A big part of getting things done is having a system — a plan — to get things done.
If you don’t have a process for cataloguing what needs to be done, scheduling out when you’re going to do those things, and filtering distractions that get in the way of that process, then you will find yourself struggling to get things done consistently.
If you don’t plan smart, you’ll do something stupid.
You’ll find yourself over-stressed about what you might be forgetting and never quite sure what you need to do in order to accomplish the milestones towards achieving your goals.
With today’s smart technology, there are a wide range of tools that you can use to stay scheduled and prepare for whatever comes at you — but this isn’t a discussion about tech toys. It’s about the essence of mastery.
There are three key parts of planning to get things done:
1. You need a consistent place to write down things you need to remember.
This isn’t a debate whether pen-and-paper is superior to technology or which technology solution is better than all the rest. Whatever you choose, it just has to be the thing that you use. It has to be something that goes with you wherever you are.
You can’t have three different places where you record your notes and tasks. There can only be one place that you use consistently. If it’s a particular piece of technology, then make sure it is nimble enough to fit on your smartphone so that you can take it with you.
The idea is that when you have a task to do or an idea that pops into your head, you immediately record that “something” and schedule time to come back and review the idea or start working on accomplishing the task.
It is key that you don’t delay writing down what pops into your head. You are likely to forget if you wait. So act quickly.
2. You need a minimum list of things to get done each day.
Most productivity experts would tell you that you can only get two or three big tasks accomplished in a day. Sometimes only one. While accomplishing big tasks does take enormous brain power, the truth is that there are many small tasks that you need to get done each day as well. Because your brain is “fried” working on the big stuff, you usually just forget about doing the small stuff.
Important tasks like following up on assignments from the previous day or sending thank you notes, mailing out sample materials to new contacts you met, spending time touching up your social media strategy, or any number of personal or professional tasks just need to be done each day.
It’s hard to focus on closing a multi-million dollar business deal at the office when you realize that you left that morning without taking the trash out to the curb — and now you’re going to have a week with stinky garage and an angry wife. Instead of being focused on your business goals, you’re distracted by a task that you could have scheduled for yourself the day before.
Which brings up an even better point — if you’re using smart technology to keep you scheduled, create recurring tasks. Create small, important tasks that you do each day, week, and months. Develop a system where you remind yourself of the details that need to get done while you’re busy working on the big picture.
3. You need a system for improving when your process gets broken.
You can bet that you’re going to screw up this important process of getting things done more than a few times. You’re going to forget something that is wildly important. You’re going to miss an important detail that leads to a big problem. You’re going to forget to remember, and somebody is going to be upset at you.
It is inevitable that you’re going to make mistakes. It’s also improvable. Your process that is.
Instead of just slapping yourself on the back of the neck and blowing off some steam about making a bone-headed mistake, take a few moments and ask yourself how the problem occurred. Maybe you didn’t have access to where you usually take your notes or record your tasks. Maybe your travel was different or your usual process for nailing the details got derailed in the middle of an unexpected emergency.
Whatever the case, it’s important to adapt and improve. Maybe you need better technology. Maybe you need a new set of tools that work the way you work.
You’ll never be somebody until you get things done.
No matter what your goal might be, you need to get good at planning smart. Or else, you’ll just do something stupid.
(BTW, I am a raving fan of Todoist for getting my things done…)