The smart way of getting things done

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How do you make things happen and get things done? If you are like any other manager or leader, especially if you are a solo operator, you get things done through others.

This always involves requests. How many requests do you make and receive at work?

A quick way of calculating this is to estimate the number of emails you get every day, times that by five and then by 46 to get a rough annual average.

Some organisations have calculated that up to 60% of these are what we would call sloppy requests that need more time spent working out who wants what done by when and to what standard.

This make requests a huge productivity issue. One way you can make things happen more quickly is by making effective requests.

There are twelve elements to an effective request but here is a simplified formula in a familiar format.


Say exactly what it is and what action needs to be taken. Say how much, how wide, how deep, how many. ‘Sam, hop into that filing drawer and tidy it up’ is NOT specific.


Make sure the task is conveyed within the context of the job that you both understand.

Quite often this does not need to be stated. If you are working in the same physical space, Sam will know which filing drawer you mean because you share the same background of understanding. But in an email you may need to add more detail.


Since you were not specific with Sam you cannot measure whether he has completed the task satisfactorily or not.

A standard needs to be included. Is Sam supposed to throw things out? Relabel them? Dust them?

He will either have to ask you, or make an assumption based on his idea of ‘tidy’. Once you are specific it will be easy to see if the task is achievable in the time allowed.


No need for a four page explanation of the importance of the task and what it will lead to but the addition of ‘because we will be very busy next week so having these files in order will save us time later’ may help Sam see why the task needs to be done today.


Time limits and deadlines are the most neglected part of a request and Sam may well decide that he can put the task low on his priority list since there is no urgency, importance or completion time mentioned.

There are other parts to a request but keep these in mind for a good start to getting the outcomes you desire, the actions you require and the results you depend on.

‘Sam, could you sort out the files from A-G in the third filing drawer, shred all papers dated before 2010 and put anything you are not sure about on my desk by COB on Tuesday? Thanks!’


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