Getting Things Done

Monday morning in The Bunker, after a 6-day week that included three days at The Showcase – and I’m looking at a huge task list on my desktop list and (unusually for me) a pile of paper in the in-tray.

I have a healthy wedge of business cards that require follow up, articles bouncing against deadlines, emails that accumulated whilst I was prancing around the NEC, client and prospect meetings starting at 12:30 today, right through to Friday evening.

We are beginning week 4 of the 12-week “Get Your Year in Gear 2016” (GYYIG) programme this morning and the participants are about to receive their 10th email (this one on the subject of setting boundaries).

Two years ago, we sent 31 emails in 31 days and the cries of despair from those taking part were audible across the country.

It was just too much “to do” in already busy schedules.

This year’s participants are on the receiving end of three emails per week, a transcribed interview once a week and a short video blog each morning from me.

Already, every single one of them is falling steadily behind, some haven’t started (even though they have paid the fee).

I bumped into a Principal and her Practice Manager at the Showcase who told me that they were taking a day off on Friday to invest some time in “catching up” with their GYYIG assignments.

Another Irish participant sent me 3 separate emails last night with detailed questions after he had invested uninterrupted time in the self-examination of his business finances.

Chatting to a friend about this, I suggested that my current 12-week self-development programme could perhaps be repackaged into a 12-month programme, simply to allow those taking part to get through the material on planning, finance, time management, organisational structure and business development.

Eventually, personal and professional planning becomes the equivalent of painting the Forth Bridge – as soon as you get to the end, you just start again at the beginning.

We are united by the common challenge of trying to find the time for getting things done.

Over the years there have been various gurus who have pioneered our thinking on time management:

1970’s – The Time Trap – Alex Mackenzie (my first time management book)

1980’s – First Things First – Stephen Covey

2000’s – Getting Things Done (GTD) – David Allen

And in the 2010’s we have seen the proliferation of cloud-based task management applications like Wunderlist (my own favourite), Asana, Zendone and many others.

We are now able to sync across all of our devices to keep track on just how overwhelmed we are!

The basic premise of all the books can be summarised as:

  • do only that which you HAVE to do – delegate the rest
  • do the A’s first, the B’s second and the C’s if you ever get around to it

And it is the first of these points that causes the most problems – anyone can create a list but the lists just keep getting longer.

I’ve been managing my time since the late 1970’s and there is one overriding lesson that I heave learned – and that is (courtesy of The Strategic Coach) to invest 80% of my time focused on my unique abilities:


and 20% of my time co-leading and co-managing a team of people who do everything else (with my business partners).

There is an important distinction here:

Priority Management – is about deciding which are the A’s, the B’s and the C’s – it is easily self-evident.

Time Management – is about effective delegation – you cannot do it all by yourself – you have to invest in managers – amazing, fantastic, talented, passionate managers, on whom you can rely to get everything else done.

So last week I was talking about your telephony and reception team being “in the neck of the hour glass”. This week I’m back to exceptional managers again.

The trend is to be uncompromising in the quality of the people that you hire – internal and external – because you are ultimately only as good as they can make you.

Maybe it’s time to create a second programme – “Get Your Team in Gear”.


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Chris Barrow

Chris Barrow has been active as a consultant, trainer and coach to the UK dental profession for over 20 years. As a writer, his blog enjoys a strong following and he is a regular contributor to the dental press. Naturally direct, assertive and determined, he has the ability to reach conclusions quickly, as well as the sharp reflexes and lightness of touch to innovate, change tack and push boundaries. In 2014 he appeared as a “castaway” in the first season of the popular reality TV show “The Island with Bear Grylls”. His main professional focus is as Coach Barrow, providing coaching and mentorship to independent dentistry.