JP Morgan’s Guaranteed Formula For Success
Sometimes, in the Army and in our lives, we find ourselves confusing working long hours with working hard. And then we confuse working hard with achieving results. There’s no simple way to avoid this mistake. It requires us to constantly assess which task(s) will best deliver our aims, and then ruthlessly prioritise those tasks. Have you heard of the Pareto Principle? It says that 20% of activity delivers 80% of your value*. So in order to deliver the best output a leader needs to concentrate on finding the 20% that will deliver the 80% of their value. The Military Leader site made a similar point here.
There’s a great story that illustrates this:
One day, a man approached JP Morgan, held up an envelope, and said, “Sir, in my hand I hold a guaranteed formula for success, which I will gladly sell to you for $25,000.”
“Sir,” JP Morgan replied, “I do not know what is in the envelope. However, if you show me and I like it, I give you my word as a gentleman that I will pay you what you ask.”
The man agreed to the terms and handed over the envelope. JP Morgan opened it, and extracted a single sheet of paper. He gave it one look and handed the piece of paper back to the gent, pulled out his checkbook, and paid the man the agreed-upon $25,000.
The paper read:
- Every morning, write a list of the things that need to be done that day.
- Do them.
It’s a powerful message about prioritisation. How often are you doing things that don’t need to be done today, but get done because they are in front of you? If you are like me, it happens far too often.
What can you change today?
What can you do today to help prioritise that 20%? Here’s one thought.
What’s the first thing you do in the morning? Check your email? I’d recommend adding an additional stage into your morning routine:
- Write a list of all the things that need to be done that day.
- Write a list of all the things that you’d like to be done that day, if you have the time.
- Check your emails and add tasks to the correct list.
- Prioritise the lists.
- Do them in the right order.
What can you change tomorrow?
Take a leaf from the Military Leader’s book:
- Decide what the three most impactful things that you do are.
- Write them down on a card.
- Put the card somewhere in sight to remind you every day.
Do what needs to be done
Remember what Peter Drucker wrote in Managing for Business Effectiveness:
There is nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency something that should not be done at all.
We aren’t great at prioritisation and we aren’t great at deciding what our impactful 20% is. A few handy nudges just might help us.
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Media Credits: Image in the public domain
*PS: The Pareto Principle also explain why 20% of your soldiers create 80% of your G1 issues, but that a whole other story.