Have you ever been listening to a song, and your brain takes you somewhere unexpected? That happened to me today. On my morning run to the lifeguard headquarters and back the song “Calling Elvis” by the Dire Straits came on. For some reason my brain went straight to the museum across from Graceland and I was thinking about the tail on Elvis’ airplane.
The tail has a lightning bolt and the letters T,C and B. The letters stand for “taking care of business”. The rest of my run, I wondered how many people would be taking care of business today, and how many would just be busy. There is a difference you know.
There are dozens if not hundreds of books written on productivity. Some of my recent favorites include Gary Keller’s the one thing, Donald, Trumps “Think Like a Champion“, Robert Coopers, “Get Out of Your Own Way“, and Bill Taylor’s “Mavericks at Work”.
All of these books have a simple underlying theme with Gary Keller’s “The One Thing” is the only one that states it directly. Even Stephen Covey’s landmark book about the “Seven Habits” only states it as one of the seven habits. Gary Keller claims that one habit is the one thing you must do to achieve success.
So what is it?
Elvis called it “taking care of business”. But what does that really mean and how do you go to work for you?
Ironically we see this in other people quite easily, and have a hard time looking in the mirror and seeing the same thing.
When they do it we call it wasting time. People who have long to do list and start checking the little boxes starting the easy ones first and then moving towards the harder ones and end up leaving them for another day are the ones who are “just busy.”
Don’t be just busy, Busy work is a killer of success just like perfection the enemy of greatness.
Taking care of business means doing the things that move you forward. Stephen Covey called it:”Putting first things first”, Gary Keller called it “The one thing”. Either way if you can accomplish one important thing every day that gives you towards your goals you will get there.
The most important thing is to be moving forward. Being busy is just moving. Just moving doesn’t matter, It is like a dog spinning circles to figure out where they’re going to sleep. You’ve seen this they don’t go anywhere. Dogs don’t have goals. You do. Moving forward however keeps you moving towards the goal.
I can already hear you saying that is easier said than done. For most people that is true and with a little discipline anyone can do it.
My tool? A white board of course. Just to the left my desk. Is a pretty good-sized whiteboard filled with notes. Notes about possible books, Notes about projects around the house, Notes about potential blogs and the list reminding me of the critical elements of writing.
The leftmost column of my whiteboard is labeled one thing. There is a large space and each day only one task makes into that space. If it is not a test that can be accomplished in one day, That breakdown into a series of smaller tasks so that whatever is written in the box can be accomplished in one day.
Below that is a short list of four or five items of supporting tasks. These are all things that will help me move forward, Or need to get done with work around the house. If I don’t accomplish them they don’t hold me back and it’ll keep me spinning in circles.
Once in a while is supporting that it becomes important enough that it becomes the one thing, But that is very rare. Most important is that no busywork gets on either list.
I like to think of the list like the answer residing in the envelope held up with a great Carnac. And the question is always the same. “What can I do to move a little closer to my goal today?”
If the item on the list doesn’t fit that question it gets erased with a simple swipe of the thumb.