(You can find part 1 of this post here)
We left off at the core principle of making ourselves effective. This part is all about crystallising that principle. It’s about constructing a system that will support your effort to become effective. This system is called DARE: Define, Architect, Reduce, and Execute. Let’s talk about each of this step in detail as we move on.
This step is all about developing your mission statement, knowing your vision (i.e. your overarching life calling, or life goal), knowing your roles (your specific everyday callings in your life), and your goals (creating change at quarterly, yearly, and multiyear increments). Your mission statement should consist of three components:
- Core purpose: your overall reason for existence
- Core principles: the guiding principles by which you will live your life
- Core beliefs: your identity and ultimate destination
These three components should address four main themes: (1) who you are, (2) why you are here, (3) where you are going to end up at the end of all this, and (4) what the main principles are by which you will guide your life. This is the essence of Chapter 11.
Chapter 12 contains perhaps my favourite quote from throughout the book:
To every person there comes in their lifetime that special moment when you are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to you and your talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds you unprepared or unqualified for work which could have been your finest hour.
Sir Winston Churchill
We must become ambitious – for the glory and honor of God. It’s such a fatal fallacy to think that we may not be ambitious; we may for the correct purpose. To realise that ambition we need to have a robust life goal. It is a specific aim with a finishing point. Your mission is your chief way, and your life goal is the concrete what. It is a huge objective that is so big that it governs everything else you do, and it will likely take your entire life. Now, how do you come to your life goal? Ask these two questions to yourself:
- What would I do if I had all the money I needed and could do whatever I wanted?
- What would I do if I could do only one thing in the next three years?
If you could do only ONE thing on this planet, what would it be?
That’s your life goal. How to make it happen?
- Put it in a place where you will remember it and review it
- Weave it in the structure of your life
- Utilise evolutionary progress rather than scripting everything out
If you have a hard time figuring out your life goal, newsflash: life still can go on. Do what’s before you with excellence, take steps for fundamental reasons and not instrumental ones, care about who as much as what, increase you opportunity stream, read inspiring books and biographies and watch inspiring movies, stay faithful in prayer, and finally take action and commit.
Now roles, or better: callings. All Christians have a calling, and every area of their lives is a calling. All of our jobs and every area of our life has a dignity and meaning that gives great significance to it. Each role is a stewardship for which we are ultimately responsible to God himself. Maybe you’ve realised by now, Ï have too many hats. How can I possibly organise them? You may start by grouping them into five categories: individual, family, church, social, and professional. For each role, list the corresponding responsibilites you need to undertake. Make sure you live out your role by:
- Make it a routine to review your roles in your weekly review, and ask what you most need to do this week to serve your primary roles, any additional roles you can do, and any roles that you are possibly neglecting.
- Weave them into the fabric of your life.
- Connect them to your life goal as the means to accomplish it.
- Keep them from competing. Whenever possible, seek to do things in a way that involves multiple roles.
This step aims to help you structure your life by living mainly a flexible routine, not a set of lists. Three things are involved:
- How to set up your week
- What routines to be inserted into your week
- How to get creative things done
Why do you need a basic schedule? The reason is simple: people operate best from a routine, not a set of lists. It also keeps you from massive overload, and helps you integrate all of your roles. At the same, it enables creative thinking. You should begin by setting up your week using a time map, or a weekly schedule. Divide your week into time zones, representing the main roles and responsibilities of your life. You may want to divide your day into 30-mins slots, but avoid having too many items. Keep it simple. Make it easy to remember so it becomes automatic and natural to the way you live. There are six routines Perman recommends you to harness:
- Get up early
- Keep a daily workflow
- Have a weekly workflow
- Prayer and scripture
- Reading and development
Reducing means freeing up some capacity and it certainly is needed if you’re trying to fit too much in your schedule. Why is it needed? Something called the ringing effect explains a phenomenon wherein a system that is nearing its capacity (around 75 percent) can be greatly disturbed by small nuisances. In short, this means that everything is on edge when full capacity is a tiptoe away. In order to be effective, you need to plan everything for around 75 percent capacity only. To get more things done, reduce the number of projects you’re working at once. To get more done, do less.
What should we do to reduce the number of things we have to do? There are four main avenues:
- Delegate: Contrary to popular belief, delegation is not a way to get rid of something you avoid doing. It’s an opportunity to serve by building up the other person. A jargon used here is stewardship delegation. The other individual is given both an area of responsibility and the freedom to choose whichever methods they prefer to accomplish it.
- Eliminate: Two components of elimination are getting rid of tasks that don’t need to be done, and eliminating unnecessary parts of the task. Use 80/20 principle together with Parkinson’s Law. 80 percent of your productivity comes from 20 percent of your tasks. Identify things that fall into the ‘trivial many’ so you can correctly identify the ‘vital few’. Parkinson’s Law construes that a task will generally expand to fill the time allotted to it, so reduce the time you allot for a specific task.
- Automate: Make your tasks run on autopilot (this is actually something I’m busy with in my job).
- Defer: Putting things aside for later and time-activating them.
But I have so many time killers! I’m constantly interrupted by people craving for my attention!
Actually harness them.
Kill multitasking. You can never effectively do two things at once. You can quickly switch between tasks, but it incurs switching costs. Loss of concentration, time to refocus, those are switching costs. Plan your tasks in big time chunks so you don’t switch between menial tasks.
PROCRASTINATE. Yes, you read me right. Get this, motivate yourself to love what you do. There will be a slimmer chance for you to procrastinate. But procrastinate positively. Sometimes we just need to wait until more information is needed to wrap up a task, or you face a very large task that can be effectively solved when broken down. Then do nothing. Don’t do something else.
Finally, turn interruptions into a positive experience. Avoid this as much as you can by planning uninterrupted work time, but in case interruptions are an inevitable part of your daily routine, embrace them and use them as opportunities to do good for others. Minimise interruptions and realise that interruptions can boost your effectiveness.
Execution can be summarised into the acronym P.O.D:
Planning means planning your week. Create a weekly plan that contains your most important priorities this week and weave them into the design of your week. How to do this correctly? First, pray and review your mission and vision. Then define your priorities for the week by reflecting and reviewing your roles, goals, project, action lists, and calendar. Finally, organise your priorities in a way that makes them easy to do. Organising implies different things. It means separating the large items from the small items. It means pruning and prioritising. It means scheduling anything that needs to be scheduled. It means doing small actions right away.
Organising means managing your email, workflow, projects, and actions. You can manage your workflow by collecting ideas readily, processing correctly (in order, one item at a time, and not putting things back into your inbox), and organising (yes, we do a lot of organising) items based on need-to-follow-up. Projects and actions can be organised using four types of list:
- Weekly priority list ( = this week)
- Master projects list (= this quarter)
- Master actions list (=this quarter)
- Backburner (=someday/maybe)
Project plans can support your projects. A project plan should contain the project’s purpose, principles, actions and info.
“Do” means executing your responsibilities daily. A few principles can help you seize the day effectively. First, plan your day ahead. Write down the three most important tasks you can accomplish today, review your calendar, review your priority list this week, and write down any other things you need to do. Then schedule your day at only 70 percent capacity or less (remember the ringing effect). Make sure you consolidate your time into large chunks. Do the most important thing first, and do it one at a time. Focus on outcomes, and not activities. See your day in terms of people and relationships first, not tasks. As k yourself, how can I build others up? Utilize the key question in the moment: What’s best next?
The last large chunk in the book discusses the repercussions of our improved productivity in organisations and society. Peter Drucker spelled out that modern society’s survival and functioning depends on the effectiveness of large-scale organisations, of which individual effectiveness is an indispensable building block. As individuals we are then called to understand management and leadership. Ultimately, improved productivity should be used for the sake of the poor. It’s a global call for all of us.
This book makes an enjoyable read, although it demands you to invest a good amount of time to really internalise the content. The first remark didn’t come until I was summarising this book. There’s too many things to be conveyed. While Perman is consciously aware of the problem with David Allen’s Getting Things Done of abundant to-do-lists, Perman actually has too many (nested) lists. Maybe I’m wrong, and I’m squeezing too much juice. There are actually too many useful points. Nevertheless, I highly recommend you to sit down with a bunch of highlighters and sticky notes. Consider reading this book a personal study session. You may even want to summarise the book for yourself using a personal notebook.
Let me know what you think of this book!
The next review will be on a cyber security book on phishing.