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a blog by Chris Barrow

Why simplification and activity are the keys to success (and why the internet makes that so difficul

Back in 1980 I worked for an insurance company in Central Manchester and was (no surprises) frequently the first person to arrive every morning so that I could have a morning huddle with myself and work out my priorities for the day.

On the desk in front of me?

No desktop, laptop or smartphone – simply a page a day diary (foolscap size) with a line drawn vertically down the middle of the page.

On the left hand side, a list of tasks, prioritised A, B, C.

On the right hand side, a list of people to telephone and their numbers, prioritised A, B, C.

Handwritten every morning.


  1. attend 20 face to face sales calls every week;

  2. follow up every sales call with minutes of the meetings and actions;

  3. work through my daily task and call list;

  4. do the A’s first, the B’s second and the C’s if I got the chance.

On the wall behind me a whiteboard and a blue marker pen.

In the top left hand corner of the whiteboard, written indelibly:

Focus and Simplify

In the top right hand corner of the whiteboard, written indelibly:

Activity is the Key

Dashing around this week, with a full calendar and task list, I’m reminded of three priceless lessons:

  1. Working smart. Efficient is doing things right – Effective is doing the right things right;

  2. Asking. If you make the calls, you will get the business;

  3. Obsessive simplification – always make things as simple as they can possibly be;

  4. Unique Abilities – spend 80% of your time doing the things through which you self-actualise (Maslow) and 20% of your time leading and managing the team who do everything else for you.

In 1980 I used to check my page a day diary, my telephone messages and my post. I carried a pocket dictation machine.

In 2017 I check my emails, my Facebook profile, my Twitter feed, my Instagram account, my Linkedin profile, my Messenger account, my text messages, my online banking, my calendar, my Slack account, my Dropbox account, my Google Drive account, my Evernote account, my Trainline application, my Things 3 task manager and my Strava account. I type.

Technology was supposed to make life simpler.

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