By Becky Wong
You’re swimming in a sea of fantastic ideas and urgent to-dos, but you don’t know where to start or how to tackle your ever-growing list. Everything is snowballing while you never feel closer to getting stuff done. Does this sound familiar?
People often ask me: “How do you stay productive and get everything done?”
The short answer is that you can’t do everything, especially not at the same time. But by learning how to prioritise effectively you will be able to create the time and headspace needed to work through everything, one step at a time.
I spend most of my days working with clients, guiding them on how to create calm amongst what could easily turn into daily chaos with so much happening at once. You can easily be overwhelmed with everything piling up, looming deadlines and juggling multiple projects.
What you don’t want is for that overwhelm to build up into analysis paralysis. You want to have a clear action plan, a good momentum of checking things off, to avoid putting off the meatier actions, and to stay on top of everything while moving forward towards your goals.
How can you do this? With these smashing top tips on how to stay productive and get stuff done!
- Record Everything.
- Get it all out of your head. Write it all down. The best way to start getting on top of everything is to have it all written down or recorded.
- You can do this digitally through one of the many handy tracking tools or planning software. My personal favourites are Asana, Trello and Evernote. If a new idea or plan is only in your head, it usually ends up staying that way: only in your head.
- The first thing I do with new clients is record a ‘brain dump’ of everything that needs to be done. Once it’s all ‘on paper’ you’ll be able to start prioritising and scheduling.
- Then, you’ll find yourself able to break your tasks down, ready to start tackling everything one step at a time. You’ll make progress without the worry of anything slipping through the cracks, as well as freeing up your time and headspace for the big, important stuff.
- Set Yourself Goals.
- The next step is to start setting yourself goals to work towards. Remember to set yourself deadlines too!
- The second biggest reason (after keeping it all in your head!) why people fail to get things done is that they haven’t set any deadlines. Just saying you want to do something, or thinking it, will not motivate you to do it.
- Set yourself goals to complete actions, set realistic deadlines and set reminders along the way. This way you have clear goalposts to work towards.
- Look at each action and decide how important and urgent it is. Can it be done in five minutes or does the task require more time and deep focus?
- Work out how much time you think you’ll need to complete each task and allocate that amount.
- A good way to prioritise is by using the Four Quadrants of the Eisenhower Matrix as explained in the video above. These include:
Urgent & Important
You’ll need to do these first! These are things that need immediate attention and are critical to your business. Most of these will probably be completed much faster than you think once you get started. Get these tasks off your plate as fast as you can, then it’s all done and out of your mind. Ideally, as you start to prioritise more effectively, you’ll find that you have fewer time-critical ‘urgent and important’ actions and instead have more ‘important but not urgent’ actions. Speaking of…
Not Urgent & Important
Schedule time to do these tasks later. These are all the things that you know are important but have a while before they become urgent. Often, you know you’ll need a good amount of time to focus on these ones. Make sure you schedule in advance to do these and follow through!
Urgent & Not Important
If you can, you should always delegate or automate these activities (we’ll talk about automating your business in another blog post!). These tasks usually include your daily business as usual activities or general admin tasks that contribute to keeping your business running but don’t help grow your business or reach your goals, so streamline these wherever you can.
Not Urgent & Not Important
We think you’ll know what you need to do with these ones… If it’s not urgent and it’s not important then get rid of it! Of course, some of these tasks may be ideas that you should return to. Although, if something isn’t contributing to any of your goals right now, then we say don’t waste any more time thinking about it, planning it or doing it.
- Your vision of everything you want to achieve might give you an action plan that feels far too big to handle or that feels overwhelming. So, as well as setting yourself goals, make sure you break it all down into smaller, actionable chunks with realistic deadlines to complete each little step, rather than only focusing on the overall goal.
- Once you have a clearer view of what you need to do by when, another good thing to do is to map out your days, weeks and months so you know exactly what’s coming. Goalposts may need to move as you progress but that’s OK. You’ll never be taken by surprise because you’ve mapped it all out.
- Block Your Time.
- Block out an hour where all of your focus is on ONE task. Turn off notifications, make yourself unavailable to anyone else and remove all other distractions. Focus. Make it happen!
- A popular way to do this is what is called the Pomodoro Method. You set a timer for 25 minutes, work solidly for the 25 minutes, take a 5-10 minute break and repeat three more times. This method helps to train up the habit of staying in a state of deep focus for long periods of time. Eventually, you’ll be able to work solidly for longer but make sure you take regular breaks to avoid burnout.
- Be Accountable!
- Hold yourself accountable to your goals, plans and deadlines. There is no point setting these for yourself if you are not following them.
- An even better idea is to have someone else hold you accountable! There is nothing like having to regularly tell someone how it’s all going to keep you progressing. Tough love from your designated ‘accountability buddy’ will keep you focused and on track. This is why some people hire business / project managers to deliver on their business goals.
- Celebrate Your Wins.
- Even the small ones! Make it fun! It’s a great feeling to mark tasks as COMPLETED! Everyone tends to be so focused on getting things done and moving onto the next thing that we regularly forget to celebrate the successes.
- Celebrating your successes helps you to see the progress you’re making and keep you motivated. You could even give yourself a small reward for each win – it could be a break, a small treat, or sharing your win with others and celebrating with a few drinks!
- Always remember to look back at what you’ve achieved and celebrate it. Well done, you!
Eager for more inspiration of how you can become more effective and get things done? Here are a few links for you to explore further:
I’ve found Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People super helpful. Covey If you’re unfamiliar with the 7 habits, here’s a handy link to Hubspot’s blog post 7 Habits of Highly Effective People [Summary & Takeaways].
You should also check out Getting Things Done (GTD) here. GTD is a personal productivity methodology that redefines how you approach your life and work. We’ll be sure to cover these methods in more detail in future blog posts.
Feel free to get in touch, I’d love to know if you’ve found these suggestions here helpful in getting you back on track.
What about you? Do you have your own tips and tricks for staying productive and getting things done? I love hearing how everyone else is doing and I’m always keen to learn from others.
If you’re looking for someone to work with, to hold you accountable and get stuff done, then I’d love to hear from you too! 🙂