Cut to the Chase: And 99 Other Rules to Liberate Yourself and Gain Back the Gift of Time





In Cut to the Chase, bestselling author Stuart R. Levine reveals 100 no-nonsense rules on how to be more effective at work and make the best use of your most precious resource: your time.

Just before CEO and consultant Stuart Levine appeared on the Today show to discuss his book The Six Fundamentals of Success, co-host Matt Lauer said to him, "You know what ...

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Cut to the Chase: And 99 Other Rules to Liberate Yourself and Gain Back the Gift of Time

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In Cut to the Chase, bestselling author Stuart R. Levine reveals 100 no-nonsense rules on how to be more effective at work and make the best use of your most precious resource: your time.

Just before CEO and consultant Stuart Levine appeared on the Today show to discuss his book The Six Fundamentals of Success, co-host Matt Lauer said to him, "You know what really drives me nuts? When people come into my office for a five-minute conversation and an hour later, they're still there! Why can't they cut to the chase?"

Lauer's question echoed the concerns Levine has heard from business people and top executives at every level: How can I get more done? How can I stay focused? How can I condense my workday so that I can become more successful and still spend more time with the people I love?

Levine's answer? By cutting to the chase. Successful individuals are the ones who make the best use of their time and energy. They approach each task with clarity, focus, and purpose. They prioritize. They don't allow others to waste their time. They understand the importance of refueling their batteries outside of work. In Cut to the Chase, Levine distills the expertise of hundreds of CEOs, leaders, and professionals into 100 concise, invaluable lessons about how to get to the point, stay on track, and be more successful in everything you do.

In an age where we spend more hours at work than ever before, Cut to the Chase is the indispensable guide for taking control over your time so that you can lead a happier, more balanced life.

Levine distills the expertise of hundreds of CEOs, managers, and professionals into 100 concise, invaluable lessons about how to get to the point, stay on track, and be more successful in everything one does. Unabridged. 1 MP3 CD.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for Cut to the Chase

"Cut to the Chase will enable readers to get their priorities straight, and help them make better decisions."
Clark Winter, Chief Global Investment Strategist"
-Citigroup Global Wealth Management

“This great book shows you how to work hard and get more done, so you’ll have more time to spend on other things in your life, from family to friends to personal passions and outside interests.  A vital message for everyone today.”
—Helene Fortunoff, former President, Fortunoff Fine Jewelry

“These practical strategies provide a powerful roadmap for focused and effective communication.  It is a book that all of us should read at least once a year.”
-Jon R. Cohen, M.D. Chief Medical Officer, North Shore-LIJ Health System and Former candidate for Lieutenant Governor, New York State

“Invaluable leadership advice on how to become more effective and efficient!”
—Edward D. Miller, former President and CEO, AXA Financial, Inc.

“Clear, concise, with a crucial message for anyone looking to succeed in business.”
—Richard Silverman, Vice Chairman Wealth & Investment Management, Bank of America

“Cut to the Chase offers 100 very useful managerial ideas in compact, punchy form. It’s terrific!”
—Josh Weston, Honorary Chairman of the Board, Automatic Data Processing, Inc.

“If your goal is to be responsive to client needs, get desired results, and lead a more productive life, read this invaluable book.”
—Paul D. McKinnis, Senior Client Partner, Korn Ferry International

Acclaim for Stuart R. Levine's Wall Street Journal Bestseller The Six Fundamentals of Success

“Can help anyone (regardless of their personal goals) navigate a successful career.”
USA Today

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385516204
  • Publisher: The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/26/2006
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.18 (w) x 7.77 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Meet the Author

Alan Sklar is the winner of several AudioFile Earphones Awards and a multiple finalist for the APA's prestigious Audie Award. Named a Best Voice of 2009 by AudioFile magazine, his work has twice earned him a Booklist Editors' Choice Award, a Publishers Weekly Listen-Up Award, and Audiobook of the Year by ForeWord magazine.
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Read an Excerpt

Start Now!

1. Cut to the Chase

The only rule I have repeated from my previous book, The Six Fundamentals of Success, is Cut to the Chase. Why the need to say more here? And why an entire book on the subject? Because I realized that my prior advice only scratched the surface of what cutting to the chase is all about.

We give our time away all day long, to emotions that gain us no advantages, to people who do not value our time, to inefficient habits. If you want to take back this time, you need to cut to the chase. The following are the underlying principles behind cutting to the chase, and, in fact, every one of the other ninety-nine rules in the book.

1. Define your purpose. Whether you’re planning a major project at work or thinking about where you want to be in ten years, a clear purpose is your true north by which to navigate as conditions change.

2. Know your world. Continuously seek to understand what’s happening in the world, the economy, your industry, and your organization. Recognize what motivates people. And most important, know yourself—and the world around you.

3. Concentrate. Shut out distractions. Set personal boundaries. Focus. Don’t let people steal your time and don’t give it away easily.

Cutting to the chase means approaching everything from your next phone call to the next five years of your career with clarity and focus. It’s about knowing what’s important and what’s not. It’s about spending time wisely—yours and others’. It’s about getting more done with less effort. And, yes, it’s also about work/life balance—about taking back the weekends and leaving work earlier so you can spend more time doing things you enjoy with the ones you love.

Cutting to the chase involves a commitment to thinking differently. It’s easy to blame change, intrusive technologies, or increasing expectations at work for our own lack of discipline. But wasting time is a personal choice. You can continue complaining that you never have enough time. Or you can put down your BlackBerry, switch off your e-mail alarm, close your office door, take a deep breath, turn the page … and just start.

2. Just start.

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it! — Goethe

The longer you delay starting something, the more shadows you see. To paraphrase a famous Nike campaign, just start.

One CEO I know wanted to initiate a recognition program called “I Caught You Doing Something Good.” He created a committee to put the program together. But the people on it were busy with their regular jobs and had trouble finding the time to meet. The CEO was anxious to spend more time recognizing his people for their hard work. Realizing that the committee was too swamped to put the program together in a timely fashion, he just started. He sent an e–mail to the entire management team asking for nominations. When the results were in, he sent his high performers a personal thank-you note and a $100 gift certificate. The program is working beautifully. The energy it created has added momentum to the company.

Wouldn’t it be nice if life took a cue from horse racing and a gun went off when it was time for us to get moving? Life rarely sends us a signal as clear as a starter’s pistol. It’s up to us to recognize when it’s time to just start.

3. Get in early and go home on time.

Too many people get to work fifteen minutes late, thinking they’ll stay late to make up the lost time. They spend the first half hour getting coffee and catching up with colleagues on the hot new reality TV show. Once they sit down, they make a couple of personal phone calls, and if they’re lucky, they’ll get in an hour or so of “real work” before lunch. Of course, lunch itself is split between planning an upcoming meeting at their desks and catching up on office gossip. With the rest of the day spent returning emails, they might get in two or three hours of real work. So they stay late, inevitably chatting with the other night owls for another half an hour. But it’s okay—after all, they’re “off the clock.”

These people leave the office hours later than they should. They feel burned out because they’ve been there for almost ten hours, crammed in lunch at their desks, and still have so much left to do. Such people often feel ill–used by the organization and see themselves as martyrs. But the truth is, they have wasted hours of valuable work time and have accomplished far less than they could have.

The most effective executives and aspiring executives and managers get in early and stay focused all day. To regain control of your day, first get to work on time. Or, better yet, early. Work smart and hard the entire time you’re there. Visualize a stopwatch ticking away in your head, if necessary. At lunch, leave the office—if only for five or ten minutes—to clear your head so you can be productive in the afternoon. If you want to catch up with friends at the office, schedule lunch with them. When colleagues drop by your office, tell them, “I’m working on something right now, but I’d love to catch up. Why don’t we schedule lunch?”

Don’t confuse time spent at the office with time spent working productively. Working hard and smart will liberate you to spend more time outside the office with the people you care about most.

4. I got it.

As soon as you understand exactly what someone is explaining, tell them in one way or another, “I got it.” Doing so frees them to move on and cover more ground. Similarly, if someone else says “I got it” to you when you’re explaining a point, stop. Ignoring such feedback is a mistake, one that detail-oriented people are particularly vulnerable to. Because they value the details, they feel that others will, too. Of course, not everyone does.

I witnessed how costly this mistake can be in a recent planning session. The project manager continued answering a question long after the man who had asked it said, “I got it.” Even when he repeated, “I got it,” she calmly and insistently continued. As I watched him get angrier and angrier, I realized she had lost him.

If you’re not sure if someone got your point, listen care-fully to the person’s responses. If it’s clear there’s still a misunderstanding, suggest “I’m not sure we’re on the same page. Let’s make sure we understand each other.” If the other person gets it, continue with your next point. Be cognizant of the nonverbal cues that the other person offers. Is he or she growing impatient—nodding, looking away, shifting from side to side? These signals tell you whether or not you still have the listener’s attention. If you don’t, summarize your point quickly—and move on.

5. The first twenty minutes.

You would never see an NBA all-star casually toss a ball into the air and hope it hits the net. Before each jump shot, players pause, find their footing, set their sights on the net, and visualize a swoosh before the ball has even left their fingertips. You can take the same approach at work by visualizing a successful day before it officially begins. It all comes down to the first twenty minutes.

As soon as you get to work, before you turn on your e-mail or check your voice mail, take twenty minutes to plan the day ahead:

• Define your top priority for the day—the one that you would sacrifice all others to achieve—to help focus your energy.

• Update your “To Do” list. Allot time for everything you need to accomplish, including time to prepare for meetings and other conversations.

• Review your calendar. Determine the purpose of each meeting and appointment. If you don’t have one yet, think of one. If you can’t determine one, cancel.

• Consider whom you will see in meetings or other events throughout the day. Jot down any issues you need to address with them.

• Glance at your schedule for the remainder of the week and month to make sure you’re still focused on the right things.

Then check your e-mail and voice mail and start your day.

6. You’re killing me.

What do you do if you’ve said “I got it” to the person addressing you and they keep right on talking? You feel trapped. You know the clock is ticking. This is the third time you’ve heard the story. Everyone in the room is already in what I call “violent agreement.” Instead of getting angry or giving up, look at the other person, laugh, and say, “You’re killing me. I’ve got the point. Let’s move on.”

By being both direct and funny about it, you do two things: (1) you break the tension that everyone probably feels; and (2) by keeping things light, you move the conversation forward without offending. Odds are that the speaker is so wrapped up in the point being made that he or she has stopped observing what was going on around them. You’re offering him or her a graceful way out and helping to keep things moving.

If you’re not comfortable saying “You’re killing me,” try “Time out.” Ask a leading question to direct the conversation in a new direction. Or even suggest a brief break. The point is, find a phrase or method that works for you. If you simply put up with needless repetition, everyone in the room suffers.

7. Get over it.

When someone cuts you off when you’re driving, you may feel a surge of anger. Such anger can turn into road rage, fast. The first bump of adrenaline is a healthy response to a threat. It gives you the energy you need to respond promptly and protect yourself–in this case, by slamming on the brakes. But road rage is anything but a healthy reaction. When someone “cuts you off” at work, acknowledge it to yourself, then let it go. Holding on to anger costs time, energy, and focus. If you feel yourself slipping into “office rage”:

• Don’t take any precipitous action until you’ve calmed down.

• Take a walk, or talk behind closed doors with someone you trust so that you can let off a little steam. Don’t let your anger cause you to take action in a way that you will regret later.

• Make sure you do not take out your anger in other ways. If you’re upset that a colleague was promoted over you, don’t allow it to affect your relationship with everyone around you.

• Let your anger go. You cannot change the past. Learn what you can from it and move on.

In some cases, it’s important to confront a situation that makes you angry. Did your colleague really do something wrong? Respectfully challenging a new proposal that you presented is his or her right. If, however, he or she ridiculed your ideas rather than constructively responded to them, meet with this person one-on-one. Tell him or her how their action affected you, and ask that it not happen again. Then put it behind you.

Anger steals time and energy. Reacting inappropriately when you are angry makes it even worse and can undermine your career. Just move on.

8. It’s not always about you.

When my colleague recently arrived for a sales call with the CEO of one of the world’s largest ad agencies, the CEO met him at the elevator, looking rushed and preoccupied. He said, “I only have fifteen minutes.” Many people would have instantly deflated, thinking, “He doesn’t really want to talk to me—I might as well give up right now.” Instead, my colleague said, “No problem. We’re prepared—we’ll move fast.” The CEO’s mood instantly brightened. They had a great meeting that did, in fact, end in less than fifteen minutes. My colleague was smart enough to realize that the CEO’s mood had nothing to do with him. Because of that he was able to stay focused and on point.

Whether you’re dealing with a boss, colleague, client, customer, or spouse, the other person’s mood often has nothing to do with you. As human beings we tend to think the other person’s mood reflects something we did or didn’t do—that it’s all about us. Or, as a friend of mine puts it, “We’re all the stars of our own movies.” But putting ourselves in the center of every situation can distract us unnecessarily. We waste time wondering what we did wrong or how we can fix someone else’s issue, when it’s not necessarily our fault or concern. Don’t.

If you’re genuinely concerned that you’ve offended someone without realizing it, ask them. If the person tells you it has nothing to do with you, offer your support. Give your friend or colleague the space needed to deal with whatever is bothering him or her.

Everyone has a bad-hair day every now and then. It’s not always about you, so don’t assume it is.

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Table of Contents

Preface     xiii
Start Now!
Cut to the Chase     1
Just start     3
Get in early and go home on time     5
I got it     7
The first twenty minutes     9
You're killing me     11
Get over it     13
It's not always about you     15
What's keeping you up at night?     17
Don't hide your passion     19
Think Clearly
Start with the end in mind     21
Focus on one thing at a time     23
Organize yourself first     25
Assumptions kill     27
Think in bullets     29
Trust your gut     31
Predict how long things will take     33
Tailor your message to your audience     35
What's been going better lately-and why?     38
Speed Up
Explode out of the blocks     41
Every second counts     43
Know how things really get done     45
Build momentum     47
Make sure your handoffs are clean     50
Bag consensus     52
Break through silos     54
Appeal to their enlightened self-interest     56
Measure twice, cut once     58
Close the loop     60
Call an audible     62
Beat change to the punch     64
To speed up, slow down     66
Be Direct
Teach people how to use your time     69
Treat others' time as you would your own     71
Know what's being asked of you     73
If you want something, ask for it     75
Tell them if the baby is ugly     77
Cut to the chase without drawing blood     79
Make sure everyone has the map     81
Tell them what's on the test     83
Know your work style-and theirs     85
Clear the air     87
Cut the bull     89
Create a "no loitering" zone     91
You can't please everyone     93
Meet Smarter
People hate meetings for a reason     95
Every conversation should have a purpose     97
120 seconds and out     99
Know when you're not needed     101
Master the ten-minute meeting     103
Count noses     105
Stay on course     107
Don't grandstand     109
Have a meeting before the meeting     111
Debrief     113
Stay in touch      115
Master the graceful exit     118
Recognize when it's all been said     120
Move Forward
Look at the big picture     121
Know your weaknesses, but play to your strengths     123
Think three moves ahead     125
Know when your career is stuck     127
Make opportunity happen     129
Delegate     131
Life is a negotiation     133
Know when to wait     135
Know when not to wait     137
If you need a drummer, hire a drummer     139
Don't be afraid to hire people you're going to lose     141
Cut Back
Decide what not to do     143
Addition by subtraction     145
Rip it in half     147
The highlighter is mightier than the sword     149
A picture is worth a thousand words     151
Tell a story     153
On it. Pending. Done     155
...To get to the other side     157
Weed out your reading pile     159
TMI (too much information)     161
Good enough is good enough     163
Watch Out
Your time is your life     165
Don't let your BlackBerry become a CrackBerry      167
Avoid toxic people     169
Don't let distractions derail you     171
Don't hang in the door and chat     173
Cut down on the fire drills     175
Know when you're stuck     177
When you hear something once, pay attention. When you hear it twice, act     179
If you sense trouble, do something     181
Procrastination takes years off your life     183
Don't confuse activity with accomplishment     185
Don't make the same mistake twice     187
Sweat the small stuff     189
Find Balance
Don't let a difficult coworker dominate your life     191
Manage your personal life as well as your professional life     193
Renew yourself every day     195
Take back the weekend     197
Turn the page     199
Know when to put the book down     201
A bottle of wine, a cut flower     203
Move past the page and into action     205
Calendar     207
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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2006

    New Rules for the Multi-tasking World

    When I read those 'time management' books, most of which were written a while ago when emails, internet, blackberry, instant messagings are not popular. Today, most business executives have more than two devices going at the same time, Levine's 'Cut to the Chase' gives you one hundred practical rules to navigate in the new world of multi-tasking executives. Personally I like 'Master the ten minute meeting' and 'Have a meeting before the meeting' - those two rules alone will save you hundred of hours in the New Year! Look at it as a GPS for your busy daily activities, it will surely get you from point A to point B in the most effective way. (You won't get lost!) Excellent book for every busy executives and leaders!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2006

    Just Do It.

    Buy book. Read. Action. Goal. Achieved! And don't waste any time doing it...whatever it may be.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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