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Perhaps the biggest frustration we encounter when working with business leaders is the inability of those leaders to get done the things they want to get done.  There have been books written & careers built on trying to solve that problem & there’s certainly no magic bullet.  But there is a growing group of people whose improved ability to get things done seems to focus around a few common ideas.

Rule #1 – You can’t do everything.
People who get things done prioritize.  Whether it’s the 80/20 rule, whether it’s a key issue ranking, whether it’s just brainstorming, somehow you have to decide what’s going to have the most impact on getting what you want from your business or your life.  Which reminds me of a quote from Ben Stein: “The indispensable first step to getting the things you want out of life is this:  decide what you want.”  What really matters to you?  Is it profit?  Your own sanity?  Free time?  Family?  The value you create for others?  You can’t do everything, so you have to focus on doing the things that get you what you want.

Rule #2 – Do step 1 first.
Even if you’ve prioritized the possibilities, you still have to actually start.  You can understand the big thing that you want & need to do, but it can still be overwhelming.  Mark Twain said, “The secret to getting ahead is getting started.  The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”  Stop thinking about all the things you need to do and focus on THE THING you’re going to do first.

Rule #3 – Write it down.
Writing down what you’re going to do makes it real.  Whenever somebody says to me, “We have a plan in mind, we just haven’t written it down yet,” alarm bells go off in my head.  Don’t kid yourself.  If you’re not serious enough to write down what you’re want to get done, then you’re probably not serious enough to actually do it.  A simple one page plan with dates & responsibilities has a huge impact.

Rule #4 – Tell somebody what you wrote down.
Better yet, just give them a copy of your one page plan.  Most business leaders suffer from an almost complete lack of accountability.  No one is going to hold their feet to the fire if they don’t do what they say.  Find somebody you respect and trust (peer, trusted advisor, management group, whatever) and share your plan with them.  Tell them what you’re planning to do and when.  And set up a regular time to report back.  And when you report back, give them the right to be brutally honest about your performance.  They can’t physically force you to do it:  but they’ll know if you don’t, and quite often that jolt to your pride makes a difference.  

Nobody can guarantee you’ll get done what you want to do.  No one can do things for you.  You’re the only one who can control what gets done.  Follow these rules and you’ll see the difference.

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