One of the challenges that we all face is that we are constantly bombarded and overwhelmed with tasks that have to be completed. Some are huge projects; others are just simple things that we can knock out easily. Many people will get the “deer in the headlights” look and just freeze up when too much stuff lands in their lap at once. So how do you cut through the clutter and focus and get everything accomplished? Here are some things that work for me:
- Get organized. I start my day every morning by cobbling together a list of everything that I need to do and prioritize what’s important and critical versus what may be more long term projects. I’ve written about this before in my article “Feed the Eagles and Starve the Turkeys” http://atkinsontshirt.blog/2013/03/23/feed-the-eagles-starve-the-turkeys/ By applying Pareto’s principle and focusing on 20% of the tasks that will yield 80% of the results in your task list, you can prioritize your list even further. The main trick is to schedule and work on all the biggest and most valuable projects first and more non-essential items later.
- Break Big Projects Up Into Chunks. Long term commitments and projects may seem really daunting. How are we ever going to get that accomplished and stick to the due date? By examining the totality of the project and breaking it up into small, more manageable tasks with due dates assigned to each, you can easily just focus one small step at a time. I like to create a simple spreadsheet with columns for tasks, due dates and a cell for notes. Once something is completed I color code the row. A big project that might take an entire business quarter can be broken up into tasks that you work on daily. As these get accomplished it’s really satisfying to see your spreadsheet get loaded with color. Make the daily smaller tasks a priority and that big project will come in on time.
- Delegate. Do you really have to do everything? It is human nature to want to control everything in our lives, but giving up responsibility and delegating tasks to others is a great way to clear up your task list. When delegating be sure to remember to set clear expectations on the task and define when it needs to be completed.
- Perfection is an Illusion. We all want things to be “just right”, and we waste a lot of time making things perfect. Not everything has to be the best thing anybody has ever seen. “Finished” often will outweigh “Perfect”. Don’t get me wrong, some things have to be perfect and taking the extra time to do them right is important. That being said, a good chunk of our tasks just need to be completed so we can get onto the next item. Figure out which is which.
- Avoid the Time Sinks. You know what these are in your day. Whatever creeps into your schedule that bogs you down. It could be that casual conversation around lunch time, too many e-mails, some article that you just noticed, or some other miscellaneous distraction. These are fun to get sucked into sometimes, but to remain on track it’s better to close your door, file the article to read later, or avoid that conversation.
- Say to yourself “To it today”. Putting things off can lead to unexpected consequences. Do yourself a huge favor and just tackle one or two more things before you leave. Tomorrow is going to bring a curve ball. To be ready, the more you have accomplished from the previous day the better. As crazy as it sounds, to get more done today, get more done yesterday.
- Don’t give in to the dark side. Your inner demons sometimes get the best of you. You want to goof off. Take a longer lunch. Get that extra Words with Friends triple score in. Sure it may feel ok – after all nobody’s looking right? Wrong. Everyone is looking. They may not see you doing these things, but when you focus on the tasks at hand more, you get more accomplished and you’ll be the leader that you want to be. Darth Vader is a punk anyway.
- Embrace technology. Are there any apps or software that can allow you to maximize your time? Keep trying stuff out and see what works for you. For example, I’m a big social media guy and I schedule all my Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook posts a week out using a free app called Buffer. I use the 80/20 rule, which is I post 80% of my content that I think my followers would enjoy viewing, the other 20% is stuff that is about me. I spend about ten or fifteen minutes a day on it max. For the content I subscribe to a good number of RSS feeds, blogs and other resources that send me their content. Anything that I might like I keep in a folder and read when I have time. The 80% that I post comes from this, and it’s usually pretty relevant.
- Set Deadlines. Putting tasks to a date or a time allows you to focus on where the finish line may be. If you just leave things as some ambiguous “I’ll get to it next week” target, chances are it will never happen. I’ll do it by lunch on Monday has a bigger meaning and will make you redouble your efforts to get it accomplished. When setting dates, look at your calendar and to do list and be honest with yourself on your timetable.
- Ask for help. It’s ok. You don’t have to do everything by yourself and admitting you might need assistance with something isn’t a sign of weakness. In fact, this could be a great opportunity to corral your staff on a project and give them some experience and training that might benefit your company in the long run.
So there you go! Ten tried and true methods of getting more things accomplished in a day. Get R’ Done! If you need help I’d love to set up a dialog with you and see if we can work together on a project. Just shoot me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.