How to Get Things Done
Ready to dive into tactics for getting things done?
At this point, we have gone over the steps to setup your body and mind to be capable of high performance.
This was done purposely BEFORE we dive into specific tactics because many miss this critical step.
If your body and mind are only operating at 70%, you will only be able to output 70%. It’s as simple as that.
I learned this the hard way. Like many, when I started looking into how to get more done each day, I approached it backwards. I investigated the best tools or best checklists but I was never able to stick to them because I had not built out the underlying habits. .
Trying to add MORE tasks to your day (like filling out a productivity journal) is torture when you're already exhausted and overwhelmed.
It becomes much easier to use these once you make the space and energy for them.
That’s what the first 3 modules covered before we get into the following.
PLANNING TO GET THINGS DONE
Recall from the video in this last lesson, that we want to aim for 3 big goals with a number of tasks underneath them.
These goals could be building this online course, studying for a certification or test, learning a new skill, expanding on my Quora readership etc.
They should be goals that take some time to accomplish and have a lot of underlying tasks to complete them.
Outsource or put the rest on hold for now until you complete these.
Remember as well that we measure productivity as the amount of completely focused and undistracted time we put towards these goals each week.
What does that mean?
Break down your tasks into intervals of focused work (25-minute power sessions) where you work exclusively on one task at a time.
After the 25 minutes, you take a 5 or 10-minute break.
This is based on the Pomodoro technique by Francesco Cirillo. At the end of each week, you would add up how many of these power sessions or Pomodoro's you did for each of your 3 big goals.
For example, my week end tally could look like:
Total Focused Time
Build EverProductive Course
Reach 1 million views on Quora
As you get used to this, you could modify the 25-minute time frame if you want but I would stick to it. It's quite effective for ensuring your mind does not start to wander.
Set a timer for 25 minutes, then take a quick break. This works well for keeping energy levels high and ensuring you stay focused. If you do decide to increase it, I would not make it any higher than 45 to 60 minutes without a break.
As backwards as it seems, regularly taking breaks is critical to ensure you stay focused in these focused time blocks.
Get up, move around, go get some sun and air, a tea or coffee, feel free look at your phone notifications for 5 to 10 minutes, then get back to it.
WHY THIS WORKS
How often do you actually sit down and do completely focused work on only one task without distraction?
Without looking at your phone, without the TV on in the background, without checking for emails…
Probably almost never.
I'm still guilty of this as well and it’s not totally our fault. As we learned, we live in the most distracting era in all of human history.
Though it’s not our fault that we live in a world full of distractions, it is our responsibility to ensure we don’t let it impact our potential for greater productivity and results.
Real, focused work is incredibly powerful. You will be amazed at how much more you can accomplish with your time when you put 100% of your focus and energy into it.
The more you are able to do it, the easier it gets and the more results you can get done.
I spoke with serial entrepreneur Sol Orwell in Toronto not too long ago and here is his response when I asked him how he approaches his day to day work upon building Examine.com into a 7 figure business.
I use conscious focus and then relaxation. I do a block of 30 to 90 minutes of heads-down work, and then I take a break of roughly 30 minutes. Real focused work is incredibly powerful and most people just never do it. I’m not a big fan of grinding, as your throughput and quality just suffer greatly.
BUILDING YOUR GOALS AND TASKS
Let's start building out your goals and tasks to get things done.
Earlier in the course we worked on two workbooks:
Get those handy as we will reference those when working on the next worksheet below.
From your prioritized list in those two worksheets, pick three big goals that will take between one and four months to complete.
If you have more then three that is OK, but put them on back burner for now. We want to focus on only three at a time. If one goal get's finished, we can then move it up into our active three goals.
Use the worksheet below to then enter those three goals and all the tasks needed to complete them.
Use a separate back burner list to keep track of any goals you have in waiting.
Alternatively, you could also use Evernote for this following the same structure as the worksheet.
I personally use Evernote and set it up as checkboxes I can check off once a task is completed.
For example, while building this course, here was my active big three goal and task list.
HOW TO SCHEDULE YOUR WORK TIME
Using the above, the tasks for each goal give us the basis to build and schedule our focused work blocks. Each day, I check what tasks need to be done and then start my 25 minute pomodoro productivity sessions on them.
Some tasks may take only one Pomodoro (25min) to complete, some may take five or six.
Mapping things out this way though provides incredible clarity and focus as there never is a question of what needs to get done.
What needs to get done and what's next is all right in front of you.
The next question is, how do you schedule your times of when to work on things? Let's find out.
How to Plan Your Days
The majority of people plan their day by making a to do list and then fitting it into their schedule whenever they can each day.
As you can imagine, that is not good enough if we want to operate at our peak.
We will take this two steps further to maximize our effectiveness. Using the organized task list we created above, we will:
- Book focused work blocks toward each goal in our calendar
- Organize them based on our energy levels
The second one there may raise some questions.
Everyone has times of the day where they are at their peak mental performance and energy levels.
This will be different for everyone. For myself, I find around 10 AM to 4 PM is where I am at my strongest.
If I know that these are the times I perform best, it makes sense to schedule in my most challenging to do items at these times.
The tasks that require the most cognitive thought, the most creativity and the most energy to do should go in here. I save these times for writing, problem-solving, deep analytical work, leading meetings, learning a new skill or doing my focused work blocks toward my goals.
When we have more energy, we can have more focus.
For example here is an idea of what my daily routine looks like. During the start of the day, it's focused on prepping my body and mind. The best hours of the day I do my focused work blocks.
Later on in the day when my energy starts to drain, I do general admin type work like responding to emails, booking reservations or appointments, reading a book anything that doesn't require too much deep analysis or intense focus.
In the evening when I'm completely tapped out for the day, I focus on rest, recovery and spending down time with the family to prep for the next day.
1. Look at your calendar and find spots where you can lock in time blocks to work on the tasks for your goals.
2. When do you feel the most energized during the day? If possible, organize your time blocks so your must difficult and focused work is done when you feel the most alert.
3. Consistency is key. Try to maintain the same schedule for these focused blocks each week. Minor changes here and there are OK, but success is and progress are built on consistent routines.
If you already have planned out exactly when and for how long you are going to work on something each week, you will make far greater progress towards it.
A common saying I've heard from many entrepreneurs and high performance workers is the following:
"If it's not on your schedule it doesn't exist."
Meaning that if you don't actively schedule in time to work on something, it's never going to get done.
Just waiting to try and fit it in when you can means chances are it won't happen and you probably already know that.
Putting it all together
In the next lesson, we will put it all together and learn how to turn this system into a continuous machine. One that constantly has us completing our goals and making progress while most others remain stagnant.