Business CardIn my company, my job title is Director of Getting Stuff Done.  There’s two primary reasons for this title – (1) We hate the job title inflation that’s common in modern business, i.e., one-person companies having CEOs, etc. and (2) I get stuff done.  I achieve the second reason by creating lists of things to do, using one calendar to track all that I’m supposed to do, and, frankly, being anal about looking ahead to anticipate needs required to meet milestones.

Not everyone can do this.  Frankly, the number of people that do everything at the last minute are the vast majority.  I attribute this to people never being trained in proper planning and track execution.  Even among those who receive professional project management training, the habits of effective planning and tracking of things to do (and are done) rarely are exhibited.  As a result, most people waste great quantities of time and effort which translates to reduce productivity and lost opportunities.

I once was having an interview with a senior executive – a very busy senior executive – who was having trouble keeping up with all his responsibilities.  With a few questions, I found that he was using multiple calendars – essentially, one calendar for each position and organization he was involved with because he had to be able to keep things separate.  I asked how he coordinated between calendars – some being maintained by other people – and his response was, “Not very well!”  I explained that the problem he was facing was not that he shouldn’t use calendars for each position, but that he had to do the integration and coordination between calendars.  Why didn’t he let the calendars do the integration?  How could he do that?

The way I did it in those days (nearly 20 years ago) was a DayTimer system.  I’m sure they still exist but I’ve found something easier and much more convenient – my smart phone.  You see, the calendar function on my iPhone (the same applies to Android phones) can be linked to my Google Calendar, my Outlook calendar as well as calendars for my business, hobby involvement and family.  I can enter an event into any one calendar and it will appear in all versions wherever they are or where I am.  It takes a little effort to set up but it’s worth the effort when I want to see if I have conflicts or free time.

The second requirement is being faithful in entering every time commitment into the calendar.  I’m repeatedly surprised at the number of people who expect to remember everything.  But our lives are structured to drive the Urgent not the Important to the forefront of our thinking – and remembering.  So, we end up forgetting the appointment for our child’s IEP review even though it’s important to us.

It’s also why we have the knee-jerk response to answering the phone.  The phone rings and we reach for it – even though it’s a telemarketer.  But the number of spam phone calls is changing this behavior.  My wife now checks the Caller ID before answering – and anything not recognized – Out of Area, Unidentified, etc. – can go to the answering machine.  We are conditioned, but we can change our responses given the proper amount of motivation and training.

What it all means is that we must be conscious of our actions and the motivations that drive them.  Otherwise, others set our priorities and what we will accomplish.

A physicist by trade, author by choice, a born teacher, a retired veteran, and an adamant problem solver, Frank has helped the White House, federal agencies, military offices, historical museums, manufacturers, and over 250 technology startups get stuff done, communicate effectively, and find practical solutions that work for them. In his spare time, he makes sawdust and watches Godzilla movies.