others so much. But there's always 'leakage' - the resulting tiredness impacts our level of engagement and ability to withstand unexpected events. Our stress tolerance evaporates. Everyone suffers. There's got to be a better way.

1. Discipline - the key to it all.

Yes, that word. That thing. What our fathers used to tell us about. turns out he was right though - discipline really does set us free. Listen to what Jocko Willink has to say about it here

Think about any significant achievement you've made - that marathon, that bike time trial, that performance. Achieving it required discipline - to keep going, however much you wanted to give up, stop or do something easier. "Discipline is your best friend. It will take care of you like nothing else can" (Jocko again)

"Discipline is your best friend. It will take care of you like nothing else can" (Jocko Willink)

Click to Tweet

How might that look?

Plan every week, and every day, with your overall objectives in mind. Scan the horizon to see what's going on that might get in the way, and adapt to keep on track.

Think about setting up email practices and agree them with your team.

 When we get our house in order, others tend to follow suit.

2. Know your PETS - when's best to do what?

With a planning discipline in place, you need to know when you personally have most energy and drive for what type of work - Your Peak Effectiveness Times - and schedule your key tasks accordingly.

There's no research to tell you, so you're going to have to find out yourself. Get curious. Do a regular check-in for a week or three to find out. And then plan accordingly.

Don't waste your PETs on other peoples stuff - unless that's the most important stuff, of course! If you need to get people into the office for 9am, hold them accountable. Don't just schedule the team meeting to make sure they're there - it could be your PET. (it is mine!)

3. Interruptions - are you planning for them?

Do you work in a role that is highly reactive? Are you a key knowledge expert within your team? Or do you play a "support" role?

You should expect to be interrupted. It's a given. And if you're not in one of those roles, you suffer from interruptions too - many are self-inflicted. (Just open the notifications page on your phone and count them!)

How many hours do you allocate for it every day?

When we've planned for interruptions and they show up, we can respond with humility and grace. When we've not - its back to machine mode and 'Get out of my way'! And when they don't show up? We get more done. Excellent !!

When we've planned for interruptions and they show up, we can respond with humility and grace.

Click to Tweet

"Once I started doing the stuff that I thought was dull and boring - the discipline stuff - I felt more in control. And realising that a 10-hour day was really an 8-hour day with 2 hours of interruptions helped me to plan more realistically; which, coupled with becoming more aware of how precious the first 2 hours of the day were; removed a lot of stress - making me more real, less machine"

It all adds up to enable you to be more human, less machine. More real for the real world.

Time for action !

When are you most effective during the day? How do you know?

How much interruption does your typical day have? What can you plan for?

What does discipline look like for you?

That's all for today. If you've questions or comments, drop me a line below or get in touch.

About the Author Jonathan Rees

follow me on: