In the first installment of my two-part blog post, I introduced you to four principles of getting things done: organization, prioritization, execution and discipline. Now I want to show you how these aren’t theoretical but rather highly applicable in real life. I once had a colleague I was mentoring. He had a lot of promise and potential, but there were several things holding him back.
When you walked up to his desk, the first thing you saw were stacks of files and folders—the kind that our eForms technology eliminates for hospitals and enterprise customers alike.
If you asked him a question that required finding specific information, it took ages for him to respond back because his lack of organization meant that he could never get his hands on the right thing without a lengthy search. And he struggled to juggle multiple to-dos, because he found it hard to prioritize and then execute.
But the good thing was that he wanted to be better and was willing to learn. So I gave him my first piece of advice, “Go home and clean out your garage.” He looked at me funny and asked, “How do you know it’s messy?”
I replied, “I’ve seen your office. So I bet it’s full of stuff you don’t need and that the messiness drives your wife nuts.” He gave me a wry grin and admitted I was right. The next day he came up to me all pleased with himself and said, “I cleaned the garage out and my wife’s pretty happy about it. What’s next?”
“Go clean out your car.”
“But I need to get back to work.”
“No, just go clean it.”
So he cleaned out his car. Next up? That rat’s nest of a desk! Off he went to tidy it up.
After cleaning these three things—his garage, car and desk, he asked me what he should do now. “That’s it,” I told him, feeling a bit like Mr. Miyagi in Karate Kid when Daniel couldn’t figure out what scrubbing his sensei’s floors or repainting his backyard fence had to do with learning karate.
What this young guy didn’t realize was that in doing these few simple tasks, he was putting the four principles of productivity into action. He was getting organized, which would allow him to prioritize better. He had shown that he could hone in on a task and stick with it until he was done—aka execution. This involved using a newfound self-discipline that I hoped would carry over into other areas of his career and personal life.
I’m glad to say that this is exactly what happened. From that point on, he was more productive, focused and disciplined.
Soon enough he was a rising star at the company and now, many years later, can look back on a successful career in which he made the most of his potential. I don’t take credit for that. All I did was what I believe any mentor should do—design learning experiences that enable people to figure out solutions and learn lessons on their own. They’ll then find ways to put them into practice so that they become a better worker and maybe even a better spouse!