A primer on getting things done
Getting things done keeps you moving forward, especially when you’re getting the right things done. And there’s the satisfaction of putting that tick in the checkbox.
Here are some of the best ways to do it, whether your motivator is to get ahead in work or free up more time for what you’d rather be doing.
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1. What are the most important areas of your life right now?
Create a map of what you’re working on and what’s important to you. This could include work, friendships, family, health, plus any other focus projects–however you want to segment it. What’s your big goal for each?
Next, define the next step for each of these goals. This should be well-defined, attainable in the short-term, and with a deadline.
Defining next steps is a big part of the GTD (getting things done) philosophy. For more on this, check out Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity by David Allen. And remember, it’s not just for work.
“Work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls — family, health, friends, integrity — are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.” The One Thing — Gary Keller
2. What’s the one thing that will make everything else easier or irrelevant?
Think of the projects and goals you’re prioritising. For each, what is the one thing that will make everything else easier (or, if you’re lucky, irrelevant)? Do this next and get ahead faster.
3. What tasks do you keep putting off?
Get niggling tasks and chores done and you’ll free up your brain to do more important work. You can keep thinking about the shower gel you still haven’t bought, or you can think creatively and solve bigger problems.
4. What’s the 20% that will get you the most results?
Think of the 80-20 rule, or the Pareto Principle. This says that in many cases, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.
What 20% of your tasks will get you 80% of your overall results? Move these up your to-do list.
5. What are you storing in your head right now?
Get all tasks and project ideas out of your head. It doesn’t matter if they’re on paper, in a doc, or in an app. You just need to stop cluttering your brain unnecessarily.
6. How much time do you have?
You can feel buried under work one day, but suddenly finish everything the next — just in time for going on holiday for two weeks. Why is this?
Parkinson’s Law says that work expands to fit the time you allocate for it. Use this to your advantage when choosing deadlines. Keep them tight and make yourself accountable to them.
7. Will a task take less than two minutes to complete?
This is another good GTD habit to build. If something will take less than two minutes to do, it’s probably not even worth writing it down. Get it done right now and free up your attention.
8. What does success look like to you?
Being the master of your to-do list doesn’t mean a thing if it’s not contributing to something bigger. Make sure your tasks are leading you where you want to go.
Start by defining what success means to you. List the few big things you want to achieve, then narrow it down even more. Are you going in the direction of something extraordinary, or in too many directions?
Keep asking: What matters to me? What should I be prioritising? What can I do right now?
“Make sure every day you do what matters most. When you know what matters most, everything makes sense. When you don’t know what matters most, anything makes sense.” The One Thing — Gary Keller