Short and Sweet for an Efficient Week


Today: a fact and a simple invitation to redeploy the knowledge you have.

The fact: Internet and associated technologies have made worker-leaders
busier and heightened demands upon us.  The Pew Center on the Internet
found in September of last year that nearly half of adults said the
internet increased their work hours (46%), stress (49%) and the difficulty
of disconnecting from work at home (49%).  (Oh, there’s an upside to be
sure: 80% said it’s imporoved their ability to do their job.)  Nine months
later, I suspect the stress and demands have mounted measurably due to two
factors: layoffs have increased workloads, and technology keeps adding
more ways to connect to work. Among the technology changes are two:
Upgrades in mobile internet connectivity, and utilization of social
networking – use of the latter quadrupled among adults from 2005 to 2009 –
adding another burden (of opportunity) on us.

So, if you’re feeling hyper-extended, you’re not imagining it and not alone.

Here’s the invitation:  Focus on ONE strategy that has helped you to be
time-effective in the past
.  I’ll offer some suggestions, but the keys, I
believe, are adopt a focused, single strategy; and focus on what works for
you, regardless of what works for others.

Here are some suggestions.  Again, I invite you to put one up on by
deadly computer in front of you:

•   Without fail make a goal/to-do list (daily or weekly or in the
interval that works for you; I prefer 2-week and 6-week goals that I keep
•   Close the Windows! Work on one application at a time.
•   Keep a “no” list to force yourself to say no to things that don’t add
•   If you have an assistant, ask them to screen and flag your email
•   Set specific times in the day to do email and voicemail; don’t let
them constantly interrupt your workflow
•   Ignore the blackberry during meetings and meals (be clear about
exceptions and communicate them to senders, e.g., kids, assistant, as well
as to those interrupted)
•   Reject the multi-task temptation when it comes to people.  To quote
David Crosby in a different context, “Love the one you’re with!”  Be
present.  It’s nicer, more efficient, and less crazy-making.

If you accept my invitation to adopt a (single) strategy, tell someone
you’re doing it and ask them to help hold you to it.

As always, I invite you to hit the comments button and share what works
for you and learn what works for others – as you:

Lead with your best self,


  • This is why I love Google Calendar. Most calendars only let you plan what you are going to do in a given day. Google Calendar, which runs on 15-minute increments, lets you see each period of the day and what you have planned for that time (if anything). The neat thing is that you can share your calendar with others, making it easier to schedule events.

    And always – ALWAYS – remember to schedule some free time and prayer/meditation/quiet time!

    In terms of making a list of things to do, I suggest Ta-Da Lists at .

  • Dan

    Back in the dark ages (when the shining light of CRTs was still dim and ghostly), a popular motto was KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid!). I might modify that to Keep It Simply Single. Also, I put aside some time each day to drop into a “stream of consciousness” mode with my e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter — a sort of rationing process that helps with the urge to ramble about all day on-line. I got the idea from a very good friend (now deceased) who happened to be a Catholic priest. When his advice (to me) to stop worrying about the future did not sink in, he advised me to put aside 15 minutes each day to worry — worry just as hard as my worrier will let me worry — and get it “over and done with.” I still practice his advice, but my worry time is now down to a few minutes, and sometimes I cannot even manage that.

    I agree with Scott about Google Docs and Google Calendar. Google Calendar has now added a functional task feature, which I find works quite well as a To Do list. Perhaps the nicest thing about the Google Docs tools is that they are free. My home page is built on Google Sites.

    Two final recommendations: Set a timer on your PC or an alarm on your PDA, phone, watch, or other device…to remind you to get up from that chair, walk away from your monitor, and do something else for a few minutes. I started doing this many years ago when, while editing a particularly difficult university catalog entry, I realized I had forgotten to blink and my eyes were irritated, dry, and sore. Also, (especially if you use a laptop) try to find a way to stand up and work for awhile. I kept an old tabletop podium in my office for years, and would spend at least a third of my day standing and working on my laptop computer…which fit nicely on the old podium.

    Thanks for the thoughts, Dan. I read somewhere that we now process more information in a single day than our grand parents processed in a week and our great grand parents in a month. Any strategies to help cope with the imminent information tsunami coming our way is a Godsend.


  • Scott and Mick,

    Great comments which prove that technology that got us into this overload mess can help get us out.

    Your early replies to RFL also make me want to reiterate a core message:

    Consciously pick a strategy. I like your line here Mick: Keep It Singly Simple!

    I think the comments will bring us many great ideas, but if we don’t really focus, focus, focus, and intentionally choose, then we may unintentionally lose!

    I invite future bloggers to name the one strategy that they will more consciously focus on.

    – Dan Mulhern

  • More than 30 years ago I was talking with someone in my office when the phone rang. I answered the phone replied to the person who called, and hung up. The “someone” in my offic commented that it seemed as if the person who called was more important to me than the “someone”. Since that day, the person in my office has priority over all phone calls. In addition, if I am concentrating strongly on a project, I often to not answer the phone when it rings (the caller can leave a message). This comment, more than 30 years ago, taught me a lot about priorities and respect for the person “first in line”.
    Larry Beckon, Michigan Department of Transportation

  • Dan,

    Great comments this week — several of your strategies are posted in my new book, Taming the E-mail Beast. I absolutely believe you have to limit the # of times you check your e-mail so you can keep your focus and actually get your work done. I also encourage people to find those “OFF” buttons on their BlackBerries, PCs, and certain software programs. By limiting the external stimuli with specific purpose, you can still be “appropriately responsive”, while getting more important work done. It requires a bigger picture view of your work and priorities, but you can survive e-mail and information overload following many of these strategies.

    Good stuff coming into a holiday week — thanks Dan!

  • Love the RFL today and always good to pause and think about effective process. I need to constantly be re-reminded about working effectively. BTW, I think Stephen Stills wrote and sang Love the one you’re with.

  • Excellent and timely article Dan! I also consciously use the “power of full attention” strategy when I am with a “live” person. Not only do I NOT answer the phone, I shift my physical position so that I am squarely facing them, pay attention to my eye contact and work to remember to always check out with a question to see if we’ve covered everything. You’d be amazed at how much difference this makes in people feeling “heard” and how much it limits miscommunication.
    Another favorite strategy of mine which hasn’t been mentioned is using multiple e-mail addressees. For example, I have one e-mail address that I use for non-work related topics, information, newsletters, etc. These are things of interest, but that I can look at as I have time. I have another that I reserve only for client communication. That way when I boot up the computer in the morning I can very quickly screen for client issues that I need to attend to right away without getting lost in a sea of other topics or lower priority activities. This improves my customer service, which is a strong value of mine, and allows me to prioritize my time more efficiently and feel less stressed.
    Keep up the good work!
    Lisa Pasbjerg, CEO, Focused Coaching

  • Dan,

    I was taught the power of focus by my older daughter when she was about seven years old. She was asking me questions, and I was doing the usual parent thing…watching the evening news and saying: “Yes honey, go ahead, daddy’s listening.”

    She jumped in my lap, grabbed my face with both hands and pulled it down until I could look her in the eyes. “No!” she said, “Full-face listen!” I did, and I still do!


  • Darn – meant to check the CSNY reference. Sorry Stephen Stills!

    Mick – forgot you were the “full-face listen” guy. You’d be amazed how many people have thanked me for sharing YOUR story.

    TIMELYMAN: you need to put a link in for your book! Got to get you back on the Everyday Leadership radio show, too!

  • Referencing the importance of what Larry Beckon stated, I’ll add to that mindset:
    I used to own a fairly large framing carpentry business in Florida. I framed on average, 50 homes per year, from 2800 sq. ft. to 6000 sq.ft. I only had a few clients, with (obvious) repeat work from them. One builder was a constant pain, always trying to get more for less. He and his partner bought personal lots in a real nice high end subdivision togther, and both wanted me to frame their respective homes. I accepted willingly to do one, but not the other. However, in a gentile form of diplomcy, I just put the other guy off, until he took the hint….I could work for his company, but not for him. Long story, shortened, he went through two framers, finally begging me to finish the job started by someone else. I finally relented, out of kindness, but gave him a non-negotiable price, which he accepted. A clause was in the contract for add’l fees to be paid if I had to correct mistakes of the prevous guys, again, agreed. In the end, he wouldn’t pay me for the ‘extras’, and while discssing the matter face to face, a big money developer pulled up in his 560 SEL. The builder didn’t even excuse himself from our conversation, just walked away to talk with the developer. In the past, I used to move excess materials from one house to the next, informng his superintendant of this so he could adjust any material take-offs for the next house. I told my guys that this practice is to cease, and let the builder absorb the material cost loss as it wound up in dumpsters or dumptrucks by the site cleanup excavation crew, or let him move the materials in house….which never happened. Moral, be respectful, and deal thoroughly with the matter at hand.

  • Working effectively, by prioritizing, planning ahead and scheduling without creating a stressful mindset, can be grouped under the heading of time management. Yet, many people are chronically disorganized and seldom get around to the necessary activity of organizing their house, their workplace and their life.

    The roles you play at home and work must be in concert…not requiring you to play different roles. Although there are distinct competencies attached to each role, it is to your advantage to create a powerful synergy among all roles.

    This inter-role synergy saves incredible problem-solving time and energy. Understanding that you are accepting personal responsibility for your own life helps you transcend the either/or categorical thinking of others. Research tells us that the so-called feminine attributes (well exercised in parenting) are the critical capacities required to effectively manage in the cross-generational cultures of today’s organizations.

  • Hi Dan,

    I try to remember to say a short prayer in the morning, “God, please help me do Your will.” It helps me remember what’s really important, what my ultimate goal is. Then, naturally, I prioritize.

  • I used to be a list-maker, confidently checking things off so I’d know I’d achieved something, prioritizing it so I’d do the most important things first. Then I got acquainted with a Native American elder steeped in her oral culture, who advised me to trust that the most important things will rise to consciousness and that there will be ample time to accomplish things. The other things are things we can let go of.

    Since trying this strategy, I have found it utterly reliable. I do things as they occur to me, as thoroughly and well as I can. Then I move on to other things that present themselves. There’s always time to do amazing things because I’m seldom anxious about completing my list. When the end of the day comes and I haven’t finished everything, I remember that there’s always tomorrow. I accomplish incredible things in a short amount of time–things that amaze me. And most of the time, when I don’t complete something, it turns out I didn’t have to do it at all because plans changed, the client didn’t come in, or whatever.

    Obviously, I don’t work in a bureaucracy with five-year plans nor in construction management or manufacturing, where Gant charts rule the day. Still, in human services, at least in my case, it works. Everything essential gets done and I can give my full attention to the task or the client at hand with no distractions because I’m fully focused and confident that I will complete all the other things I have to do. It always works.

    No more lists for me!

    Try it sometime. You might like it!

  • The most sage advice here is the comment about not multi-tasking around people. ‘Being present’ to those you love and those you are with ALWAYS is appropriate. It is so annoying and to a certain extent rude to watch persons ‘tethered’ to their Blackberry or their computer doing e-mail respond to the buzz/vibrate/ring of the Blackberry or the ‘You got mail’ voice and not pay attention to spouse, children, co-workers or meeting participants. Persons in our families and those around us need our attention to and engagement with them.

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