07/07/2014 12:06 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Embed Routines and Rituals (Principle No. 5 of the 7 Principles of Personal Effectiveness)

This blog is about Principle #5 on your way to better personal effectiveness, 'Embed Routines and Rituals' originally introduced in the blog 'The 7 Principles of Personal Effectiveness'. It is important that you are working through each of the 7 Principles, and highlighting any point that represents a gap for you, or challenges your current beliefs or practices.

The smallest unit of change is a habit, and it takes about thirty days to form one. Making the routines and rituals below everyday habits will enable you to maximize your effectiveness - no matter what's happening in your environment.

I. Any time you have a thought that requires action, enter it into your system (phone/tablet/PC) within an existing task or, if it's new, add a new task.
II. Keep small pads and pens handy for all the places you may think without easy access to technology (bedside table/bathroom/car/etc). Write one thought per page, tear it off and keep it with you until you can put it into your electronic system. This is the easiest way to avoid thinking the same thought over and over again - just get it out of your head.
III. Once you decide what the next action(s) is for any task, you have three choices; do it, delegate it, or defer it to a designated date (by simply using the date function in your system).
IV. Batch repetitive tasks like email at pre-allocated times. Turn off the email alert function. Responding instantaneously to emails trains others to expect your immediate attention to their priorities; which often aren't aligned with your priorities at that moment.
V. If you are a senior leader expecting subordinates to respond instantaneously to your emails, be mindful that you may be creating a culture of urgency and anxiety at the expense of purposeful, intelligent action.
VI. Conduct a weekly review of your diary and task list - look for patterns of success and frustration. For example, who are the people who most deserve your time? Where are you actually spending your time? If there is a gap between the two answers, and there usually is, realign your diary and task list quickly and decisively.
VII. Limit decision fatigue, which is proven to diminish the quality of your decisions later in the day. For example, simplify your wardrobe and your meals to free up mental space for all of the other decisions in your day.
VIII. Take a leaf out of President Obama's book. Rather than long briefing papers, he asks for short 'decision memos' with 3 simple checkboxes at the bottom of the page for his response: ∆ agree ∆ disagree ∆ let's discuss.
IX. Each day, prioritise any (ideally all) of the following: exercise, meditation, visualisation, learning, and gratitude.

How did you go with this activity? If you can 'Embed these Routines and Rituals' into your daily life, my following blog will help you take the next step with the sixth principle of personal effectiveness; 'Steer Meetings and Interactions'.

For those of you who are interested in some further reading in this field of personal effectiveness, here are the key books and authors that have inspired me;

  • First Things First by Stephen R. Covey

  • Getting Things Done by David Allen

  • Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

  • Man's Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frankl

  • The Speed of Trust by Stephen M. R. Covey