7 ways to grow the action habit and get things done!
People at the top of every profession share one quality in common that supersedes intelligence, talent and connections — they get things done. This is what determines the size of your salary and the speed of your career advancement. Some relevant quotes:

· The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will. (Vince Lombardi the American Football coach)

· Success has been cited as being 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.

· There’s an old saying that goes “There are three types of people in the world, Those who make things happen, Those who watch things happen, and Those who say, “What happened?” make sure that you’re one of those that make things happen!

However, despite the simplicity of this whole concept there seems to be a perpetual shortage of people who excel at getting results. The action habit — the habit of putting ideas into action now — is essential to getting things done. And what you will see from below is that the biggest individual factor in getting things done is the ability or even the decision to actually take action, it really can be as simple as that. Too often we seem to look for reasons to do just the opposite, to put barriers up to ‘create’ reasons not to take action, to procrastinate. Yet by diligently following these simple steps over time it’s possible to change this behaviour and consistently get things done!

Here are 7 ways you can grow the action habit:

1. Don’t wait for conditions to be perfect
Conditions will never be ‘just perfect’ and perhaps waiting for them to be so is just a form of mental procrastination. So make a start and deal with the issues as and when they arise. You may come up against an issue and judge that it might have been better to start earlier (or later), but hindsight is a wonderful thing and really there never is a perfect time to start, issues might arise at any time and you just have to deal with them.
Don’t procrastinate – don’t put off till tomorrow what can be done today – TAKE ACTION and do it NOW!

2. Be a doer
Don’t just talk about it, think about it or put it on a list, get on and do it! Take action; don’t just think about taking action but make the next step and actually do something. That may be the difference between a successful person and others, the ability to do….

3. Remember that ideas alone don’t bring success
Ideas are important, but they’re only valuable after they’ve been implemented. One average idea that’s been put into action is more valuable than a dozen brilliant ideas that you’re saving for “some other day” or the “right opportunity”. If you have an idea that you really believe in, do something about it. Unless you take action it will never go anywhere.

4. Use action to cure fear
Have you ever noticed that the most difficult part of public speaking is waiting for your turn to speak? Action is the best cure for this fear and once you get started the fear will disappear. The most difficult time to take action is the very first time. After the ball is rolling, you’ll build confidence and things will keep getting easier. This is very similar to previous items, get on with it, take action and don’t procrastinate!

5. Start your creative engine mechanically
One of the biggest misconceptions about creative work is that it can only be done when inspiration strikes. If you wait for inspiration to slap you in the face, your work sessions will be few and far between. Instead of waiting, start your creative motor mechanically. If you need to write something, force yourself to sit down and write. Put pen to paper. Brainstorm. Doodle. Again, what is needed here is ACTION, don’t wait, don’t procrastinate, take action, make a start and the ideas will flow…...

6. Live in the present
Focus on what you can do in the present moment. Don’t worry about what you should have done last week or what you might be able to do tomorrow. Focus your thoughts and your efforts on what you can actually impact on, don’t waste energy worrying about things that you cannot change (past events) or that might not happen!

7. Get down to business immediately
It’s often common practice for people to make small talk at the beginning of meetings and the same is true for individual workers. How often do you check email or RSS feeds or favourite news sites before doing any real work? These distractions will cost you serious time if you don’t bypass them and get down to business immediately. By becoming someone who gets to the point you’ll be more productive and people will look to you as a leader.
Note: This blog is based on an article by John Jorgensen which in turn was inspired by The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz.


Often it seems that we take on and start tasks and then at some point get to the point where the task feels too great, progress is slow, there is a feeling of being overwhelmed, frustrated and stressed. And in the end the desire to progress fades and you feel like quitting.
It seems that our drive and motivation is stuttering and obstacles to progress seem everywhere. Distractions are all too easily taken up and procrastination sets in. Ultimately this can lead to work on the task stopping altogether, with seemingly no clear way of it progressing to a conclusion!
So how can we ensure that we stay focused on the task at hand and motivated to see it through to its conclusion? Here are some simple steps that should help.

1. Make sure you know what the task is!
It seems obvious, but make sure that you are effective rather than just efficient (see previous post) and make sure that you are working on things that actually need to be done! Don’t waste your time working on or worrying about irrelevancies, focus on what needs to be done.

2. Break down your task into bite size chunks.
By doing so you create smaller, more manageable tasks that are then less daunting, will seem easier to complete. Furthermore by completing these smaller tasks you will then feel the sense of achievement gained (rather than the previous feeling of being overwhelmed!).

3. Establish momentum!
Just making a start is the best way (and it seems sometimes the most difficult) to getting to the end of the task – but you have to do it! Pick something ‘easy’ to start with, or something that you know that you will enjoy, perhaps something that you know can be done reasonably quickly. Completing that task will give you a sense of achievement and satisfaction..… so use that and move onto the next task, then the next, and the next. Continue like this and a head of steam will build that will be difficult to stop – it’s called momentum!

4. Avoid distractions.
You need to continue the momentum that has built up and must remain focussed, what you don’t need are distractions. Some will be difficult to avoid but you must help yourself to stay focused on the job at hand, leave emails, you can view them later, and avoid the phone (if at all possible!)
We hear so much about multitasking and clearly that can be a positive thing. But sometimes what you need is focus, you need to avoid distractions to get the job done and in this sense multitasking can be your enemy! Focus on completing the task – everything else can be done later, by doing so you will achieve more, will then become even more motivated and (see momentum above) this will snowball!

5. Take breaks.
Sometimes it is necessary to take a break, just to go for a walk and clear the mind – particularly if the task involves sitting in front of a screen for hours on end! Perhaps stop for a quick chat with someone or have lunch, get a drink or have a stretch – but get up and leave your desk, going online does NOT count as a break!
Aim to build regular breaks into your day, perhaps a 5 minute break from your desk every hour. By doing so you will come back just a little refreshed and raring to go, so by taking time out you will almost certainly increase the amount that you will achieve throughout the day.

This article is an adaptation of one by Hani Al-Qasem for which I thank him.


Efficiency isn’t effectiveness!

Posted on Wednesday, April 29, 2009, under , ,

Are you truly effective or just efficient?
A lot of popular time management advice is aimed at making you ever more efficient. Perhaps you’re constantly googling for blog enhancements or plug ins that you might be missing out on - thus improving your efficiency. Maybe you reorganize your email or paper filing system each week so that everything is impeccably organised.

But have you ever stopped to ask yourself – Am I being effective, or just being efficient? You can be really efficient, process things really fast and actually be very good at what you do, but are you doing the right things because that is what will make you effective rather than just efficient. So the first thing we need to clarify is the difference between being efficient and being effective.

Being efficient means processing things fast. You get through your to-do list quickly and, in any given task, you eliminate time-wasters.

Being effective means doing the right things. You eliminate time-wasting activities or “busy work” from your day.

So you could rephrase the question "Am I being effective, or just being efficient" into "Am I doing something that needs to be done, or am I just being busy for the sake of it"?

Another way to look at this is to think of effectiveness as the big picture. If you want to be truly effective, you need to think about what your values are and what you want to achieve in your life. This is hard work – and it’s the sort of work where you don’t get to show off an empty inbox or a neatly filed set of papers at the end of it. But it’s absolutely essential to do this big-picture thinking if you’re ever going to accomplish anything meaningful.

Your efficiency comes after this. Because, frankly, however efficient your system for organizing your MP3 collection, it’s unlikely to be particularly effective in contributing to your wider goals. You want to concentrate on being efficient at the tasks which really are significant. This might mean, for example, coming up with a system that saves you time and wasted energy when you take on a new project.

Increasing Your Effectiveness
So if being effective is more important than being efficient, how can you go about improving your effectiveness?

One way to start is to write down a list of all the commitments that you have in your life. Try dividing them into categories like your work, your relationships with family and friends, your community, and your education (if appropriate).

If you’re anything like most of us you might be surprised and even horrified to find out how much you’ve taken on. Do you really have the time and attention to carry out each of these commitments effectively? And which of these commitments is effective for you – do they add to your life, or just take up your time?

It’s never easy to say “no” to people, or to quit an activity that you’re currently engaged in. Sometimes, though, you’ll realize that to become more effective, you can’t simply keep ramping up your efficiency – you have to let something go and aim to become more effective.

Another great approach is to look at your values. What matters to you most in life? (You might want to list several things.) It could be your family, your health, your career, your bank balance, your free time, your education, a particular cause or all sorts of other things. There are no “right” values – everyone’s will be slightly different.

This blog is based on an article by Ali Hale, for which I thank her and to which I have added some of my own thoughts…


St George

Posted on Thursday, April 23, 2009, under

Today is St George’s day, but who is St George?
Saint George is the patron saint of England. He's popularly identified with England and English ideals of honour, bravery and gallantry - but actually he wasn't English at all. It seems that very little, if anything, is known about the real Saint George. Pope Gelasius said that George is one of the saints "whose names are rightly reverenced among us, but whose actions are known only to God."

He is patron saint not only of England but also of Aragon, Catalonia, Georgia, Lithuania, Palestine, Portugal, Germany and Greece; and of Moscow, Istanbul, Genoa and Venice (second to Saint Mark). He's also patron saint of soldiers, archers, cavalry and chivalry, farmers and field workers, riders and saddlers, and he helps those suffering from leprosy, plague and syphilis. In recent years he has been adopted as patron saint of Scouts.

Everything about Saint George is dubious, so the information below should be taken as mythical rather than real.
· Born in Cappadocia, an area which is now in Turkey
· Lived in 3rd century AD
· His parents were Christian
· Later lived in Palestine
· Became a Roman soldier
· Protested against Rome's persecution of Christians
· Imprisoned and tortured, but stayed true to his faith
· Beheaded at Lydda in Palestine
· 23rd April was named as Saint George's day in 1222

The story of Saint George is so wrapped in myth and legend that it's difficult to extract the historical facts of a real life. What we believe to be the truth is that George was born in Cappadocia, an area which is now in Turkey, in the 3rd century; that his parents were Christians; and that when his father died, George's mother returned to her native Palestine, taking George with her. George became a soldier in the Roman army and rose to the rank of Tribune.

The Emperor of the day, Diocletian (245-313 AD), began a campaign against Christians at the very beginning of the 4th century. In about 303 AD George is said to have objected to this persecution and resigned his military post in protest.

George tore up the Emperor's order against Christians. This infuriated Diocletian, and George was imprisoned and tortured - but he refused to deny his faith. Eventually he was dragged through the streets of Diospolis (now Lydda) in Palestine and beheaded. It's said that Diocletian's wife was so impressed by George's resilience that she became a Christian and that she too was executed for her faith.

Myths about St George
The image of George most familiar to us today is the saint dressed in a white tunic bedecked with a red cross, astride his stallion, and skewering a dragon as he rescues a fair maiden. This image probably depends more on late medieval ideal of the ‘Knight of Christ’.

The story of Saint George achieved mass circulation when it was printed in 1483 by Caxton in a book called The Golden Legend. This was a translation of a French book, which incorporated fantastic details of Saints' lives. The version that follows is from The Golden Legend:

St. George was a knight and born in Cappadocia. On a time he came in to the province of Libya, to a city which is said Silene. And by this city was a pond like a sea, wherein was a dragon which envenomed all the country.
The people of the town had begun to feed the dragon two sheep every day to prevent it attacking them; when the sheep failed, they began to give it one sheep and one man. The king decreed that the human sacrifice should be chosen by lot. This continued until the king's daughter was selected. The king tried to bargain his way out of it, but the townspeople were adamant that she should be delivered to the dragon just as many of their children had been. The king led his daughter to the place where the dragon was.

George, who was passing, asked the lady what was happening. She told him about the dragon and begged him to leave before it appeared and killed him too. Then said St. George: “Fair daughter, I shall help thee in the name of Jesus Christ”. She said: “For God's sake, good knight, go your way, and abide not with me, for ye may not deliver me”.
The dragon appeared and came running to them, St. George was upon his horse, drew out his sword, garnished him with the sign of the cross, and rode against the dragon which came towards him. He speared him and threw him to the ground.

The princess led the defeated dragon into the city, causing much panic and alarm until George told the people not to be afraid telling them to believe in God and Jesus Christ be baptised and he would slay the dragon
The king was baptised, followed by all his people, whereupon George killed the dragon and had it dragged out of the city (requiring four ox carts to do so) and its body thrown into the fields.
The king set up a church of Our Lady and Saint George. On the site there sprang up "a fountain of living water, which heals sick people that drink thereof".

How did he become England's patron saint?
George's fame had certainly reached England by the reign of Alfred the Great, but it really took off after the Crusades, when it was reported back that he had appeared before the crusaders outside Jerusalem in 1099, spurring them on to martial valour. He was much admired by European knights, and began to appear on banners taken into battle.

In 1222, the Synod of Oxford declared that St George's Day was a feast day in England. Not being English actually gave him an edge over other saints, such as Thomas à Becket, because it meant his cult was not associated with any particular part of the country, so when English knights set off to France to fight the Hundred Years War, they could do so in the name of St George without stirring up regional rivalries. As Shakespeare put it, in Henry V: "God for England, Harry and St George."


The parable of the scorpion and the frog

Posted on Wednesday, April 22, 2009, under ,

Recognise that people do not change their nature, a leopard doesn’t change it’s spots etc…
I came across the parable of the frog and the scorpion recently….

"Hellooo Mr. Frog!" called the scorpion across the water, "Would you be so kind as to give me a ride on your back across the river?"
"Well now, Mr. Scorpion! How do I know that if I try to help you, you won’t try to kill me?" asked the frog hesitantly.
"Because," the scorpion replied, "If I try to kill you, then I would die too, for you see I cannot swim!"
Now this seemed to make sense to the frog. But he asked. "What about when I get close to the bank? You could still try to kill me and get back to the shore!"
"This is true," agreed the scorpion, "But then I wouldn't be able to get to the other side of the river!"
"Alright then...how do I know you wont just wait till we get to the other side and THEN kill me?" said the frog.
"Ahh...," crooned the scorpion, "Because you see, once you've taken me to the other side of this river, I will be so grateful for your help, that it would hardly be fair to reward you with death, now would it?!"
So the frog agreed to take the scorpion across the river. He swam over to the bank and settled himself near the mud to pick up his passenger. The scorpion crawled onto the frog's back, his sharp claws prickling into the frog's soft hide, and the frog slid into the river. The muddy water swirled around them, but the frog stayed near the surface so the scorpion would not drown. He kicked strongly through the first half of the stream, his flippers paddling wildly against the current.
Halfway across the river, the frog suddenly felt a sharp sting in his back and, out of the corner of his eye, saw the scorpion remove his stinger from the frog's back. A deadening numbness began to creep into his limbs.
"You fool!" croaked the frog, "Now we shall both die! Why on earth did you do that?"
The scorpion shrugged, and did a little jig on the drowning frog's back.
"I could not help myself. It is my nature."
Then they both sank into the muddy waters of the swiftly flowing river.