Focus on the things that are “not urgent, but highly important”
This is the final part of my three-part talk to Roderick Smyth about the history of TempBuddy, techniques to develop better technology, and improving personal productivity. Rod is the CEO of TempBuddy.
Steve: Can you tell me about one or two personal methods of productivity that you have adopted as an entrepreneur and embedded into your life?
Rod: I do have a one thing that strikes me as really important – the advice I got from a mentor of mine, Kathy Murray. She’s an investor in TempBuddy and a good friend. She advised me long ago that how you achieve more in what you do – in business or anywhere else in life – is not focusing on the “urgent, important task”, it’s to focus on the “not urgent but important tasks”.
Steve: Yes, this one of the classic pieces of advice from Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” in what he calls “Put First Things First”, encouraging you to work in this “Second Quadrant”. I use this a lot as well, it’s been an instrumental tool in my task list prioritization methods over the past years.
Rod: Absolutely. That’s what I’m trying to achieve. You can’t always do it with the inevitable noise, but as long as you keep that front of mind, then the things that are urgent and important become much easier to delegate. Get those off your desk and get them delegated so you can focus on the things that are “not urgent, but highly important”.
Steve: How do you organize your tasks, what products do you use?
Rod: I’m 100% inbox. I just use my Gmail for everything.
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Steve: Do you use any productivity software that works on top of Gmail to do that?
Rod: No. I process what I can, offload as much as I can quickly, and I have a target of ensuring there’s not more than 10 to 50 items left to work through by the end of the day-
Steve: You have a written list?
Rod: I work off a daily to-do list but if there’s a task that’s carrying over, it goes back to my Gmail. And that drives me to make sure that I never more than have 50 items in my entire task list. If it’s going past that, then I have to delegate more to someone else.
Steve: Do you have any morning routines?
Rod: Yeah, I listen to some music. Deal with family, get kids off to school, and then get at least 5 minutes of some music to lift me up. A bit of quiet time and then straight into the task list carried over from the night before via my email.
Steve: Do you ever ask the question “What’s that single most important task to achieve in a given day?”
Rod: Going into every night and every morning, I have one task as my top priority that I need to get done that day. You just get it nailed as early as you can. That task could be a successful meeting, something you need to produce, a conversation you need to have or whatever else. But definitely, you have to have one overriding goal each day
Steve: Rod, thank you very much for your time – and congratulations on creating such an awesome business.
Rod: Thank you, Steve – I really appreciate it.
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