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Last Updated on December 1, 2020

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

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

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Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide) A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success How to Get Motivated Every Day When You Wake Up Can’t Focus? The Mistake You’re Making and How to Focus Better 17 Traits That Make a Successful Person Stand out from the Crowd

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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