Productivity made simple

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Stephen R. Covey says “Start with the end in mind.” This is sometimes referred to as a “top-down approach.” You start with the long-term, big-picture and work downward (or backward) to the medium-term, followed by the short term, and so on until you get to today.

Let’s say you want to retire in ten years with $4 million in cash and investments. That’s the long-term vision or goal. Working backward, you figure out how much you need to save each year and what you need to do to earn it, followed by what you need to do each month, each week, and today.

It’s like following a map. You need to know your destination before you start the trip or you won’t wind up where you want to go.

The “bottom-up” approach, advocated by David Allen, acknowledges the big-picture and long-term but advocates starting with the short-term. He suggests we first get clarity and control of our current situation, then plan for the future.

Both approaches say it’s not about managing our time it’s about managing our priorities. As Covey puts it, “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule but to schedule your priorities.” That’s a simple way of saying that we should be pulled by our vision instead of pushed by our circumstances.

Look at your calendar and task list. Are you prioritizing your schedule or scheduling your priorities? Are you being pulled by your vision or pushed by your circumstances?

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