How to Get Things Done
Do you have a To Do list that should really be titled a “Things I Need to Do but Never Get To?” Sometimes we use our lists against us. For example, using it to feel discouraged by how busy we are, criticize our time management skills, or tell ourselves we are falling short in our lives. It doesn’t have to be this way!
Planning your time is a work in progress. Eventually it becomes second nature and adds enormous value. With the ongoing pandemic it’s even more important because without as many scheduling anchors in our lives, it’s easy to feel that time gets away from us without spending it on things that we actually care about.
Do What Matters
Like many people, I get great pleasure in crossing things off my to do list. However, also like many, I feel badly about myself when I see the same items on my list for months that I truly want to get done. For example, I still have “finish my son’s high school graduation photo album” on my list 7 months after he’s graduated. No, I’m not perfect at this, and that’s OK. I’m making headway.
The most fun is crossing off the things that truly matter from your to do list.
A System for Productivity
My favorite productivity and time management technique is one I learned from The Life Coach School. It’s a system where your To Do list is just the first step in a total of six. The result is your To Do list is transformed into a “It Gets Done” list, you feel less overwhelmed and more accomplished, and you actually have more free time to do things that you enjoy and that refuel you.
STEP ONE. On a Sunday evening or Monday morning, write down all of the things you would like to do and get done. Be specific. Include enjoyable things and self-care activities like meeting your neighbor for a walk or your colleague for dinner, going to a spin class, reading a novel, or calling your mother. If your items are project-based, like finishing a client proposal or cleaning out your kids closet and buying clothes that fit, you may need to break the task down into several steps.
STEP TWO. Cross off any items on the list that you either do not want to do or have no real value to you anymore. Be ruthless. You want to spend time and energy on what matters without diluting your efforts with things that are not meaningful. It’s OK if it’s hard to let go of some tasks. Do it anyway. It’s harder to be burdened by unnecessary tasks. Eventually you’ll feel liberated. Trust me.
STEP THREE. Starting with the pleasurable, fun, and self-care items, schedule them on your calendar. For example, Tuesday and Thursday 6:30-7am: weight training YouTube video (note: choose the specific video now that you’ll do – don’t wait until it’s time to do it to decide!) or 10pm Sunday through Thursday read a book to wind down for sleep. Your calendar can be paper or electronic.
STEP FOUR. Add the remaining items to your calendar. You can lump some things together like “do errands” or “attend to emails and newsletters from my kid’s school and activities,” or “pay all bills and balance bank accounts.” It’s important to set a timeframe for each activity and a specific desired outcome.
STEP FIVE. If something didn’t make it onto your calendar for the upcoming week, you can put it on a future date, like next week or in a month, as an item to revisit. If an item didn’t make it onto your calendar for the week, it may not be important to do ever. You decide. Throw away the paper list. The goal is to keep your short term focus only on things that matter.
STEP SIX. Be accountable to yourself. Check in with your calendar regularly: at the start and end of the day and also periodically throughout the day to stay on track. This takes some getting used to. Work with your calendar and not against it even when you don’t feel like doing some of the things on your calendar when it’s time.
Tips for Managing Your Mind for Productivity
- SCHEDULE WITH KINDNESS. Don’t punish yourself with an impossibly packed schedule. The point is to set yourself up for success including down time and time doing things you actually enjoy.
- KEEP LEARNING. Notice and celebrate what’s working. If you don’t get to everything, without judging yourself, ask yourself why. Did you schedule too little time for each activity or aim for results that were too perfect? Did you avoid doing certain tasks because they brought up difficult emotions? Did you allow time for the unexpected? The answers to these questions will give you valuable information to use for your planning next week.
- BE FLEXIBLE WITHIN STRUCTURE. For some things, like preparing tax information for your accountant or arriving on time to pick up your child, you want to get it right. However, many things don’t have to be done perfectly. For example, if you slept poorly, stick to the exercise schedule and allow yourself to do a more gentle workout than the intense weight training session you planned for. Remember you are looking for good enough results. In almost all cases, done is better than not done.
Getting it All Done
With this method, you get done what you want and let go of the rest.
Let me know how productivity is working for you in your life. I’d love to know! And just so you know, I have slotted specific times over the next 2 weeks to complete my son’s photo album gift. I’ll spend time not just working on it, but completing it. At this point, it’s as good as done.
If you’d like some guidance in maximizing your time and freeing yourself from the burden of your responsibilities, let’s talk! You can book a call with me here. I look forward to chatting with you.
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