Set the tone: The trick to getting a lot of things done

Too often, we let deadlines and everyday emergencies dictate our pace. But a more successful, in-control day is within your reach and it only takes ten to twenty minutes. In this post, I share the secret to better attaining your goals.

“What is the trick to getting a lot of things done?” an audience member once asked a panel that I sat on.

My answer: Don’t get up right away in the morning.

Yep. That’s the secret. I’m not encouraging you to hit the snooze button ten times in a row and to show up late for meetings. However, too often, we let deadlines and everyday emergencies dictate the pace of the day. We wake up frantic and stressed out (and probably also went to sleep frantic and stressed out). Yet as the adage goes, haste makes waste.

As an aside, the problem with cliches sometimes is, well, they’re cliche. So, we’re less likely to take them seriously but, take heed, lots of them are loaded with 24 karats of wisdom.

“Haste makes waste” isn’t just some silly rhyme. It’s a fact. Driving for speed might work well for mechanical tasks. But many of today’s responsibilities require a manager’s eye, creative problem-solving, and two-steps-ahead thinking. In which case, running around hurriedly doesn’t serve you at all. In fact, it will only trip you up. You’ll make mistakes, overexert yourself, and gain little yardage. In other words, despite all the panic and spent fuel, you’ll actually get less done. As Homer would say, “D’oh!”

My remedy is to set the tone early on. A lot of times, I’ll sit in bed and review my schedule, script out in my head how my day will go, and instead of listening to the terrible news of the day, I visit the online lectures and interviews of my favorite authors, entrepreneurs, or athletes. Anyone trained to make ideas into reality, to make a dollar outta fifteen cents, or make the very best out of some of the very worst. They may be motivational, meditative, instructional, or anecdotal. The point is to breathe in information that will put you in the right frame of mind to tackle your day. Ten to twenty minutes of this can be all it takes to make the difference between having yet another frenzied day and one where you are more squarely in control.

I know, it can be popular to celebrate people who wear themselves thin in the service of some cause or “the company” or even their art. But I’m going to give you permission right here and now not to do so. Make no mistake, I believe in hard work and I believe in strong output. Although, you must realize that your long term as well as your day-to-day goals can be better attained when you aim not to do a lot of things with mediocre results, but to do less things, each all the more successfully. Don’t let your life situation direct you; you direct your life situation. Slow down and you set the tone for how you want your day to pan out.

Speaking of tone, check out this amazing demo by music artist, Bobby McFerrin of “Don’t worry, be happy” fame, at the World Science Festival.

Have your own advice to share on how to set a good tone for your day? I’d love to hear it, and any other thoughts or comments you have to offer.

Are there people in your life that could use a reminder to slow down? Share this post with them.

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2 responses to “Set the tone: The trick to getting a lot of things done”

  1. Michelle Bautista says:

    There’s a practice called Kanban, a Japanese concept with a name that means signal card. It’s meant to regulate flow of a system. The main concept is that we can only juggle a few things at once and the better we manage Work in Progress the more output we actually have. You can see this process at work at fast food restaurants or starbucks. You’ll notice that their screen only has 8 items at any time. When they finish one of those, a new one pops up.

    Based on this concept, waste is not necessarily a bad thing as it allows for extra capacity when it’s most needed. FedEx, not knowing when they’ll get a lot of rush orders on any given day, drives empty trucks and have empty planes just in case because an increase in rush orders will jam their normal level of capacity.

    Alot of people cut out this planning, the morning meditation, because they think of it as nothing, but it’s really the most important part fo the day. It allows us to stop “multitasking”, which is now shown to be ineffective, and to separate tasks and create focal points throughout the day. I’d even recommend doing mini day reviews throughout the day especially after long breaks like lunch to get you back into gear.

    • Hi Michelle! Very cool. I’m only now learning about Kanban thanks to you. Very awesome – the idea of honoring empty space is one I’m a fan of. Love the mini day reviews. When I used to work long days at a hospital clinic, I actually instituted cleaning rituals – tidying things or wiping down counters – to help reset myself when I needed it. Good stuff. Thanks for sharing!

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