Your “Basic Choice” is the name I’ve given to the simple act of choosing what you’re going to do next. You make this Basic Choice every time you stop doing something, and start doing something else.
For example: Are you going to continue reading this blog, or flick to something else? The next time you end a phone call, what will you choose to work on next? When you start work in the morning, or after lunch, what task will you tackle first?
This Basic Choice is one you make dozens, scores, perhaps hundreds of times a day. If you make it poorly, you’ll waste a lot of time and effort. If you make it well, however, you’ll tend to be far more productive and successful.
If you continually make the best possible Basic Choices, you’ll set yourself on a pathway to your peak level of productivity.
Here are some techniques to help you make your Basic Choice well enough to maximize your productivity and accelerate your journey to success:
Cultivate Your Own Vision
We’re born into a world full of values, priorities, and limitations that others have established. But while it’s difficult to escape entirely from the strictures of culture and society, there remains plenty of room for each of us to hope, dream, and build a future that suits us better than what we’re offered.
There’s a relevant story about Walt Disney, who died five years before Disney World was completed. One speechmaker at the opening ceremony lamented how sad it was that Walt was not there to see the new amusement park. But his widow, Lillian, reportedly responded simply: “Of course Walt saw Disney World. If he hadn’t seen it, we wouldn’t be here now at this opening ceremony.”
Disney’s personal vision of what he could accomplish resulted in much more than an iconic brand of amusement parks. He also won 22 Oscars from 59 nominations – more than anyone else – and significantly changed the cultural landscape through his vision of what entertainment for children and their families could become.
The point is simply this: If you accept other’s visions of what your life can be, you’re not giving free rein to the full potential of what you can make of your own work and your life.
Know What You’re Trying to Achieve
As Yogi Berra famously said: “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.”
This is particularly true of productivity and success, which are always measured against goals: If you don’t know what you’re trying to achieve, you can’t possibly consider yourself productive or successful.
That’s why it’s vital for you to convert your vision into specific goals. Spend time every day, every week, and every month identifying and honing in on what you hope to achieve. In particular:
- What are the most important goals you are trying to accomplish?
- How will you know when you have achieved each one?
- What specific tasks will get you to each of these goals?
- What is your timetable or deadline for each achievement?
Put Your Time Toward Your Goals
Knowing what you are trying to achieve gives you a simple, solid basis for making your Basic Choices. Simply ask yourself: “Which of all the things I can do right now is going to lead me most directly toward one of my important goals?”
Answering this question helps eliminate a lot of wasted time and effort from your schedule. Working toward your important goals will generally take priority over:
- Returning every phone call, text, email, or other message right away.
- Working on what seems urgent but isn’t very important.
- Spending time and effort on tasks that simply aren’t important enough.
- Accepting every interruption that intrudes on your work.
Make Your Own Plan
Most of us work and live in situations that impose a continuing stream of obligations, responsibilities, and requirements on our time and energy. We have little choice but to fulfill these to the best of our abilities.
But there’s often little or no correlation between what’s imposed on us by daily situations and what’s directly related to achieving our most important goals. That’s why you give a big boost to your productivity and success when you make your own plan.
Your plan should reflect your answers to such key questions as:
- What are your highest priority activities today, this week, this month?
- What projects and tasks most deserve your time and effort?
- What skills, talents, and knowledge should you strive to acquire and utilize?
With a clear vision, a solid set of goals, a continuing focus on what’s important, and a practical plan for achievement, you can set your work and your life firmly on your personal pathway to peak productivity.
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