Identify Your Highest Impact Tasks and Do Them First

By Katie Corbett

 

With all there is to do in a day, it can be easy to spend time doing little things that get you nowhere. As I was learning about productivity, I learned that weeding these small tasks out and focusing on those that make the largest impact is the quickest route to success.

 

In the book “The Productivity Project”, by Chris Bailey, focusing on your highest impact activities is of utmost importance. As I was starting my writing business, I thought about what my unique talents were and how I could make the most of my time.

 

As I was preparing writing projects, I realized that I disliked editing. I found it tedious and it took me a long time. On the other hand, I loved networking, interviewing, and putting the initial story together. I decided right then and there that editing was not a high-yield task for me.

 

I reached out to a few friends in my network in hopes of finding a copyeditor. The one I found is worth her weight in gold. She is truly gifted at editing and proofreading. My pieces are so much more cohesive once she has worked on them. And I have all the time I need to interview, prospect, and write.

 

What low-impact tasks are you wasting time on? How can you stop wasting time and start doing what you are good at? Who do you need in your life to make that happen?

 

Are you committed to letting go of tasks that don’t serve you and focusing on the ones that give you the most value? I would love to hear how it goes, so leave me a comment.

 

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The Ultimate Success Tip: Give Them What They Want

Katie Corbett holds the book "Free Marketing"

By Katie Corbett

 

I have been publishing content on this blog for almost three years, and have been posting regularly on LinkedIn for almost one. You may wonder how I keep coming up with new content. It hasn’t been as difficult as one might think.

 

I saw an idea in “Free Marketing,” by Jim Cockrum, that sums up the strategy I use: Give People What They Want. I figure this out by asking questions and paying attention to the questions I am asked. Here is a list of methods I use to capture those ideas. Pick your favorite and try it:

 

  1. Have a specific file where you write down frequently asked questions.
  2. Keep a piece of paper handy when you are on networking calls.
  3. When you think of questions you have been asked, write them down right away.
  4. Make a point to ask people what questions they have for you.
  5. If you’re in a larger group, pay attention to the questions others have throughout the conversation.
  6. Talk with others in your field; sometimes in the discussions, you might find out questions they are regularly asked.

 

Taking the time to learn what people are interested in knowing more about, whether you are blogging to promote a business or just because it’s fun, will give you endless content ideas. I hope you find a wellspring of ideas, as I have.

 

Even if you are working a job and don’t run a blog at all, keeping track of the questions people ask is beneficial. It will help you anticipate questions and answer them in advance, which is sure to impress the boss. At the very least, having answers prepared will show you take your work seriously.

 

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A Fool-Proof Way to Remember Everything: Recording Telephone Conversations

Katie Corbett holds the book "How to Talk to Anyone"

By Katie Corbett

 

Everyone has been part of a conversation where they needed to take down important information and found themselves scrabbling for a pen. A quick, easy way to avoid this scenario and look like you are on top of things is to record conversations. As long as you only use the recordings for your own personal use, you should be able to record without any privacy violation concerns.

 

I first read this tip in Leil Lowndes’s book, “How to Talk to Anyone”. Here are some things to keep in mind as you go about keeping track of your conversations:

 

  1. If the recording will be used for notes as part of an article or other piece of content, always ask permission before starting the conversation. Pro-tip: Record yourself asking this question so you will capture their answer. If they say “Yes,” you will have their consent recorded. If they say “No,” stop the recording and proceed from there.
  2. Whenever possible, make detailed notes as well so you can refer to them later. Searching through notes—especially those taken electronically—will be faster than trying to fast-forward through a recording.
  3. Have recordings transcribed; this will make it easier to find information later.
  4. Whenever you are in doubt, refer back to your recording. This can be especially helpful if your recorded conversation included terms of a project or agreements about who would be responsible for roles in an activity.
  5. Do not share recordings with anyone else unless you have permission from all involved parties.
  6. Once the file has been created, label it and store it in a place where you can easily locate it again. Clearly labeling all subfolders or putting recordings that refer to each specific project on a specific flash drive might be a good way to keep your system organized.
  7. Store your recordings in multiple places so that if something happens to one SD card or flash drive, you will still have another copy.

 

Whenever I interview a client or their customer for a writing project, I always ask for permission to record. This has helped me verify information when it was later called into question, get quotes that are authentically in the other person’s words, and capture important business and negotiation details. Of course, putting the really important stuff in writing is a best practice, since in the business world, if something isn’t in writing, it may as well not have happened. This can easily be done by making notes or sending a follow-up email to the person with whom you have the agreement.

 

Next time you have an important conversation on the horizon, make plans to record it. I have an external recording device that I use to record. You could also use the recording function of Zoom or another phone or communications app. Whatever you choose, make sure it works for you. After all, these recordings will be for your benefit.

 

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Innate Ability is Not Enough

Katie Corbett holds the book "Peak, secrets from the new science of expertise"

By Katie Corbett

 

We grow up hearing we are good at some things and not good at others. We go through our lives and make decisions based on where we think our talents lie. It turns out that innate ability is not as much of a determining factor as you might think.

 

The book “Peak: Secrets From The New Science of Expertise,” by Robert Pool, says that deliberate practice is more important than raw talent. You might know what you want to work on. You might even know what skills you need to enhance in order to get good and achieve your goal. But how will you put the pedal to the metal and practice? Here are some ideas to practice your desired skills.

 

  1. Pick a time of day when you are most mentally alert. That will be your practice time. Block it off in your calendar. Let your family and friends know you are not going to be available. Turn off your Internet, power down your cell phone, and eliminate all other distractions.
  2. Decide what you want to master. Making this decision will help you realize exactly when you have achieved your goal.
  3. Pick the skill apart and determine its pieces. This will ensure you do one small part each day that will get you closer to accomplishing your goal.
  4. Practice those pieces until you master them. Even when you’re tired. Even when there are other, more fun things you could be doing. Just practice.
  5. Think of creative ways you can practice even when you are not practicing. Mentally rehearse dance moves while waiting in line, or go over foreign language phrases in your head while sitting at a stop light in traffic.
  6. Stick to a goal of practicing deliberately every day. Just do it!
  7. Tell others about your goal so you will be more likely to follow through. Trust me; it will be embarrassing otherwise.
  8. Set milestones so you can have smaller goals to aim to achieve. This will keep you motivated to reach toward those bigger goals.
  9. Keep track. I’m probably weird, but I love the satisfaction of checking items off on a to-do list.
  10. Celebrate when you hit each accomplishment. This is the most important step, so remember to celebrate every time.

 

By following this plan, you will get closer to achieving what you want in life. By celebrating your wins, no matter how small, you will recognize your success and progress.

 

What goals are you working on? Tell me in the comments.

 

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Practicing Purposefully: Learning the Right Things

Katie Corbett holds the book "Peak, secrets from the new science of expertise"

By Katie Corbett

 

I was fascinated recently to learn that in language, we use the same 300 words every day. I have wanted to learn a new language for some time, but memorization and verb forms would get in my way of actually learning to speak the language.

 

I read “Peak: Secrets from The New Science of Expertise,” by Robert Pool, and learn that practicing purposefully could help me master a new language. I decided to check and see what courses are out there to help me excel.

 

My objective was to learn to speak confidently, so I looked for a course that focused on speaking the desired language. I found Pimsleur courses, which work by listening to MP3 files. These files contain prompts for repetition and responding to questions. I’ve been fascinated by The Philippines, so decided to take Filipino language lessons. These lessons have me spend 30 minutes each weekday learning those 300 words everyone uses in a conversational style. Here is what I’ve found when trying this method:

 

  • My brain stays focused, since I’m only needing to spend 30 minutes in deliberate practice.
  • I can do the lessons when and where I want, since I’m not part of a class.
  • I remember things more easily because I’m learning in a conversational style.
  • While the program I’m using cannot critique my pronunciation, I’m getting more comfortable with speaking.
  • I’m enjoying the practice, since there are no vocabulary lists or verb conjugations to memorize.

 

What is something you have wanted to learn? What are the basic building blocks to that skill? What could you do to acquire that skill more quickly than you might have thought possible?

 

I’d love to hear what you’re learning and how you’re finding success. Let me know in the comments.

 

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The Importance of Persistence: Following Up

Katie Corbett holds the book "Girl, Stop Apologizing"

By Katie Corbett

 

Often times, I am mystified by how many people don’t do an activity that could further their careers and personal lives. That is following up.

 

I’m sure that when Rachel Hollis wrote about persistence in her book, “Girl, Stop Apologizing,” she meant something along the lines of not giving up and following your dreams. I have applied her advice to following up with contacts. Here are some tips I have found helpful to make sure I follow up with consistency:

 

  1. Get contact info: It’s easier to make a connection if I’m the one making the reconnection.
  2. Create a list of those with whom I want to connect: This way, I will remember to reach out initially or reconnect at a later time.
  3. Create a schedule: If a person says they would like me to follow up with them at a certain time, I can write that down on the schedule. That way, I’m following up at a time that is good for them.
  4. Take conversation notes: Each time I have conversations with a business contact, I make notes of what we talked about, what they do, who they’re looking to connect with and how we might work together.
  5. I always ask: When can I follow up? This way I’m following up without being annoying.
  6. Keep it simple: Following up can be as simple as asking how someone is doing, thanking them for taking the time to talk with me, or asking them about something the two of us discussed during the conversation.

 

In short, remember to follow up. You never know what might come your way through keeping in touch with someone with whom you recently crossed paths.

 

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Choose One Dream and Go All In: My Freelance Writing Career

Katie Corbett holds the book "Girl, Stop Apologizing"

By Katie Corbett

 

I am a person with many hobbies, interests, and goals. I have gotten some advice that will help me propel my dreams forward: Focus. Focus on just one thing and move forward on that. I recently tried this focus when developing my freelance writing career, and it has proven to be invaluable.

 

In “Girl, Stop Apologizing”, author Rachel Hollis suggests to pick one dream and go all in. I have found this focus helpful because:

 

  • Focusing helps me evaluate other opportunities to make sure I stay on track.
  • Focusing helps me decide what needs to get done and stay on task.
  • I can say no to other opportunities without feeling guilty if they do not align with my current focus.
  • It is easy to see areas for growth and improvement when I’m only focused on one area of life.
  • I can track my progress more easily.

 

Tangible results of this focus include working with three amazing clients and getting paid for my writing expertise in less than three months of starting my business. And the best part about running a business is that I can focus on one business, but end up wearing all the hats. This means there’s always something fun and new to try, from writing, to interviewing, to marketing and sales.

 

What can you focus on, to the exclusion of all else? Are you writing a novel? Starting a business? Looking for a new job? Raising kids? How would focus benefit you in your endeavor?

 

I’d love to hear what you’re working on, so let me know in the comments. Where will you be investing your time and energy?

 

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The Perfect Way to Make Time and Balance Energy for Everything

Katie Corbett holds the book "The Renaissance Soul"

By Katie Corbett

 

Having a weekly to-do list is a practice I have held for almost three years. It helps me get things done and remain productive, yet stay flexible and alert to fluctuations in my energy levels. Rather than writing in specific activities at specified times, I can follow my list and do things in the time blocks I set aside for to-do list items.

 

I was thrilled when I saw this practice suggested in the book, “The Renaissance Soul,” by Margaret Lobenstine. The author suggests setting aside blocks of time to do work on Focal Point activities and making a list of what needs to get done. Then, when it is time to work on Focal Point activities, you can choose what you want to do based on your time and energy.

 

Recently, I wanted to work on my business Focal Point. I only wanted to spend an hour-and-a-half working, and according to my weekly to-do list, I could either follow up on current projects, write a one-page brochure about my services, or schedule meetings with potential clients. I decided to focus on the latter because I wanted my brain to be in a more strategic space when writing the brochure and a happier space when doing follow-ups. I know, though, that because the brochure and the follow-ups are on this week’s to-do list, they will get done.

 

What will you be putting on your list for each of your Focal Points this week? When will your Focal Point activity time blocks occur? Let me know what you decide to do with your allotted time in the comments. I’d love to hear what you are working on.

 

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