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Each working day brings with it an overwhelming number of decisions to be made. Your attention is pulled in multiple directions and all of your energy is oftentimes wasted on menial tasks. All too easily, time is spent tending to the urgent rather than the important, leaving you feeling worn out and unfulfilled at the end of the day.


Authors Kory Kogon, Adam Merrill and Leena Rinne all work for FranklinCovey, a global company specializing in performance improvement. Their combined decades of experience in the areas of time management and productivity are displayed in the book The 5 Choices - The Path to Extraordinary Productivity. By learning to manage decisions, attention and energy effectively, everyone is capable of doing great work.


Let’s take a look at the five decisions that will help you become highly productive and feel good about your life and career.



Choice #1 – Act on the Important


The first step towards extraordinary productivity is becoming more discerning about how you spend your time. Science has proven the reactive part of the brain has evolved to ensure the survival of the species, meaning decisions made using this section of the brain are quick and based on emotions and feelings. Using the thinking brain takes more time and effort, but leads to better decision making. Using the thinking, rather than reactive, section of your brain will allow you to make more deliberate choices and rise above knee-jerk reactions.


Focus on activities that will prove most important in the long run, rather than spending your day working on urgent, yet insignificant, tasks. In order to use the thinking section of the brain more consistently, a framework must be established for better decision making. When asked to do something, you should pause, clarify and decide if the task is important. Eliminating as much distraction as possible will ensure that you don’t confuse motion with making progress. Maximizing the amount of time you spend every day working on important activities will help you to achieve the results you desire in a more timely fashion.


Choice #2 – Go for the Extraordinary


In order to maximize the amount of time you spend on important tasks, you must take time to clarify which activities produce the most satisfaction and sense of accomplishment. Clarifying the various roles you wish to play, along with what actions contribute to being extraordinary in those roles, will allow you to figure out where your time, attention and energy can be best applied. Your life will only be made “exceptional” or “extraordinary” once you identify the important roles in your life.


The roles we play in life are fundamentally connected to our feelings of self-worth and identity. Keeping the multiple roles you fill in balance is a constant challenge. While the activities and outcomes you define as successful may evolve over time, the ultimate goal is to have a harmonious and sustainable relationship between your various roles. The more precise you are in specifying your goals, the more easily your brain will be able to figure out how to become extraordinary in each role.


Choice #3 – Schedule the Big Rocks


Once you establish which tasks are most important, it is imperative to schedule time to make significant progress with your big goals. Extraordinary productivity is impossible without making the time for these activities in advance. “Big Rocks” represent important activities which will generate exceptional achievements in your various roles. “Gravel”, on the other hand, is made up of the menial tasks that consume your time, such as answering emails, making phone calls and doing household chores. If you don’t schedule time for the big rocks, you will waste your time working on the gravel.


Extraordinary productivity is not about getting more things done, but spending more time on the most important tasks. Giving the big rocks your best attention and energy in the midst of the gravel can be a challenge. Using a list to prioritize activities allows you to make decisions quickly, and free up your mental capacity to focus on tasks that really add value. Studies have shown personal activity rises by 200 to 300 percent when you get in the habit of writing down your “Must-Dos” every day on paper.


Choice #4 – Rule your Technology


Technology can make life easier in many ways, but can also provide a lot of distraction. Be smart and discerning when it comes to technology. In the midst of the inevitable flood of messages, tweets, requests and demands, focus your attention on the important rather than reacting to the urgent and loudest. Make sure you have a system in place to make technology work for you and help you to be more productive, instead of pulling your attention in multiple directions at once.


Gathering everything together in one place is the first step towards ruling your technology. Having everything in one centralized location will allow you to see the big picture and manage it accordingly. Setting up filters for incoming information, mastering the skill of immediately discarding irrelevant emails and linking relevant information together so it is easily accessible when needed, will greatly improve your productivity. Your energy won’t be wasted locating pertinent information, allowing you to focus all of your attention on important tasks.


Choice #5 – Fuel your Personal Fire


Staying productive requires large amounts of mental energy. Your routine should include healthy habits that keep you energized, so you can act consciously and deliberately each day. Investing time in optimizing your brainpower is essential, as your brain is your number-one business asset. Having a strong sense of purpose will energize you, but you will quickly lose steam if you don’t take care of your mind and body. A clear and healthy mind fuels productivity, and allows your brain to constantly be fired up to create great work.


In order to keep your energy up, you must invest time every day in the five drivers of mental and physical energy. Move, eat, sleep, relax and connect. Nourishing yourself on all of these levels will yield immediate benefits and help you to maintain the high energy levels needed to accomplish great things. Consistently allocating time to each of these energy drivers will equip you with a clearer mind that is more receptive to new ideas. You will feel optimistic about your goals and have the energy to work towards them.



Enhanced productivity boils down to priorities. Concentrating on important activities and avoiding trivial distractions will yield big results. Effectively managing your decisions, attention and energy are the keys to making the best use of your time. By making these 5 choices to enhance productivity, you will have a renewed sense of engagement and accomplishment.


“More than anything, extraordinary productivity is a question of being conscious in the moment. And it doesn’t take much to change the equation,” Kogon, Merrill and Rinne write. “It’s taking small steps each day to cultivate this habit in our lives. It’s being aware of our surroundings, the people we work with, and the opportunities for high-value decisions about where we spend our time, attention, and energy.”

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