Saturday March 9, 2013
Time management and discipline
By THEAN LEE CHENG
9 things successful people do differently
Author: Heidi Grant Halvorson
Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press
WHAT makes this self-help book so different from the rest? Everything. Unlike all the other books on the shelves about reaching your goals, time management, being successful on the job, this nifty little red book covers all that and more.
The wonderful thing is that it is so small, it fits nicely into a medium-sized handbag.
The other thing about it is that, because of its size one may think it will be bulky and voluminous. Or the print must be tiny. Wrong on all counts.
9 things successful people do differently is slightly over 100 pages. It is written so easily, a teenager can understand it.
There are all sorts of books on the shelves about time management, reaching your goals, how to lose those pounds and ace that project today. Unless it is so engaging, it is unlikely that one will read it from cover to cover.
Wait a minute .... what has losing weight got to do with time management? Or getting a pat on the back for that project?
Everything. The word here is discipline.
Which then takes us to the contents. It is far more easier to digest than other books on similar subject. It is so easy, one can finish it in a jiff. But this little red book is not meant to be read that way. Instead,
Motivational psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson is the Associate Director of Columbia Business School’s Motivation Science Centre.
She has written another book Succeed: How We can Reach Our Goals but Success is a lot more wordy and thicker than this book under review.
It is written in a rather holistic way in the sense that it is not targeted at improving work performance, climbing the career ladder or getting the top pay cheque specifically. It is, instead, about the growth of the personhood in a holistic way and covers personal time management, discipline, doing better at both our hobbies and work, as well as improving our relationships. That seems quite a lot to pack in a little volume. But this is exactly what she did.
Halvorson brings up these various areas sporadically between the 90 pages, but she does not dwell at length on any one of them.
Instead, she puts down nine principles and those principles are to be applied into every area of our lives from the time one wakes up to the time when one call it a day. They are supposed to be part of life, and over time, done unconsciously until it becomes part of our personality.
The single most important question she poses in her introduction is: Why have you been so successful in reaching some of your goals, but not in others?
Our predisposition - good at some things, lousy in others – is just a small piece of the puzzle, Halvorson says.
Research shows that successful people reach their personal and professional goals not simply because of who they are, but more often, because of what they do.
It is at this point that she brings up nine essential principles that she feels should govern the way we live, on a daily basis.
Although they are nine, the single thread that binds each of them is the discipline of the mind. It is this discipline that enables one to tutor oneself in the way one should go, or the action one should take.
Hence, it is not so much who you are, what your talents or inclinations may be, but what you should do in order to accomplish your goal. Action, after all, is louder than words.
There is one thing though that Halvorson has brought into this book and that is the role played by distractions and temptations.
Unless one lives in a cave faraway from civilisation, temptation and distraction will come in the form of the Internet, TV or your buddies.
So focus and staying focus is the key. Which once again, goes back to the discipline.
Although this little red book is easy to read, and can be done in a few hours, it is not meant to be read that way. Instead, each nine essential steps ends with a practice session.
The objective of this thoughtful reading is to enable the reader to “soak” in the idea, both in mind and spirit. This end-of-chapter sessions also poises some simple questions to ensure you remain on the straight and narrow.
After one has learned step one, she takes you to the second and the next, and the next. It is natural to lose one’s way and when that happens, the practice session guides you back to your the principle that you forget to “soak” in.
The first essential point she brings up is being specific. It is not “I want to lose some weight” but “I want to lose five pounds”.
Nonetheless, while we may be specific about our goals, other people or responsibilities may come in the way and we may be distracted. These are the obstacles. Which takes us to making what-if plans. If an obstacle comes, plan to do something else, but get back on track again.
If X happens, plan to do Y, as in “If I have not written the report before lunch, then I will make it the first thing I do when I return.”
But there are instances when this seems impossible. When this happens, ask yourself - Is it because your lunch hour took more than an hour, or you stayed behind for a smoke? Or maybe, you have been too ambitious and crammed too many things in too short a time.
Being fragmented, or having too many things on your plate, is as good as not having focus.
Most of us look at people who are at the top of their game, be they actors, captains of industries, the movers and shakers of the times. Words like “genius”, “ability” and “talent” are often used. Many of us are not born with the DNA of a genius. It’s about making choices that count and this little gem of a book will set the way.