How do I Get Things Done? First, get some sleep. Studies show that those of us who get between 7.5 and 9-hours each night are 20% more productive.
Did you know that only 25% of people leave the office each day having accomplished the tasks they set out to do? There are numerous reasons causing this, but a main one is a lack of organization and no goals. So after getting a good night’s sleep, the first step in getting stuff done is getting organized.
Use the 5S’ – Sort, Straighten, Standardize, and Sustain
5S is a workplace organization method. Originally developed to assist with Just in Time manufacturing, I find that it helps me keep my working area organized and my life straight. Some things to do in your working area:
- Reduce time lost looking for an item by reducing the number of items. Remove unnecessary items and stop the accumulation of “stuff”. Aka… do not be a hoarder.
- Reduce the chance of distraction by unnecessary items. Keep your workstation clean and uncluttered
- Arrange all items so they are easier to access – have a place for everything
- Follow the first-come, first-serve workflow
- Be disciplined about maintaining order in your work
The Basic Requirements for Getting Things Done
To master the art of relaxed and controlled engagement, you need to implement a few basic activities and behaviours (from “Getting Things Done” – a must read!). These work together to not only get you organized but produce a wonderful productive state of being present amid all the complexity.
Three steps to get things done and managing commitments:
- If it’s on your mind – your mind is not clear. Anything you consider unfinished must be captured in a trusted system (collection tool) that you know you will come back to regularly
- You must clarify exactly what your commitment is and decide what required actions will make progress
- Once you have decided on the actions, keep reminders.
GTD is not another time management system, but a systematic approach of transferring ideas into an external system, breaking them in actionable steps, and then getting them done.
Get things done:
- Capture – don’t let it bounce about in your head, get it written down and out of your noggin
- Clarify – what does each item require? Is it required? Break down bigger tasks into bite-sized chunks
- Organize – Is it actionable? Time to complete? Do it, Delegate it, or Defer It!
- Reflect – frequently review the list
- Engage – get er done!
It is important to capture, and capture effectively, what needs to be done. For your mind and subconscious to let go, you have to know that you have captured everything that might even closely represent something you have to do (or at least decide about).
With all this stuff collected, now clarify it. With each task ask what is it really about? is it actionable? True time-management is not about getting more things done in less time but about doing things with an intention for a purpose and for success.
So, write it down. Either electronically or with good-old pen-and-paper take notes, create tasks, and set reminders. So many verbal conversations and meetings lead to tasks, take-aways, to-dos, and next steps. If you are not capturing them, it will be in one ear, out the other, and sitting in your subconscious keeping you up at night.
For example, I use a to-do app on my phone to enter quick tasks when I am away from my desk. Some stay in the app until completed, others I move to my other task management systems.
“Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.”David Allen
Eat the Frog First!
“EAT A LIVE FROG FIRST THING IN THE MORNING AND NOTHING WORSE WILL HAPPEN TO YOU THE REST OF THE DAY.”Mark Twain
You should start every day with your biggest, most important task… do not procrastinate, do something about it. They do not pay you to stare at the frog!
When you have numerous things to do, prioritize them accordingly. Get started on the top priorities as soon as possible. Due by the end of the week? Start it Monday, not Thursday.
“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.”Pablo Picasso
If your energy is not at its highest first thing in the morning, be honest with yourself. That frog is the thing you want to accomplish today, but you need to do it when your energy levels are at its highest. The point is, it does not need to be first, but it needs to happen today.
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”Nelson Mandela
What do you do with you have two frogs? Eat the ugliest one first!
Dwight D. Eisenhower (former president of the United States) used a system of prioritization now known as the Eisenhower box.
He prioritized things into four categories:
- Important – urgent
- important – not urgent
- urgent – not important
- not urgent – not important
Anything in the Important – Urgent category is your frog.
Similarly, you have things you do not want to do, but actually need to do and things you want to do and actually need to do…. the ones you do NOT want to do are your frogs!
Do Decide Delegate Delete!
Sticking with the Eisenhower box method, use it to your advantage:
- Anything that is Important and Urgent is the tasks you need to do immediately (aka DO!).
- Is the task is important but not-urgent (aka DECIDE) then schedule a time to do it later
- If the task is unimportant and urgent then consider finding someone else to do it (aka DELEGATE)
- When the task is unimportant and non-urgent (aka DELETE) then eliminate it!
“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.”Dwight Eisenhower
It can be difficult at times to differentiate between import and urgent. A good rule of thumb is if it feels like you need to react quickly, then it is urgent. Important tasks typically contribute to your short-term and long-term plans and goals.
Don’t Forget to Review
Ask yourself, “Do I actually need to be doing this?” If it does not align with your plans, mission, or goals then it is ok to remove the task. There is no faster way to do something than not doing it at all!
“There is no code faster than no code.”Kevlin Henney
When you have your tasks organized into one of the three buckets (Do, Decide, Delegate… you removed the ones in the Deleted bucket, right?) take a step back and reflect on the whole picture. At least weekly I scan all the defined actions and options ensuring my priorities are correct.
Feature image “frog” by Gonzalo