Advertising

5 Ways How You Can Do Anything…But Not Everything

5 Ways How You Can Do Anything…But Not Everything
Advertising

After reading the following words by David Allen, do you feel disappointment or relief?

    My first reaction was relief — relief in the realization that it is not possible or realistic to get everything done. There will always be stuff on your to-do list and always projects that don’t get done. Accepting this reality is the first step to creating the life of stress-free productivity that Allen invites us to have.

    I’m a mother, a coach, a trainer, a blogger, an author, and a huge tennis fan, so this month my time is tight (Wimbledon season). Time is always tight for most of us; deciding what to focus our limited time on is the issue. So the question is this:

    Advertising

    How do we identify what is the “Anything” that we want in our lives, and what bits are the “Everything” — the things that can be removed from your lists of goals and to-dos?

    1. Single Focus

    The Happier Human blog has described human beings as “failure machines”. We are irrationally optimistic. We naively keep setting the same goals and not achieving them.

    Does this sound familiar?

    Although I thought the failure machine reference was a bit harsh, there is a point here to be made. Are you consistently attempting too much, or trying to do everything (and achieve everything) now, when this is not humanly possible?

    Advertising

    Chose your single focus — something that you are passionate about, something that will make a difference to all areas of your life if you were to achieve it…and stick with it.

    2. Delete and Dump

    Eliminate all the things in your life that are unnecessary. Declutter your house, go room to room removing all the things you no longer need. Stop activities that don’t add value to your life. Do an audit of all the time spent on television, the Internet or any other activity that is not life-enhancing. By creating awareness around how much time you spend on these things you will soon want to get rid of the dead wood. Delete unwanted files and emails from your computer. By doing all of this you will free up time and space to focus your time and attention on your goals, priorities and the important people in your life.

    3. Get a Man!

    Maybe you just need a man. A fellow coach once told me his elderly neighbour once suggested that what he needed was a man. Not for companionship, but to do chores around the house.

    Her philosophy was “only do what only you can do”. Get someone else to mow the lawn, clean the car, wash the windows, do your accounting. Any job that takes your attention away from what you do best. (I think I am going to go and get myself several — I hope my husband doesn’t mind!)

    Advertising

    4. Assert yourself

    Say “no” to tasks and work that will overload you. It is always great to do your bit for charity, a community group, or your child’s school but only say “yes” if you have extra time to commit to it.

    I believe there is a time in all of our lives to do our bit, but maybe now is not your time. If it is not your time don’t feel guilty about turning people down. Explain that in your current circumstances you cannot commit your time, smile, and walk away.

    5. Believe you Can

    I have been doing some work recently with young women who have zero self-belief. I believe that have been raised in a negative world where not being able to do something has become the norm in their lives. They are so conditioned to fail that they won’t even try.

    It’s a difficult job, but little by little with encouragement, support and positive reinforcement, their “I can’t” will change to “I will try” and eventually to “I can”. Positivity can be thought, optimism introduced and self belief nurtured.

    Advertising

    When it comes down to it, we all know that David Allen’s words are true. You really can do anything in this world — but only if you believe you can.

    (Photo credit: Word Impossible Transformed via Shutterstock)

    More by this author

    Ciara Conlon

    Productivity coach, speaker, blogger and author of Chaos to Control, a Practical Guide to Getting Things Done

    10 Green Tea Benefits and the Best Way to Drink It 7 Wise Ways to Find Focus and Get Things Done 15 Quick and Healthy Snacks to Help You Stick to Your Diet How Mindfulness for Productivity Can Improve Your Focus This Is Why Taking Action Creates Success

    Trending in Productivity

    1 7 Effective Ways To Motivate Employees in 2021 2 How a Project Management Mindset Boosts Your Productivity 3 5 Values of an Effective Leader 4 How to Motivate People Around You and Inspire Them 5 The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising

    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)
    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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!

    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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

    Advertising

    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

    Read Next