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We are involved in a frenzy of activity all day long; we put out fires, solve other people’s problems and deal with whatever comes our way. And yet, we fail to achieve what we set out to do. It is easy to blame these problems on the organisation, but many of them are created by us due to a lack of self-discipline and the choices we make.

If, according to the Pareto Principle: “Twenty percent of your time at work is spent doing things which account for 80% of your results and 80% of your time is spent doing things which account for 20% of your results,” then doesn’t it make sense to manage ourselves and our choices?

To be more productive, change your work paradigm and practise ‘choice management’ – make conscious choices in the time that you have, by following these steps.

1. Know thyself. Discover what your ‘prime hours’ (when you are most effective) are and shape your day around them in such a way that high priority tasks are done during these hours.

2. Eliminate redundancy. When faced with a task, make a conscious choice to deal with it in one of the following ways: Do it. Delegate it. Dump it. Deadline it.

3. Act on it. We tend to neglect some of our major objectives because they seem overwhelming. We don’t know where to begin, and find reasons to postpone doing them. Use a cognitive behavioural technique that suggests that whenever you realise that you are going to procrastinate, tell yourself that you will complete the entire task later, but right now you will work on just five percent of the task. In more cases than not, the work done will be greater than just five percent.

4. Value over volume. Research indicates that people don’t do lots of things simultaneously – we switch our attention from task to task quickly. Multitasking is less productive and more stressful, so concentrate on one task at a time.

– Fauzia Kerai Khan
The writer is Chief Consultant, i&b Consulting, Training, e-Learning. fauzia@iandbconsulting.com.

First published in the Careers Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on September 22, 2013.