Quadruple Your Productivity and Enjoy a Little Life: 8 Steps to Getting Things Done
Time is the only real scarce resource. We are all battling for more of it. The only way to have more is to spend it wisely.
Written by: Scott Dinsmore
Average Read Time: 4 minutes
I just finished Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen. I know. I’m a little late to the game. It was a quick read and I loved the premise. There were no doubt some clear productivity “ah-ha’s” as I read. I have spent a lot of time learning and developing my own productivity system over the years and I’m excited to implement a few more of Allan’s nuggets. Most of the things he mentions are not totally novel but the package he puts them in catches an eye.
Top 6 Ways to Quadruple Productivity and Have a Little More Time to Enjoy Life:
1. “What is the next task that will get me toward my desired outcome?” This is the biggest point Allen drives home. Always ask this question upon completion of a meeting or task. This alone will put your productivity through the roof. Let this be the last time that you leave the site of a goal, plan or meeting without a clearly defined and scheduled next action item to make it a reality.
2. Plan Your Week. Spend at least a half hour or an hour at the beginning (or end) of each week taking stock of what you accomplished the prior week, what you didn’t accomplish, what you learned and what your desired outcomes are for the week to come. Many people dive right into the week with no plan of what they want their week to look like. And then get frustrated when nothing gets done. Be intentional and get committed. Things will start to happen. Spending an hour sharpening the saw will make the week’s cutting all the easier. I have been doing this every week for years.
3. Schedule It. Things do not get done unless you schedule them. By definition in order for a task to be completed it must physically occupy some portion of your life. Lists have become so arbitrary. They get longer and longer and are rarely prioritized, leaving you overwhelmed when everything doesn’t get checked off. Also, the average person drastically underestimates how long something will take (at least we’re optimistic). This causes them to put 27 hours worth of work on one day’s list. Reserving time on your calendar forces you to be honest with yourself and get completed only what is reasonable in the time you have available. Proper expectations are a huge part of getting things done.
4. Schedule A Buffer. Now that we have come to grips with the fact that everything takes longer than expected, we also need to accept the fact that things always come up that we didn’t plan. They take time and sometimes they have to happen right away. Schedule buffer time for these. I literally block off an hour or two each day that simply says “buffer time”. It almost always gets filled up with something urgent and unexpected and when it doesn’t, I have an hour of my life back–an amazing feeling. That’s when it’s time to get outside and have some fun (or do whatever you like to do with spare time–other than check email).
5. Give Yourself Strict and Short Deadlines. This is not contradictory to Schedule It. Yes, things take longer than expected, and they also will take up as much time as you have available. We call this Parkinson’s Law. The time required to complete a project is directly proportional to the time you have available. In other words, if you have time to waste, you will waste it. You have a day to study for an exam. It takes a day. You have two weeks to study. It takes two weeks. Give yourself enough time to complete a task but not a moment more. Set these limits up in advance.
6. Don’t Check Email First Thing in the Morning. If you haven’t heard this before, you have not been listening. This is huge. No matter what you’re doing, email will immediately throw you off and suck the time and energy out of your life. Get your most important things done in the first 2-3 hours of the day. Then check some email and a little Facebook. I know I do not need to convince you on merit of this. I just need to break you from your addiction.
7. Do Your Most Important Things First. This goes with the above. First thing in the morning (after a good workout and breakfast), since I already have a plan for the week, I know what’s most important for the day. So I dive into those 2-3 tasks first. Often before even opening my computer or connecting to the internet, and definitely before checking email. You will feel mountains better about the rest of the day with your major items behind you. Then there’s plenty of time to waste away on email.
8. Get a Good System to Keep Track of Your Life. Everyone does things differently and no system will be perfect for all of us. But there are some amazing tools out there for free or almost free to get you started. Whatever the cost, if it gets you organized and motivates you to get things done, it’s worth the investment. I use a combination of the Tony Robbins Time of Your Life Planning System, 7 Habits and 4-Hour Work Week in conjunction with my iCal, Google Calendar, Things and Evernote, all synced to my iPhone for what I feel has become my own little work of art. Can’t forget a good clean work space of your own and maybe some physical file cabinets either. It took a while for me to get the right system in place and its always changing, but it’s empowering once you get it. Find a few sexy productivity toys and have some fun.
These steps are easy and any one of them alone will dramatically transform the way you go about your moments, days, weeks and life. Take advantage of them and let me know what you do with all your free time!
What have you found most useful to manage your life and create time for the things you really care about? Share them with us in the comments.If you liked this article, please Tweet about it or tell your friends about it on Facebook.
Other books and resources you might enjoy:
- Parkinson’s Law– an article
- Things– Task management app for iPhone and Mac. I just started using it and love it. Designed perfectly for Getting Things Done
- 4-Hour Work Week
- 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
- How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life
- The Art of Time
Photo courtesy of koalazmonkey