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The America's Got Talent Approach to Productivity: What the Popular Show Can Teach Us About Getting More DoneOur family has been watching America’s Got Talent for the first time this season and it’s been enjoyable. But I think the most valuable aspect of watching for me is what it’s taught me about personal productivity. Whether you’ve seen the show or not, you may appreciate what you can learn from it, too.

#1 It’s okay to let a lot of tasks audition for your attention

The AGT season begins with auditions in front of the judges and a live audience for acts that have made it through the city auditions. The judges approve a high percentage of these acts; they all seem great! What’s remarkable (and sometimes wearying) is how many acts are allowed to audition.

This first round is like our task inbox. The majority of the potential tasks, projects, and opportunities presented to us should go into our inbox so we can consider them again. While the number of possibilities can be tiring, I like to keep my inbox open to them. A point of clarification: urgent tasks wouldn’t be put in the inbox (AGT is an entertainment venue, not an urgent care clinic).

#2 Give tasks a second critical audition

There are a small number of acts (eight this year) that are allowed to audition at Radio City Music Hall without a second audition, but there are none that aren’t given a second consideration. These eight fortunate acts were discussed by the judges and were given a free pass where Judgment Week was concerned. All the rest auditioned for the judges, and only the judges, again. There is something about the second look that makes the judges wonder what they were thinking when they put them through in the first place. Removed from the emotion of the crowd, the judges are able to discern which acts are most likely to achieve their goal of discovering a million-dollar act. A sizable portion of the acts are dismissed at this point.

With fresh eyes, we will also recognize immediately when an “act” in our inbox needs to end its journey with us. Time to allow emotion to cool and a quiet space can likewise help us determine if an item is a clear winner because it will help us reach our goals. I prefer to pass judgment on my tasks in the quiet of my family room the next morning.

#3 Limit the number of tasks in each genre

AGT is seeking a variety of acts for its finalists. They wouldn’t want 20 singers and 4 dance acts, because it wouldn’t be as exciting as a few singers, a few dancers, a few comedians, and a few magicians.

Variety is the goal for most of us, too. We all have life areas that are our genres. Some of mine include homeschooling, blogging, writing, relationships, and church. Blogging is an area I tend to have too many “acts” in. I have to eliminate some of them so I have more great relationship acts in my life. I can easily see how many tasks of each genre I have by assigning them a category. I do this in ToDoist, but nearly any application or paper list will work. I’m happier and healthier when I have balance.

#4 Get input from another audition

At Radio City Music Hall, each act once again has the benefit of a live audience, but is now judged by America. More than half of the acts are eliminated by this vote.

It’s easy to add tasks to a list and neatly categorize them, but that won’t mean they’ll go any further. We need to review them again and get input to trim the list . It would be interesting for me to have my readers vote each week on which tasks I should do, but not very practical. However, I can get valuable input during my weekly review. My husband’s vote carries great weight with me, because he not only cares about my life balance, but about my goals. Looking over my upcoming commitments is also a vote for certain tasks over others. The calendar can dictate which tasks go on. Finally, I consider past results to help me differentiate the winners. For example, when considering a long list of potential blog post topics, I review Google analytics for my most popular posts to decide which ideas will go forward.

#5 Choose a small number of finalists after yet another audition

AGT will continue having auditions and votes and judge input until a small pool of finalists is chosen. With time, more opportunities to see the acts, and a limited number of finalist spots, choosing often seems easier.

My week seems to have plenty of time, but my days–not so much. I plan my day each morning and often decide that the task I added to DayMap for the day isn’t going through. Like the AGT judges, I would love to keep so many of these options, but there isn’t room for them all in my life. I limit tasks using a scheduling app that I will tell you about soon. The winners are the tasks I actually do, with most of them hopefully helping me reach my goals.

#6 Let tasks audition again in the future

A number of acts that make it through in AGT were cut in previous seasons. Either the time wasn’t right, the act wasn’t, or the judging was different.

Cutting tasks from our list doesn’t mean they’ll never be winners. That’s what a Someday/Maybe list is for. I keep the tasks that didn’t make it in Evernote. There are too many of them to review every week, but I can easily add a tickler date to them so they can audition for my attention again.

Consider which of these lessons has the most potential to increase your productivity and put it into practice this week. Let me know how it goes! 

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