The Secret To Getting Things Done.
Many productivity systems promise to help you get your work done. New apps appear daily, promising they will make you more productive, and countless blog posts, YouTube videos and podcasts tell you to try this or that new innovative idea.
The truth is, the only way you will get more done is to do more. No new app, system, or idea will ever replace that simple fact.
But there is a problem with that fact — To get more done, you have to do more — is, in a way, counter to the culture we live in today. We are supposed to take more breaks, be more gentle with ourselves to protect our mental health, and slow down when we feel tired. All good advice, but it does not help us to be more productive if to be more productive means, we have to do more.
So, what can you do to do more in a more gentle, human-friendly way?
The secret lies in building processes. There are a number of tasks we must regularly perform for our work. That could be contacting prospects if you are a salesperson, performing medical exams if you are a doctor, or preparing a lesson plan if you are a teacher. No matter what you are employed to do, there will be a set of core tasks you are expected to perform.
It is these core tasks you need to turn into an automatic process.
I write a blog post every week. It’s a non-negotiable part of my work. To write a blog post every week, I need to set aside ninety minutes each week to write. No blog post will be written unless I have those ninety minutes. So, I block ninety minutes in my calendar every Monday morning (9:00 to 10:30) for writing.
I have a process for doing this. My Mondays start at 7:00 with coaching calls. They finish at 9:00, and I give myself a five-minute break to make a coffee, then I open up Ulysses (my writing app of choice) and begin writing.
This is my process. It just happens. I wake up on a Monday morning at 6:00; I do my morning routines (again process), do my calls, and begin writing.
The advantage of having this process is I do not have to think about what to do. All I need to know is: it’s Monday. I know how my day will start, and I am planned up to 10:30.
Part of the reason you will struggle to get more done is your time thinking about what to do. Without a plan for the day, it’s surprising how much time is wasted thinking about what to work on. This usually leads to working on the least important task because it’s easy and can be done in a few minutes. So the thinking goes, if I just get this little task done, it will get me started.
But it doesn’t, does it? Once that little ten-minute task is done, you then waste another five to ten minutes looking to see what to do next, and that is repeated multiple times per day.
If you want to get more done, you need to reduce your time trying to decide what to work on. And the way to do that is to have a plan and a process for the day.
Having fixed times each week for doing the work that matters ensures you get the work done and removes a lot of stress. When you know you have time to do the work you must do, you stop worrying about it. You just get on and do it.
The “secret” to getting more done is reducing the number of decisions you need to make.
Or, rather, pre-deciding what gets done, so you do not have to make as many decisions during the day.
Another non-negotiable part of my work is responding to my students’ questions. I get these every day, and it generally requires forty to forty-five minutes to complete. Guess what I do? That’s right; I have a forty-five minute block of time towards the end of the day for doing this work.
I have to do it. It’s another non-negotiable part of my work, and it is something I love doing because it is central to my long-term goal — to help millions of people become better organised and more productive. It also has another advantage; It feeds my ideas bank. I get ideas for future blog posts and YouTube videos from these questions.
You need to keep things flexible, though. Things never go according to plan. Emergencies will happen, unknown urgent tasks will pop up every day, and things will go wrong. This is why my daily process is to keep 9:00 to 11:00 am blocked for focused work and the afternoons as free as possible to deal with those unknowns.
And if there are no emergencies? You’ve just given yourself some spare time. You can either have a nap, go for a walk, or dip into your task manager and pick something you want to do.
The advantage of building a process for your day is that you will find better ways of doing the work as time goes by. The consistency you have frees your mind to develop better, more effective strategies for doing the work.
This has happened to me on a Friday morning. I record my YouTube videos on a Friday morning and have done this for six years. When I began doing this, it took me three to four hours to set up the studio, test the microphone and record the videos. Today, that process now takes under two hours. Setting up the studio takes five minutes, I have made the process as efficient as possible.
That’s what having a process does. It gives you time to get better and faster at doing the work. When you can do your work better and faster, you free up time to do more (or not if you wish)
Now that’s the secret to getting more done.
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