When You Should Ignore the Big Frog on Your Plate

Your most important thing today might not be the most important thing right now.

Whatever approach you take to personal productivity, there is one common theme: identifying your most important tasks and working through them, methodically, until you’re done.

Ivy Lee coached Charles Schwab’s executives on this principle. Stephen R. Covey taught us to identify our A1 task and start there. Brian Tracy wrote about starting your day by eating the big frog on your plate.

Focusing on your most important task can be your key to having a productive day. It can also completely ruin your day. There are at least seven times you should ignore the big frog sitting at the top of your task list.

Photo courtesy of © Adobe Stock / Mat Hayward

How long should you keep documents before shredding them?

The more important they are, the longer you’ll track them.

A single issue of the Wall Street Journal contains more information than the average 17th-century person was exposed to in their entire lifetime. We are exposed to more information in an hour than our grandparents were all month. There’s a lot of information coming at us, and it’s not slowing down any time soon.

Much of that information comes to us on paper. We can’t keep it all—curating that collection would be a full-time job and require an extraordinary filing system. We can’t get rid of it all and go completely paperless, either.

How long should you keep a document? Can you scan it, or do you need the original? Well, it depends.

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You’ve Forgotten How to Be Bored and It’s Ruining Your Life

Giving your brain a break is essential for high productivity.

Normally, I put on an audiobook or podcast while I’m driving. Even for short trips.

Last week, I drove home in relative silence. Instead of Cal Newport’s Deep Work, I listened to the rain hitting the car, the intermittent rub of the wipers and click of the blinkers, and the spray of the tires on the wet pavement.

Halfway home, I hit a breakthrough. Letting my mind ruminate on the problem I’d spent half the afternoon trying to solve, I made the connection. I could use something I’d stumbled across the day before to fix it.

I had to chuckle, because it perfectly demonstrated one of the challenges we face today, something I recently heard Newport talk about in an interview: we’ve forgotten how to be bored and it’s ruining our lives.

Photo courtesy of © Adobe Stock / frenky362

Never Lose Track of a Gift Card Again

Track your gift cards, gift certificates, and coupons with Evernote

I love gift cards. If you’re careful, they can be good for gifts, especially gift certificates for experiences—dinner, massages, skydiving, etc. (If you’re not careful, it can come across as thoughtless.)

Where I really love gift cards, though, is Costco. For $80, I can buy $100 in gift cards to my favorite restaurants, golf courses, and even the iTunes Store.

Like anything you buy at Costco, it’s only a deal if you’re going to use it. For gift cards, a large part of that is not losing it or sticking it someplace safe only to forget about it. It’s one thing to lose a gift card you receive, but when you lose one you buy, that’s just money out the door.

Fortunately, there’s an easy way you can integrate gift cards, gift certificates, and coupons into your trusted system. Once again, Evernote is your friend.

Photo courtesy of © Adobe Stock / chere

The First Step to Changing Your Life

Change has one requirement, and it’s not January 1

January 1 is just another day. There’s a year behind it and a year before it. We ascribe supernatural significance to it to effect change in our lives, but if we don’t decide to we’re going to change anything, the day will go right past us. Just like the other 364.

All of the wisdom and best practices you’ve heard about setting goals are there for a reason. They work. Most change doesn’t happen by itself. It needs reinforced.

The status quo exists because we’ve developed habits, either by design or by default. If we aren’t happy with the results we’re currently getting, it’s going to take more than twelve new photos of scenic trains to evoke change. We need a decision.

Photo courtesy of © Adobe Stock / Africa Studio