Four strategies for cutting your to-do list in half (article by Michael Hyatt)

Michael Hyatt’s revelations below about time management are very easy to appreciate, and the ‘Two Minute Rule’ from David Allen is a real gem – and so simple I kick myself for not doing this sooner. But I suppose when we’re all ‘so busy’ and caught up in ‘doing’ things, we forget to wonder about the ‘why’ or ‘how’ of what we’re doing.

I think the two most important pieces from Michael’s article is making a decision and acting on it – immediately – and setting time limits. The statement that actions will expand into the time we have allotted for them is so true. And if we fail to consciously limit the time we allow certain things to take, we run the risk that those things will expand to fill all of our available time.

Read Michael Hyatt’s article below and see if his suggestions for improving how you manage your time might have a positive impact on your own productivity. Enjoy.

Four strategies for cutting your to-do list in half

Whenever I ask a friend how they are doing, they inevitably respond, “Busy. Crazy busy.” It seems like all of us have more to do that we can possibly get done.

One of the most helpful time management principles I’ve ever found is David Allen’s Two-Minute Rule. The basic concept is that you take immediate action on anything that can be done in two minutes or less. This is the key to becoming more productive.

To implement this, you should do these kinds of actions NOW. Why? Because it will take longer than two minutes to add the action to your to-do list, organize it, get back up to speed later, and complete the task.

Instead of going through that whole rigmarole, you just do it and move on to the next task. It is a huge productivity booster. And it will keep your to-do lists much shorter.

In addition to the two-minute rule, here are four strategies for cutting your to-do list in half:

  1. Understand the five basic decisions. With any given input (email message, physical inbox item, etc.), there are only five actions you can take:
    • You can DO it by taking action now yourself.
    • You can DELEGATE it to someone else who is better qualified or has the bandwidth.
    • You can DEFER (or schedule) it to do later.
    • You can FILE it for later reference.
    • You can DELETE it and forget about it.
  2. Make a decision and then act. This is the most important part—make a decision. Most of the decisions you and I make are not that consequential. You can afford to be wrong occasionally. It is better to make a decision and move on than waste precious time trying to get it right. (Obviously, I am not talking about big decisions that require significant risk or investment.)
  3. Don’t second-guess yourself. This is unproductive. You can spend an inordinate amount of time questioning your decisions. What is past is past. Let it go. Don’t get bogged down in “the paralysis of analysis.” Learn what you can and keeping moving. Like someone once observed, “It is easier to steer a moving car than one that is parked.”
  4. Set a time-limit. Parkinson’s Law states: “work expands to the time allotted for it.” For example, I may go online right before lunch, say 11:00 a.m. I then give myself 30 minutes to process the emails that have accumulated since I checked earlier that morning. On average, I can go through 70 emails in this amount of time. The deadline helps me be more productive.

You will get better with practice. Consciously try to implement this principle. Nike got it right with their slogan: “Just do it!” This applies to task management as well. Ready, set, go!

Question: How many items are currently on your to-do list? How many could you have eliminated if you had just taken the action when it first appeared?

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Branded content (PDFs) for effective communications

We’ve developed a checklist of sorts to walk you through the process of content generation – this should help you avoid making it a real chore. We recommend that you consider using PDF documents as they are a good platform for your branding and your message.

PDFs are universally accepted and displayed and are not dependent on the type of machine or operating system used by the recipient. Access and content can be controlled through a variety of security features and this helps to ensure that the ‘look and feel’ – as well as the content – of your document will be preserved. Continue reading

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Don’t confuse your offer, have one clear and consistent message

Have you ever tried to listen to two conversations simultaneously? You might be able to hear them, but can you really listen and process the information?

It’s hard to do, isn’t it? So why is it that some businesses try to communicate more than one message to their customers? Do they believe that their customers are able to process multiple messages? Will their customers be able to sift through all that information and find the most important and relevant elements for themselves?

Prospective customers are more likely to choose the business that’s communicating one consistent and clear message which is relevant to them. Customers want to believe that the business is focused on their interests and committed to satisfying their needs – they want to have faith that the business is concentrating its efforts on doing that one thing as well as it possibly can.

How can a customer feel confident if a business is communicating several different messages? Is the business confused about what it is offering? Does it understand what it is meant to be doing for its customers? Does that business lack focus and commitment – is it trying to do too many things for too many people (and doing none of them particularly well)?

A business should concentrate on communicating one consistent and clear message to its customers. If what that business wants to say to its customers can’t be distilled down to one clear message then it will only serve to confuse and distract them. It will likely be too complex or too vague and lack any convincing clarity or focus. And as we are aware already, with all that’s being said by so many businesses, one clear, concise and distinct message which is focused and relevant will be far more effective at catching your customer’s interest.

If you’d like to learn more about how to communicate effectively with your customers, contact me

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If you can’t change it, then use it to your advantage

We hear people say all the time, ‘we’re going to position our business as the market leader.’ We say to them, ‘good luck trying.’ You might think that’s a bit dismissive or unfair on our part. It’s not as simple as a business deciding it’s just going to change its positioning. There’s more to it.

You see, your market position is something that your customers and prospects decide for you. You can try to influence them, but they ultimately decide where your business sits within the market hierarchy, not you. Once they have weighed up your offering and decided how your business compares with your competition, your position is fixed. Continue reading

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Fight Smarter not Harder

Sun Tzu said, ‘The best strategy in war is to win without a fight.’ Deciding to go where your competitors aren’t could be a potentially rewarding strategy. By focusing on markets, products or services your competitors have avoided could be one way to carve out your own individual niche. Just be sure they weren’t avoided for very good reasons. Continue reading

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What makes you ‘Different’ or just ‘different’?

What makes you different? Better yet, what makes you Different? Have you really sat down and thought about what makes your product or service Different? Now, I don’t just mean what you THINK makes you ‘different’, but what REALLY makes you ‘Different’ (note, this is a capital ‘D’ type of different). Continue reading

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Translate your features to customer benefits

Have you ever caught yourself thinking “so what” when somebody is telling you what makes their product or service so amazing?  This isn’t an uncommon reaction because most people are only telling you about the features of their product or service, and forgetting to explain the benefits entirley.

Relying on your prospective customers to extrapolate the benefits to them of using your products or services is risky.  They may not understand your products and services well enough or it may even seem too much like hard work – especially if you have a savvy competitior who has done all the hard work for them.

In marketing we have a phrase called FABfeatures and benefits.

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Building successful customer relationships

We should all be working to build long-term customer relationships. A one-off, quick-hit sale can be easier to achieve, relatively speaking; but that sort of approach to customers leads to more of the same – a lot of work for limited gain. Whereas, with a little more effort and deliberate planning, a long-term relationship can be built which is more likely to produce repeat business and brand loyalty – and proportionately greater gain in the long run.

When you consider the cost of acquisition for new customers versus the effort to maintain a long-term customer relationship – and their comparative value to your business – the effort and planning are more than worth the investment. You can take comfort from a reasonable expectation that you will see more reliable returns with a long-term customer – and probably enjoy each successive transaction more as the relationship develops.

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Selling services is different from selling products

Selling the invisible can be harder than selling a physical product.

If you are a service-based business then the ability to sell is vital to your long-term success.  Selling professional services is however different to selling products.  You are selling your experience and skills in the form of billable time.  It requires operating on a higher selling level.

The person responsible for selling that service must have a focused mindset, in-depth knowledge and the skill to clearly articulate the value of the service and transmute what is often a “reluctant-but-necessary” purchase into hard cash.

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Crafting a successful offer

A good offer, which is compelling, persuasive and leaves the recipient with a clear notion of what they must do, can make all of the difference in the overall effectiveness of your direct marketing.

In order to craft these highly productive offers, here are the elements which should be considered:

  1. Your offer should feature something new (product, service, price etc)
  2. Your offer should feature a sale price or special discounted rate
  3. Your offer should feature a bonus gift (free report, discount code, extra level of service etc) for purchasing, registering, repsonding, visiting
  4. Your offer should feature a time limit to encourage prompt responses (you want to create a sense of urgency)
  5. Your offer should feature a clear call to action for the recipient (‘call now to claim your…’, ‘register your details online with the offer code to…’, ‘follow us and like our page to…’)

The best offers include several of these elements. Think about how else you can improve your next offer to your existing and propspective customers – make sure it is clear what you are asking them to do to take advantage of the offer and put a time limit on it to encourage them to act promptly whilst it’s still fresh in their mind.

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