How to Get Stuff Done

So far this week, I’ve explained how I handle the several big things that must be done each day in my freelance business. But I didn't talk about what to do with all the small tasks that seem to endlessly get bumped to the next day.

First, I believe it's important to create to-do lists. Write all these little tasks down, no matter how little they seem. Even something as small as renewing your library books will rattle around in your head using brain power and zapping creativity. Put it on paper so it's out of your head.

For example, my smaller tasks might include items like: buy stamps, send an invoice, brainstorm ideas for an article, order ink, reply to an email.

If I'm having a busy day, feeling unmotivated, or letting procrastination take over, I might look at that list and say, "Well, I can brainstorm ideas tomorrow, reply to that email later today, order ink on Monday," and so on.

But what if I were to just look at that list, pick something, and get it done? In the time it takes to redo the to-do list each morning, I could finish five of my smaller items.

Here's how to just get stuff done:

1. Write everything down.

No matter how unimportant a task seems, write it down. This could be anything from what you'll eat for dinner to buying toilet paper next time you go to the store.

If you're thinking all day, "Don't forget the toilet paper," you have less energy for other things. Once you write it down, you can forget about it until you get to the store.

2. Keep a list of small items that don't have due dates.

This technique works best for tasks that don't have a due date and would take less than 30 minutes. There's no sense in moving and rescheduling a task that never had a deadline in the first place.

Just keep the list in any order. Then when it comes time to get something done, look at the list and ask yourself, "Which of these items will move me closer to my goals?" Then do it. Don't overthink it.

For example, emailing a client will potentially land you a new project. Going to the store in the middle of a workday for toilet paper won’t get you closer to your business goals.

3. Tackle at least one small task each day.

I used to have huge lists of "important but not urgent" tasks. I would spend 15-30 minutes each day rearranging my to-do list because I “didn't have time" to get the tasks done. Now, because I schedule time at the end of each day to tackle something on this list, it's a much shorter list.

Keep in mind these tasks aren't your “frog” tasks, in other words, your “worst” task of the day (see my message from yesterday for more details), so they shouldn't be dealt with unless you've had a frog to eat already that day. Don't procrastinate eating that frog in order to do your small tasks.

What about you? How do you focus so you can get stuff done? Join the conversation here.

Tomorrow, I'll wrap up with some tips and techniques for focusing and streamlining.

In the meantime, check out this article where I give you four tips for tackling your inbox.

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Published: December 20, 2012

3 Responses to “How to Get Stuff Done”

  1. I forget the attribution, but one thing that I have recently come across that I find effective is "Start before you are ready". Any time I know I have to get on to something, I start opening programs, websites, etc., as needed before I am "ready", which I find pulls me into getting on with it and not spending any more time "preparing" to do the work.

    alannorthcottDecember 20, 2012 at 12:23 pm

  2. The way I get things done is to make a list the night before for the next day. I also put a time next to each item.

    My list consists of two columns. The one on the right is the "To Do" column, and the one on the left is the time column, such as:

    6:00 Devotions Write on blog
    6:30 Exercise/shower Listen to AWAI webinar
    7:15 Breakfast Laundry
    8:15 Write on blog Practice music

    The real biggy is getting to bed early the night before. It's interesting how that my schedule will progress nicely until noon and then either something unexpected comes up or it takes longer than I figured to do a project. Then I just re-schedule.

    Guest (Clara Mae Watrous)December 20, 2012 at 6:18 pm

  3. I send a daily report,(email) to my success coach. I feel more motivated and driven to complete some items, so I have something positive to report. Also I think about the bigger picture (the whys,). The real reasons for doing what I am doing. the reasons for acheiving my goals.

    GTEXDecember 20, 2012 at 7:35 pm


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