Kill the Compulsive Phone-Grab: Regaining Control & Clarity

4 04 2014


Just read this article by Greg McKeown, a business writer, consultant and researcher specialising in leadership, strategy and social behaviour. Greg is the author of the newly published book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, available here on Amazon:

As a busy and connected “Gen Y” professional, I am one of the worst when it comes to following the urge to check that smartphone every time it buzzes or beeps. A new email? What if it’s important??

While I don’t think realistically I will ever be one to keep a journal every day, this article put some things in perspective for me. It’s a good reminder of the importance of setting your own priorities and your own pace. In a world overflowing with (mostly trivial) information, demands and things to do, too often we try to attendtoeverythingatonce, and we end up getting nothing done well.

ImageA habit I am developing slowly is to spend 20 minutes every morning in my favourite café, take out a notebook and plan what I want to get done for the day. Amazing how when you set the framework of your day before you enter the office, it is that much easier to stick to the plan and avoid reacting to everything that comes across your desk (or screen). As someone once said, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Step back, give yourself the time to think. The more PROactive and less REactive we are, the more we are in control of our days and lives. And that, I find, is one of the single largest factors in personal satisfaction and happiness.

Enjoy the article.



One Thing Productive People Do Before Reaching for their Phones

Greg McKeown

In a recent study reported in TIME magazine, people check their phone on average 110 times a day. Some people checked it as much as 900 times a day; that’s once every minute of every waking hour of the day. Given those extremes, I don’t believe it makes me a Luddite to suggest it may be more productive – and certainly more Essentialist – to reach for a pocket notebook or journal before your phone. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Checking your phone forces you to be reactive than pro-active; it creates pressure to respond to texts and emails when other people want you to, rather than when it’s convenient for you. Writing in your notebook puts you back in control of your communication; it gives you the chance to craft your reply instead of shooting it off reactively, and respond on your schedule, not someone else’s.
  2. Checking your phone fills you with that frenetic, compulsive feeling that you might be missing out. Writing in your notebook has a calming influence.
  3. Checking your phone tricks you with the trivial; it fools you into thinking that news and updates from the virtual world are more important than what’s right in from of you in the actual world right now. Writing in your notebook reminds you of what’s important right now.
  4. Checking your phone fills every spare moment with noise. Writing in your notebook provides you time to think and reflect.

Of course, the benefits of writing in a notebook or journal go beyond the realm of productivity. One of my grandfathers died a few years ago. Upon going through his things, I was struck by what I found, or rather what I didn’t find: not a single journal or notebook or any kind of written record about the life he had lived. Contrast this with my other Grandfather in England who wrote a single line in his journal every couple of days for some fifty years.

What I am saying is that if we want to leave a legacy to those who come after us one powerful way to do it is to write a journal. David McCullough, the Pulitzer Prize winning author and historian has said if you want to become the voice of your generation, write a journal entry every day and then gift it to your local university library at the end of your life. Voice of your generation or not, I believe that a journal is one of the most precious gifts you can give to those you leave behind.

If journaling sounds too daunting a task for you, I suggest the following simple way to get started:

Write One Sentence Every Day. If you want to create this new Essentialist habit, use this counter- intuitive yet effective method: write less than you feel like writing. Typically, when people start to keep a journal they write pages the first day. Then by the second day the prospect of writing so much is daunting, and they procrastinate or abandon the exercise. So instead, even if you feel like writing more, force yourself to write no more than one sentence a day. Apply the disciplined pursuit of “less but better” to your journal.

In an article called, “If You Don’t Design Your Career, Someone Else Will” I suggest a step by step process for making sure you are using your life for what really matters. When you have a year’s worth of journal entries to look back on, it will broaden your perspective and greatly enhance your ability to more clearly see the difference between the many things in your life that are mere distractions and the few things that are truly vital.





Be Responsive, Be Successful

13 09 2010

– Adapted from an article on Get Rich Slowly

I found a piece last week that addresses an important facet of personal relationships. Michael Hyatt is often asked, “What’s the secret of your success?” His answer: “Responsiveness.”

So many people I meet are unresponsive. They don’t return their phone calls promptly. They don’t answer their emails quickly. They don’t complete their assignments on time. They promise to do something and never follow through. They have to be reminded, prodded, and nagged. This behaviour creates work for everyone else and eats into their own productivity. Hyatt is describing the good old-fashioned procrastinator. Procrastination springs from many sources — stress, over-commitment, depression, fear of failure — but ultimately it hurts both the procrastinator and those around him.

 Reality is that we live in an “instant world.” People want instant results. They don’t want to wait. And if they have to wait on you, their frustration and resentment grows. They begin to see you as an obstacle to getting their work done. If that happens, it will begin to impact your reputation. Your actions affect how other people see you. If you’re unresponsive, people will look for other ways to get their job done. If you’re an unresponsive salesman, your customers will call somebody else. If you’re an unresponsive manager, your employees will work around you, not with you. But if people know they can count on you, they’ll seek your assistance in the future, and you’ll be rewarded with increased reputation and responsibility.

Not sure how others see you? Ask them to tell you the things you never hear. The truth is, you are building your reputation — your brand — one response at a time…You can’t afford to be unresponsive. It is a career-killer. My basic rule is this: respond immediately unless there is a good reason to wait. Free Money Finance often states “your career is your most valuable financial asset.” It’s true. Responsiveness will help you to succeed at work; lack of responsiveness will lead you to fail.

The great thing about being responsive is that it will quickly differentiate you from your peers. People love doing business with responsive people. Nothing will advance your career faster than this. Here are some ways to become more responsive:

•Develop a positive attitude.

•Modify your environment to eliminate distractions.

•Learn to put others’ needs before your own, especially on the job.

•Think creatively — reach your goal through any means necessary.

•Compare your actions with your personal values: are they in line with each other?

•Implement a system to assist you in Getting Things Done.

•Don’t be a slavish adherent to rules and procedures — be flexible.

•Don’t put things off — take care of them now.

Just do it!

– Quinton

Time management: What you’re doing wrong

21 07 2010

Time management. We’ve all heard of it, we nearly all struggle with it and have tried repeatedly to improve it or ‘sort it out’. Sometimes the most powerful and effective answers are the simplest (yet not always the most obvious). I recently took some tips from an article on – a great website and resource for productivity – and found them to be extremely helpful. Check it out and apply them today! You too could be going home one our earlier…


Top Time Management Mistakes:

 1. Working from your to do list! This might surprise you, but it’s actually a big time management mistake many people make. Instead of working from your complete to-do list, it’s crucial to set a top priority list with a maximum of up to five items on the list. Set this priority list at the end of each day for the next day. You should work from this priority list, working on item one first until finished then move to item number two. Keep your to do list separate and complete items on this list when you have finished items on your priority list. Also, use your to do list as a way to remember what you MIGHT want to put on your priority list.

2. Checking emails constantly throughout the day. The biggest problem with this is that it interrupts what you are working on. Every time you are interrupted, you lose momentum and focus. Instead, check your emails in 20-30 minute blocks one to three times per day.

3. Becoming distracted by elements on your computer, for example email notifications that pop up when you get new emails.

4. Multi-tasking – doing too many things at one time and half completing all of them. This is much less effective than doing one thing at a time and completing each item before moving to the next. Every time you change to another task you lose momentum and focus. Instead, focus in solid blocks of time from 50 minutes to two hours. Multi-tasking is okay for easy activities such as driving and listening to an educational audio program at the same time, but for anything that requires complex thought, you need to focus on one task at a time. The biggest problem is leaving many tasks incomplete. Multi-tasking is actually okay when you complete each item that you are working on then move to the next, but then that wouldn’t really be “multi-tasking” if you complete each task!

5. Working in an environment where you are prone to being interrupted by other people, phone calls etc. If other people come in and interrupt you constantly, this will be a big time waster. Your train of thought, momentum and flow are interrupted and you won’t be able to focus on your priorities.

6. Starting your day by checking your emails. This can be a huge distraction. Instead, start your day with the top priority on your daily priority list.

7. Keeping emails in your inbox. If you keep emails in your inbox, you will likely read the same email five times before you action it. Your inbox is not meant to be your to do list. Instead, try to handle all emails when you read them. Either delete it, archive it, delegate it, action it quickly or if you can’t finish the task at the time of reading the email, archive your email and put the action on your to do list. Keeping your inbox clear will also help you to keep your mind clearer and more focused.

What could you do in 10 minutes?

18 06 2010

Yesterday I read this thought-provoking – and challenging – article on what we can do in ten minutes, from the famous “Time Management Ninja” productivity website.




Too many people say that they do not have enough time in their day to get their stuff done.  Yet, they let their time slip by bit-by-bit.  Minute-by-minute. Five minutes here.  Twenty minutes there.  Ten minutes before a meeting.

For many people, it is this “in-between” time that becomes a major source of lost productivity.

Let’s not underestimate what we can get done in just 10 minutes.  These little bursts of productivity can drive your whole day. So, here are 10 things you can do with those 10 minutes:

  1. Respond to 10 emails – Keep it short, and remember that not all email messages deserve a response. 10?  Yes, and be ruthless with that inbox.
  2. Respond to 3 phone calls – Return that call.  Reach out to that colleague that you need to meet up with.  And schedule that doctor’s appointment that you have been putting off for 6 months.
  3. Pay some bills online – In just a few minutes, you can pay your bills with online billpay.  You’re not still dealing with paper bills, are you?
  4. Catch up with a co-worker – 10 minutes early to that meeting?  This can be one of the best times to have a meaningful conversation with another colleague.  Re-connect with someone.  At a recent meeting I had the chance to reconnect with one of our executives.  Someone who I might not normally have a chance to chat with on a personal level.
  5. Read 10 pages in a book – Whether it is in the doctor’s office or the car dealership, use that time to read a few pages.  Some people carry a book with them for these moments. 
  6. Write – You will be surprised how much you can write in 10 minutes.  Write a memo.  Start a blog post. Whatever you need to get done.
  7. Prepare – Get ready for a future appointment.  Look at tomorrow’s calendar.  Is there any prep work you need to do?  It could be as simple as getting some documents together or researching a topic.
  8. Reflect – Spend the few moments, reflecting on your day.  What you have accomplished?  What has made you happy today?  What you still need to address?
  9. Reach Out & Touch Someone – In these days of email, Twitter, text msgs, and more… it has become increasingly rare to actually communicate in person.  When I find I have a 10 minute block of time to spare, I will walk down the hall and speak to someone face-to-face that I normally would not see.
  10. Do Nothing – Of course, you could just waste the 10 minutes surfing the net or checking the news.  Unfortunately, too many people choose this last option.

What do you do with your 10 minutes?  Or do you let them slip by?