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Published on July 30, 2020

How to Get Things Done: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Get Things Done: A Step-by-Step Guide

There are always those days when 24 hours a day seem too little for you to finish all that you wanted to accomplish. The biggest question for a person with a lot of responsibilities on their shoulder is how to get things done before they are overdue.

Not being able to check off everything you had planned for the day can worsen your productivity due to the feeling of failure.

At the end of the day, there are only so many hours in a day. The only thing you can control is how you manage this time for maximum efficiency and minimal stress.

This 7 step guide along with some bonus tips will tell you exactly how to get things done without going through a mental breakdown once every day!

Step 1: An Effective To-Do List

Getting things done is impossible if you don’t know all the things that need to be done. What this means is that you need to have an organized plan of what the tasks are, when they’re due, what’s their order of priority, etc.

The best, easiest, and most effective method of organizing your work tasks is to make to-do lists. Yes, not one, but multiple to-do lists.

Generally, workplaces assign you tasks for the whole month or sometimes more. You know the goals that need to be accomplished over this period. So, what you should do is make a monthly to-do list with all these deadlines and tasks.

Next, break down the work per week. Which parts of which tasks will you tackle through the 4 weeks? Then, make it more detailed as you come down to your daily to-do list. In these lists, add the aspect of time as well.

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For example, if on the Thursday of the first week you have planned a meeting with the boss, mention how long you think it can take. This way you won’t over-schedule or under-schedule certain days.

One pro tip for making to-do lists is to add enough detail to have clarity of what you need to do. However, do not over-complicate them by adding too much information. A hefty to-do list can be intimidating and demotivating.[1]

Step 2: Get in the Mood to Work

You know how there are times when you’re so ready to work – during these times, you can literally get done with the hardest tasks without budging an eye. How does that happen?

Well, it’s all about your mind. If it’s ready to work, you’ll get the boost you need automatically. So, why not put in a small amount of time to prep your mind so that the rest of your workday goes on smoothly? Whatever has been bothering you or keeping you preoccupied, get rid of it.

Let’s say you’re super excited about your birthday that’s coming up in the next week. Do not let it distract you during work. For that, you can start the day with 5 to 10 minutes of meditation. It will also help you practice mindfulness for better focus.

You can also exercise, walk, or run to freshen up your body. Eat a filling breakfast so that you don’t lose your energy until lunchtime.

Another thing you can do to prepare your mind that it’s time to work  is to dress for it. Take a shower, wear comfortable but fresh clothes, spritz some perfume, do your hair, and put on some shoes. Your brain will automatically shift gears and encourage you to work, and this will help you to get things done.

Step 3: Set up Your Space

Your surroundings can work your productivity immensely. Have a well-set workspace. Well-set doesn’t mean it needs to be fancy, but you must have all essentials within reach.

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Things like your laptop, its charger, a snack, water, your to-do list, a pen, notebook, and other necessities should be within reach. Also, add the things that make you feel more comfortable, such as a candle, a table lamp, etc.

On the other hand, distractions should be cleared out. Keep your mobile phone silent or log out of your social media accounts.

Step 4: Get Done With the Hardest Tasks First

There’s this metaphor ‘eating the frog’ and a lot of experts have written books and articles about it. It is a concept to boost productivity which suggests getting done with the most challenging tasks first.[2]

You should implement the same strategy. Prioritize the tasks that need more work over the easier ones. Getting the hardest task out of your way early on in the day will give you a sense of relief.

Once the ‘big’ thing of the day is done, it is way easier to focus your energy on the easier and lesser important jobs. It also gives you a sense of accomplishment, which is the right energy booster you need to get things done.

Also, your energy and motivation are usually the highest at the beginning of the day. So that is the perfect time to push yourself.

Step 5: Delegate What You Can

If you’re familiar with the idea of delegation, you should put it to use. There’s a high chance that you can distribute your workload without compromising the output.

However, if you opt for delegation, make sure to delegate the right tasks only. Only then will you be able to manage more work in a shorter time. Otherwise, you’ll have to spend more time correcting others’ mistakes.

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Step 6: Get Done With the Short and Quick Tasks

This step is the second part of prioritizing your tasks. Once the most challenging job is out of the way, quickly move onto things that you can get done within the shortest time.

This strategy allows you to tick off more in lesser time.

So, for example, let’s say you have 10 tasks for the day and 5 of them are quick and easy things that you can get done within an hour or two. Once you’re done with these tasks, you’ll be left with half of the workload with plenty of time to get it done.

The brain will see it as a win and give you the motivation to push yourself to get done with the rest too.

Step 7: Turn Off Work When You’re Done for the Day

One major part of being able to do things is to keep yourself from getting exhausted. Do not over-burden yourself.

When you’re done for the day, switch off your work side. Even if you were able to manage the tasks of the day earlier than the finishing office time, give yourself that free time.

Relax whenever you can. Treat yourself when you deserve it. Turning off is very important to be able to restart the next day.

Bonus Tips

This was the step-by-step process of doing things. However, amid this process, there are a few other things to keep in mind too. These bonus tips will keep your work morale high throughout.

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Firstly, take care of yourself. There are quite a few things to consider here. You should be fresh, healthy, well-fed, well-slept, and your basics should be covered so that you can focus on your work with your full potential. Unless you’re healthy, you cannot produce useful outputs.[3]

Take enough breaks. Working non-stop is the biggest paradox because a person thinks they’ll get more done by forcing themselves to work every second through the office hours. But it actually drains your mind and body. Once again, you are unable to generate good work. So, give your mind and body a few minutes to refresh after every couple of hours.

Next, have room for flexibility in your to-do lists. An urgent task can always pop-up. Deadlines can be pushed forward for whatever reason. It is expected for things like this to happen. So, if you don’t have the option to reschedule your to-do list, your entire routine will mess up.

Lastly, don’t over-stress. Focus on the task at hand only. Things that are to follow should be thought about when you’re working on them. The task at hand is where your complete attention and time should be going. Being all over the place will only waste your time.

Bottom Line

In conclusion, let’s not forget that we’re all humans. No two humans are the same despite the similar psychic we all have. This step-by-step guide is a general example of how a smooth workday can be planned. However, a few tweaks here and there may help you improve this process even more for yourself.

Feel free to experiment with whatever you think will work best for you. With the general idea behind this step-by-step guide in mind, you can easily find a way to get things done as per your needs. As long as you keep the idea behind each step intact, you can go about it any way you prefer.

So, don’t waste any more time procrastinating or stressing out. Get all your tasks finished promptly by implementing this work strategy for maximum efficiency!

More Tips on Getting Things Done

Featured photo credit: Gabrielle Henderson via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide) 7 Reasons Why a Life Without Purpose is Unfulfilling What Is a Habit? Understand It to Control It 100% Productivity Music for Focus (Recommended Playlists) How to Delegate Tasks Effectively (Step-By-Step Guide)

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Published on August 3, 2020

How to Be Organized: The Ultimate Guide to Get (and Stay) Clutter Free

How to Be Organized: The Ultimate Guide to Get (and Stay) Clutter Free

With all the inputs, information, and clutter that come into our lives today, just staying on top of it all creates so much stress and frustration, and it can often lead to feelings of helplessness and anxiety. Most of the time, you simply don’t know where to start when you want to learn how to be organized.

However, it is, in fact, something that can be learned.

By developing a few strategies and methods, and having a system in place that quickly deals with all these inputs, you can finally get control of your clutter and, more importantly, stay clutter-free.

Here are a few rules that can help you on your path to a clutter-free life.

1. Don’t Use Your Computer’s Desktop for Storage

Your computer’s desktop was not designed to store your files. Your desktop should be clean and file free. Not only does a cluttered desktop slow down your computer, but it also makes finding things painfully slow.

Instead, as you’re learning how to be organized, create a basic folder structure inside your documents folder. Now, this needs to work for you, but try not to make things too complicated. What you can do is think about the kind of files you will need to keep, and categorize them between your personal and professional ones. For me, I have two basics folders inside my documents folder, one called “work” and one called “personal.” Inside of these, I have subfolders organized according to my different roles or categories.

It’s simple, and it allows me to quickly find what I need when I need it.

Now, I do understand that during the day, when you are doing your work, you may need quick access to certain images and files, and it’s okay to hold them on your desktop temporarily. However, make it a habit to clear your desktop at the end of each day as part of your closing down routine (more on that later).

2. Learn to Use Your Computer’s Search Features

It surprises me how few people know how to find documents on their computer with a simple keyboard shortcut, but it’s one of the easiest things to do as you’re learning how to be organized. On a Mac, for instance, CMD + Space bar brings up the spotlight search, and you can type in a date, a file type, a keyword, or a file name.

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On a Windows computer[1], open the start button, and begin typing the file you are looking for.

In both cases, you do not need the exact name of the file. Just type a few letters, and within seconds you have the file you need.

When you learn how useful your computer’s search features are, you will be much more comfortable removing all those files scattered around on your desktop and putting them in an appropriate folder on your computer.

3. Keep Your Desk Clear of Clutter

Just as with your computer’s desktop, your desk’s desktop should also be file and clutter-free. Use your drawers for those paper documents that habitually hang around on your desk—a cluttered desk does not encourage inspired work[2].

Also, take a look at your workspace, and ask if what is on your desk is necessary. Often, we have stuff on our desks that serve no meaning and has no sentimental value to us. It’s just something we have always had on our desk. If you don’t need it or it does not inspire you, remove it.

And while we are talking about your desk, make a decision this week that you will go through your desk drawers and clear out all the old pens, cups, and other debris that has accumulated over the years. Trust me on this one, the act of cleaning out your drawers and removing all the clutter on your desk will give you renewed energy and ignite a lot of creativity that has been pushed into the background. You will love working at your desk again.

Pictures of your loved ones and a few inspiring mementos are fine. Just don’t go crazy with them. Keep them to a minimum.

4. Create a Closing Down Routine

This is such a great way to make sure you keep your files and other stuff organized, so make it an essential skill to adopt when learning how to be organized. Give yourself ten to twenty minutes before you finish your work for the day to clean up your desktops.

Move your files to their rightful place, and delete anything you no longer need. I often accumulate a lot of screenshots throughout the day, and if I am not removing them, at the end of the day, they soon start building up.

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Before I shut my computer down for the day, I clean these up, delete the screenshots if I no longer need them, and leave my desktop file free. It’s a beautiful way to start the next day with a clean desk and a clean computer desktop.

5. Incorporate a To-Do List Manager Into Your Life

Writing your to-dos and commitments down on post-it notes just encourages clutter. Sure, it might seem like a great idea to stick these to your computer so you don’t forget things, but over time you become numb to them. They just become a part of your desk, and you ignore them.

Remove them. Take your tasks and commitments, and put them into a to-do list manager. Whether you use Windows or Mac, they both come with to-do list managers. Make good use of them.

You do not need to create an elaborate to-do list structure. All you need is an inbox for quick entry and the ability to date tasks for when they need doing.

I use a simple structure in my to-do list manager. I use a system I call the Time Sector System[3] where I create six folders:

  • Inbox
  • This week
  • Next week
  • This month
  • Next month
  • Long-term / On-hold

Then, whatever I collect, the only decision I need to make is: when am I going to do the task? I can then drop the task into its relevant folder.

One of the biggest causes of clutter on desks (and in bags) are all those little bits of paper you use to write down critical information and telephone numbers or email addresses. When these accumulate, they are easy to lose, and you waste a lot of time searching for them.

Use your digital devices for these. You can take a photo of a written note. You can quickly add a telephone number or an email address into your to-do list manager (or notes app), and if you have syncing set up between your devices, you will have access to the information on all your devices. And what’s more, it will be searchable.

6. Set a Weekly Time to Declutter Your Devices

This is an area that can quickly creep up on you, so take time to develop this habit as you’re learning how to be organized. Taking photos and videos on our phones is too easy these days. We take a picture, and we just leave it in our photo album.

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Over time we end up with thousands of photos in our electronic photo albums that are not worth keeping. I spend around ten minutes on the weekend (usually Sunday evening) deleting all the images I no longer want to keep. It keeps my digital storage needs down—which saves money—and it means all the photos in my photo album are photos I want to keep.

I do the same with my downloads folder. We often download a PDF intending to read it later, and then we completely forget about it. As time passes, we end up with hundreds of PDFs and other documents we are no longer interested in or no longer need. Delete them or file them. Just don’t leave them in your downloads folder.

If you want to stay clutter-free, this habit will reward you. Doing this weekly means you will spend around thirty minutes each week cleaning up and filing. Not doing so means you will end up having to spend a day or two just dealing everything, which will leave you feeling like you’ve wasted those days.

7. Do an Annual Clean-up

One of my annual rituals is to clean out all my folders and notes. I take a day off from work and spend the day going through everything on my computer and delete anything that no longer has any value.

I choose the winter holidays for this. Not only is it the end of the year, but many companies are on holiday, and things are generally quieter.

I go through all my work and personal folders and clean out anything I no longer need. I also archive a lot of files onto an external hard drive—just in case they are needed later.

It’s also a good time to clear out your email folders, too. Email can become a bottomless pit of emails you no longer need. Go through and purge those. You will feel so much better when you do this.

With email, you can also declare yourself email bankrupt and just delete everything in your inbox (or if you are not comfortable doing that, declare a ‘soft’ email bankruptcy and you move all your emails into a folder called “Old Inbox”).

Doing this might seem like a radical step, but it is incredible how much clearer you become. You get to see what you have been holding on to, what you may have missed, and you find yourself with a lot more space ready for the year to come.

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8. Do a Little, Often

I learned this a long time ago. Many years ago, I tried becoming a salesperson. I failed miserably at it, but during my training, I shadowed an experienced colleague. On one of the days I was shadowing her, she had to complete and file her expense report for the month.

I vividly remember her opening the glovebox of her car and pulling out handfuls of receipts and then painstakingly adding them to an expense report—we did things on paper in those days. Four hours later, she finally finished the report.

I remember at the time thinking this was not a great way to do this. When I got my chance to go solo, I began stopping my car in a car-park on the way home and added that day’s expenses to my expenses sheet. It took me a few minutes, and as I was doing it on the same day, I remembered exactly what each receipt was for.

When you’re learning how to be organized, you can use this principle for almost everything. Clear out your email inbox every day, delete screenshots from your desktop and empty your bag at the end of the week, and throw away anything you no longer need.

Doing a little often makes things so much easier, and you do not have that mental backlog creeping up on you where you have that nagging feeling in the back of your mind telling you you have to do something—only you can’t remember what that something is.

Final Thoughts

If it doesn’t come naturally to you, learning how to be organized can take time and effort, but it’s ultimately worth it. Becoming clutter-free helps you in so many ways. You have a more pleasant work environment, and de-cluttering your environment also helps to declutter your mind. On top of that, finding stuff is easier, and that means your overall productivity goes through the roof. Choose the strategies above that will help you in your daily life and start getting your life organized today.

More Tips on How to Be Organized

Featured photo credit: Jeff Sheldon via unsplash.com

Reference

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