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His secret to getting things done? Act now! by David S. Allen

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To know Don Murphy is to know a guy who gets things done. A CPA and founding member of Barfield, Murphy, Shank & Smith, one of the largest accounting firms in Alabama, Murphy doesn’t take on projects. He attacks them. Immediately.

I talked to him about how he does it.

David: You have a reputation for hitting the ground running at about 70 miles an hour every morning. Where did that come from?

Don: My dad was that way. He was always moving and always working from his to-do list. He had lists for us kids, too. I got my drive to get things done from him. I use the same tool he used, too—a simple to-do list. I keep it on my phone so I can check it often.

David: You manage a large firm and you have a bunch of clients. That to-do list must be huge.

Don: I keep my list short. Ten to 15 items at the most. If I have 50 things on the list, they won’t get done. But keep in mind, I’m constantly adding to it and removing things from it.    

David: What do you do that makes you productive—things you don’t see the rest of us doing?

Don: I start the day the night before. I think through what I need to do and plan out the day. That helps me get the day off to a good start. I hate procrastination. When something needs to get done, I hit it right then. I do it, I decide not to do it, or I delegate it. The worst thing I can do is put something off. For example, I may have an article I want to read. If I don’t have time to read it within two or three days, I get rid of it. Something else: I make quick decisions with incoming emails. I act on them, forward them or delete them. I keep my email box as empty as possible. Taking that kind of action eliminates a bunch of clutter.  

David: Are you a goal setter?

Don: I’m extremely goal oriented. Goals keep me on track. I try to live by this rule: If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there. I need to know where I’m going.

David: Tell me about tomorrow morning. When will you start? How will you start?

Don: I know from the night before what I’m supposed to do during the day. I have a 30 minute drive in to work. Sometimes I listen to sermons. Or prioritize my activities. When I walk in the door at 7:45 or so, I get busy.