How can I maximise my effectiveness? That’s a common question – and with a plethora of possible answers.

There are several strategies that you can implement – immediately – in both your professional and personal life. These strategies can be used continually throughout your life. They are simple but powerful mechanisms that can unlock your potential and enhance your performance.

And such mechanisms are all about one dominant outcome: giving yourself the best opportunity to accomplish your goals and fulfil your ambition.

In this 3-part series, we’ll explore some areas where you can apply strategies to increase your personal and professional effectiveness.

Click here to access Part 1

In Part 2 we look at the value of doing the toughest things first, and identifying obstacles and key result areas.

Do the Toughest Thing First

“Don’t wait. The time will never be just right.” Napoleon Hill

The most crucial decision you make everyday is what you choose to do right now versus what you will do later. One of the most vital, yet most challenging self-management strategies is the ability to do the hardest or most difficult task first. If you can resist the temptation to start each day with the easiest task you are well on your way to a more productive self.

Apply the 80/20 rule: The 80/20 rule is also known as the Pareto Principle – named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto who applied mathematics to economics and determined that 80% of a nation’s wealth is typically controlled by 20% of its population.

The 80/20 rule has proved valid across a number of areas, including business and time-management strategies:

  • 20% of meeting time is spent making 80% of the decisions
  • 20% of staff initiate 80% of problems
  • 20% of your advertising will contribute to 80% of the campaign’s results
  • 20% of your activities account for 80% of your results

This means that on a to-do list of 10 items, two items will be considerably more important than the other eight. If you can discipline yourself to start your day with the most important item on your to-do list you can be sure that you will accomplish vastly more than the average person.

Tip: Focus on the items that will account for the major share of your results and do them first. These are often the items that are most complicated and time-consuming. Avoid procrastinating and accomplish them at the start of the day.

Identify Obstacles

“The block of granite which was an obstacle in the pathway of the weak becomes a stepping-stone in the pathway of the strong” Thomas Carlyle

What factors are holding you back, slowing you down or preventing you from achieving your goals? Almost all progress toward a goal or series of goals comes up against a limiting factor of some kind.

It is crucial to identify these limits or obstacles in order to eliminate them.  Progress at the pace you’d like and in the direction of your goals requires the systematic removal of obstacles that undermine advancement.

Identifying the true obstacle to progress takes honest reflection and analysis. Obstacles may be entrenched within organisational structures or culture. Conversely, obstacles may be embedded in our own mind, in the beliefs that you hold and the behaviours that you routinely perform.

By reflecting honestly on the obstacles within your own mind, you become better equipped to focus your energies on removing or eliminating the most appropriate obstacle. This of course is preferable to spending valuable time removing external obstacles that are inconsequential to your progress. 

Personal Obstacles - Personal obstacles consist of any belief, thought or action that may sabotage your progression towards your goals.

They may include:

The attitudes you hold about change and progress: Do you think change is a process that is controlled by you or controlled by something external, such as luck or destiny? This is the concept of locus of control.

Locus of control refers to the extent to which a person believes they are in control of their destiny. An individual with an external locus of control attributes change largely to forces outside of themselves such as fate, good fortune or bad luck. Conversely, those individuals with an internal locus of control are more likely to see change as a function of their own doing.

Individuals with an internal locus of control tend to be more comfortable with change and consequently make smoother, more efficient progress.

Self-limiting thoughts: Self-limiting thoughts are ingrained processes of thought that impact on the way in which we appraise, interpret or analyse a given situation or event. Self-limiting thoughts can take many forms, such as:

  1. Black and white thinking – The tendency to interpret events in extremes (no shades of grey). This means that anything less than perfect is interpreted negatively and limits our ability to see the positives.
  2. Unrealistic expectations – The tendency to pre-empt an event with unrealistic ideas of what should occur. This is a clear sign of setting yourself up for failure.
  3. Selective thinking – This is the tendency to hone in on the negative aspects of a situation and ignore any of the positives, leading to an unbalanced perspective.
  4. Catastrophising – Imagining the worst possible outcome. This can discourage action and stall change.

Lack of assertiveness: Assertiveness is the ability to communicate self-assurance to those around you. It involves being direct and clear about what you want without aggression or hostility. An individual lacking assertiveness may miss opportunities and may be taken advantage of by others.

A lack of assertiveness can interfere with the achievement of your goals. If you suspect a lack of assertiveness may be an obstacle to you, it may be useful to focus on assertiveness training and communication techniques to assist you in eliminating this obstacle.

Vague time management: Vague or unfocused time management can impact greatly on the achievement of tasks and can ultimately impact on the quality of your performance. If you find that time slips away from you and meeting deadlines is difficult, you may benefit from focusing on your time-management skills.

It is possible, however to have well-developed time-management skills, but find difficulty prioritising tasks. Sometimes guilt and expectations can distract us from concentrating on our self-focused goals. If this rings true for you, it may be helpful to review the section on self-limiting beliefs (above).

Identify Your Key Results Area

“Do what works.” Bill O’Hanlon

What is the most valuable use of your time right now?

By continually asking yourself this question you can maximise the time that you have and accomplish more of what’s important everyday. In order to identify what the most valuable use of your time may be in any given moment, it is vital that you recognise what your key result areas are.

Your key result areas are those aspects of your job or performance that matter the most. They are the bottom line. They are why you are on the payroll. Most jobs can be broken down into five to seven key result areas.