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Are You Addicted to Action?
This morning as I opened my inbox, I started answering emails and returning calls almost without thinking. When someone starts talking to me about a Great Idea, I find myself almost distracted by my desire to start doing something to make that thought a reality. I am always thinking in terms What can I do […]
This morning as I opened my inbox, I started answering emails and returning calls almost without thinking. When someone starts talking to me about a Great Idea, I find myself almost distracted by my desire to start doing something to make that thought a reality. I am always thinking in terms What can I do next to resolve this issue when a customer calls me. If my inbox is not empty at the end of the day, it drives me crazy because that means I did not take action on those items. I should have at least decided when and if I am going to act on them since I ran out of time today.
I realize “addiction” is a strong word for the desire to be efficient, and I don’t use it lightly. An addiction is a habit that practically enslaves you because it is so ingrained in your mind. Today I want to talk about building a strong habit of Action. I want to explain first how this habit would look in your life and work. Then I will give you some tips to build this habit.
I talk to dozens of agents every day who do not have this “Action Addiction.” They would rather talk about a way to revolutionize the industry instead of making twenty cold calls. They would rather prioritize their projects and tasks for two hours than spend those two hours actually completing the tasks they are organizing. I am not saying we should not think. But I am convinced most of us could think about 80% less and spend the time taking action on the decisions we make during the other 20% of the time. Let’s start off with an example of someone who doesn’t have the “Action Addiction:”
Imagine that you walk into your office, turn on your computer, and see 25 new messages in your inbox. Five are voicemails from customers who called you with a concern. Ten of them are junk mail. Five of them are calendar reminders about events or tasks you need to complete that day. The other five contain valuable information to which you need to read and respond. What would you do in that situation? Most people would immediately feel discouraged or overwhelmed. They would cope with this feeling by categorizing or prioritizing these email messages and deciding if and when they were going to take action. Their thought would be, “Which one of these messages is the most important?” or “I don’t want to deal with that phone call right now; I should schedule it for later today.” or “I wish I had the time to read all of these informational emails and update myself on industry knowledge. I will put this email in next week’s folder when I might have more time.” The person who has these thoughts is addicted to procrastination whether he or she realizes it or not.
I know this because five years ago I would have had the same thoughts. If you would have asked me then, I would have said I am very organized, have priorities, and only work on the important things. But this is really all just code for, “I don’t want to do the detail work right now.” The truth is, I get more accomplished today by 10 a.m. than I used to get done all day. This is not because I am super smart or even super organized. In fact, my organizational system is very simple compared to most of the ones my agents use. I accomplish a lot in a day because I have worked hard to develop an addiction to action.
So, how does someone with an action addiction handle this same inbox of twenty-five emails?
First, a two hour block of time is scheduled to work the inbox. The addict sits down and makes one quick scan in ten seconds to decide if any of these emails or phone messages are truly urgent and important enough to take care of immediately. Once the addict realizes there are not any like that (and there hardly ever are if you are keeping up on your work), he or she clicks on the first email. In this case, the first email is a voicemail from a client. Before any feeling of anxiety could even come into the mind of the addict, he or she clicks on the number to make the call. While the number is dialing, he or she starts to listen to the message because it was forgotten before making the call (I do this all the time! LOL.) You see, when you are addicted to action, you automatically answer the phone or return a call as soon as it is put in front of you. Once the call is made, the addict hears a customer explain a problem with terminal settings. Notes are made about the issue and a promise to have tech support call back right away is made. When this call is ended, immediately a call to tech support is made. Once on hold, the addict adds a reminder in the calendar to follow up with the customer later that same day.
Then he or she clicks on the next message while the hold music is playing the background. The second message is a fairly long family update email from a brother which is calmly and carefully read in its entirety. This takes about three or four minutes. The addict responds with a short email expressing appreciation for the update, and then the message is moved to the Non-Action Folder. About this time tech support picks up the phone. The needed information is given to them to call the merchant in the first email. Then the phone is hung up and the original voicemail message is placed in the Non-Action Folder.
While hanging up the phone, the addict’s eyes have already started moving over to the third message, and he or she clicks on it. This one is a newsletter which is no longer wanted, so the addict scrolls to the bottom and clicks on “Unsubscribe.” Thus, the spending of thirty seconds will eliminate future emails like this one which distracts focus from important tasks. Now that message is moved to the “Non-Action Folder” along with the first two, and the addict clicks on the fourth message.
The fourth is an email calendar reminder to make a new blog post and post the link to the new article on the social media profiles. In order to concentrate on this task, the inbox is closed. Now the addict takes thirty minutes to complete this task. Then he or she opens up the inbox again, moves that reminder to Non-Action, and clicks on the fifth email message.
Within two hours the entire inbox is cleaned out and every action is taken that can possibly be taken relating to the twenty-five messages with which the day started. Next item on the schedule is two hours of prospecting, so the addict gathers necessary things and heads out into the field. The goal is to walk into ten new businesses today. He or she pulls up to the first one and without even thinking, gets out of the car and walks in. Like a machine the addict walks into all ten businesses, recording the results. There may be some anxiety, but the anxiety cannot begin to overcome the addiction to action. At the end of the day, the addict drives home feeling fulfilled and ready to shift gears. The addict is ready to take the necessary actions to grow the important relationships and refresh his or her mind for the week ahead. The person I described above is extraordinarily effective and efficient. So you might ask, How do I develop the action addiction? Below is a list of tips on developing the strong habit of taking action.
- Make sure you have an organizational system which can handle an action addiction. This means that everything comes into one inbox. Studies have shown when your brain is constantly switching between different inboxes you will be 30% less efficient and focused. By the way, when I say everything, I mean everything. My text messages, phone messages, emails, calendar reminders, devotional reading for the day and everything else comes into one email inbox.
- Change your priority system to the following: First of all, either something does require action or it does not. If it doesn’t, don’t worry about it. If it does require action, decide if that action is important enough to do or not. If it is important, do it; if it is not important, don’t do it. Stop trying to decide, On a scale from 1 to 10, how important is it that I return this phone call today versus tomorrow? That is RIDICULOUS!!!! Just ask yourself, Is this call important enough to return? If it is, then return it right now. If it isn’t, then delete it and forget about it.
- Once you have a good system in place to bring everything into one inbox and have changed your priority system to only bring important action steps into your inbox, start building the habit of acting. Fix the problem; return the phone call; read the email; drive out to do your prospecting; send the letter you planned to send; do whatever you can do to move these important tasks forward. At first this is really hard to do. There will be many times you don’t want to answer the phone because you think, I wonder who is calling me? Should I answer the phone? Stop thinking and act. Answer your phone if you can. If you can’t take or make a call at that moment, don’t waste time listening to the message. When you can return the call, listen to the message if you need to know the subject of the call. Call the person back right then – at that moment. The best organizational advice I ever heard was in the book The advice was, “Do it now.”
- Schedule blocks of time in your day to work through your inbox. During that time, rather than thinking about which actions to do, just start at the top and work your way through the inbox as much as possible. I cannot stress how difficult this is to do at first. Like any other habit, it is very difficult for the first thirty days to take action. Then it gets easier over the next five months. If you do it consistently for six months or more, it will start to become a very strong habit!
- Lastly, focus on one task at a time. Studies have proven that you cannot multi-task; it is impossible. You can Switch Task which means you are switching back and forth between different tasks, but you cannot do two things at once. If you are Switch Tasking, you are operating at about half of your efficiency level. Every time you switch to another task, you lose focus on the original task. Do one thing until you complete it.
I hope these short tips help you manage your day more effectively!
James Shepherd firstname.lastname@example.org
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