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Defining What Done and Doing Look Like

Defining What Done and Doing Look Like
    From fjota on flickr

    I have been a productive worker wannabe for several years now. I have read a ton of books, prescribed GTD as much as I could, bought all the gear in the world that anyone recommended as being the best, and constantly failed at it. It wasn’t until I slowed down, settled with a set of tools and got back to the basics that I started to understand what being productive was.

    Being productive isn’t using your gear or being knowing the Getting Things Done flow chart inside and out. David Allen reminds us what being productive is at its most basic level:

    “You have to define what done means and what doing looks like.”

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    It’s really that simple. What I think is so amazing is that GTD is a very basic idea yet when we are thrown into the “rat race” of work and life, we easily forget to apply the basics. Either that or we have yet to master them. Let’s look closely at defining done and doing.

    Define What Done Means

    This was something that took a long time to “get”. I understood that defining a project was naming something that had more than one action to accomplish, but I still had trouble defining my outcomes with the project. Not so much with smaller things like, “schedule some time with a [insert friend name here] and catch up” but more along the lines of “development new web service testing suite for [insert web service here]”.

    There are hard edges with some projects while others are like a big ball of stuff just sitting there and taking up space. We have to be able to get through the stuff, find the things that are important, and then define what complete looks like. Luckily there is an awesome way to do this; use Mr. Allen’s 5 Phases of Project Planning. Here they are in a nutshell:

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    1. Define purpose and guiding principles. (Why is this being done?)
    2. What is the successful outcome? (What would it be like if this were totally successful?)
    3. Brainstorm (Get creative and write down and link anything that comes to mind about the project)
    4. Organizing (Create priorities and an order to the project)
    5. Identify next actions (keep reading for this)

    Now, like I said before, some project are pretty self-evident in what needs to happen. But there are many that are large and nebulous that need a clear outcome and a structure to complete. Once you define what “done” is, then you can move onto deciding what doing looks like.

    What Doing Looks like

    Coming up with the next action of a project may seem like its easy, but in practice can be very difficult. The biggest problem is that we tend to “over-generalize” our projects and tasks and add things to our lists like:

    • Plan birthday party for Amy
    • Create brand new web app for ‘X’
    • Lose your protruding gut

    These are some great things to accomplish, but they are far from being next actions. What we need to do is granularize our projects and get down to the “dummy level” with our tasks. We have talked about this many times before at Lifehack, but it needs repeating as this is the heart of getting more accomplished and being less stressed while doing it.

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    I liken this to the idea of “cranking widgets” and checking off easy todo tasks off your list one at time. This will eventually lead you to completely large scale projects while keeping yourself way less stressed.

    So, instead of “plan birthday party for Amy”, I’d better create a highly doable next action like, “draft a list of people to invite to Amy’s party.” Then I can get the ball rolling. In fact, all it takes to make a dead project move forward is identifying a single next action that you could do given the right context.

    That’s what doing looks like.

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    It’s all about the basics

    Like I said before, I know that if you are a GTD or productivity kind of guy or gal that this stuff is pretty basic. But the thing is that staying productive is all about mastering the basics. When life and work sets in and you are bombardo with the “real world” it’s important to know the basics well and use them immediately.

    More by this author

    CM Smith

    A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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    Last Updated on February 19, 2019

    How to Break Bad Habits: I Broke 3 Bad Habits in Less Than 2 Months

    How to Break Bad Habits: I Broke 3 Bad Habits in Less Than 2 Months

    The cycle of bad habits is what keeps us living small and stops us from reaching our true potential. Breaking a bad habit isn’t as hard as it seems; despite being a CEO of a company and raising two children, I still managed to break 3 bad habits I had within 2 months. Yes, that’s quitting one habit in less than 21 days.

    I took steps to eliminate them one at a time. Habits such as drinking Coke every day, slouching when sitting and not having a consistent exercise routine.

    So how did I break these habits? I used the Control Alternate Delete Method (Ctrl Alt Del).

    What is this method and why is it so effective? Read on to find out how to break bad habits with this unique method.

    How to break bad habits with the Control Alternate Delete Method

      We all notice on some level what our bad habits are. A lot of the time we choose to ignore the negative ways these impact us.

      For me, I was sitting most of the day in front of my computer at work in a slouching position. I drank Coke every single day in an attempt to stay awake. I put off any kind of exercise regime because I felt that it was better to just relax and have fun after a whole day of work. As a result, I was leading a really unhealthy lifestyle suffering from weight gain and back pain.

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      I needed to make a change.

      I started to read books about building habits such as The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, The One Thing by Gary W. Keller and Jay Papasan, and The Now Habit by Neil Fiore. After reading all these books, I’ve come up with my own method to quit bad habits — The Ctrl Alt Del Method.

      I started by focusing on just one bad habit, the first one being the sheer amount of Coke I was consuming each day.

      Every day I applied the Ctrl Alt Del Method and after two weeks, not only did I stop drinking Coke every day (I only drank one can in 2 weeks), but I started the better habit of drinking 8 glasses of water every day instead.

      After eliminating one bad habit, I moved on to the other two with this same method and a month later I was:

      • Hitting the gym twice a week.
      • Improving my sitting posture, not only at the office but also at home and everywhere else, improving my back pain.
      • Gaining core muscle which improved my back pain as well.
      • Losing fat around my waist which went from 36″ (considered obese level) to 32″ (normal level).

      If I can improve my life using this method, then so can you. Using this structure to eliminate your bad habits will increase your success and replace your bad habits with more positive ones.

      Control: Master your desire

        Identify your triggers

        Bad habits such as drinking alcohol, smoking and snacking too much trigger the release of dopamine, a feel-good chemical in the brain.[1] Although you might not like the end result, they give you a positive outcome in the moment. This is pure psychology.

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        It’s important to identify what is triggering you to continually act out your bad habit. This isn’t always an easy step because our habits have been built up over a long period of time.

        If you need help in identifying your triggers, here’s a list of common bad habits and their triggers: 13 Bad Habits You Need to Quit Right Away

        Self-reflect

        To help you work out your triggers, do a bit of self-reflection. Ask yourself questions such as:

        • What comfort are you getting from this habit?
        • Why do you need comfort?

        For example, I chose to drink coke because it tasted good and it made me feel good when I was stressed. I slouched only when I sat for too long working on my desk and started to feel tired. I skipped exercises because every day after work I felt I already did enough works and didn’t want to work out.

        If you choose to eat fast food every night, you’re probably telling yourself you’re too busy to cook. But ask yourself why? What are your priorities?

        Maybe you have a lack of self-worth that means you don’t have the self-love to want to look after your health. Perhaps it’s a sign you’re not making enough time for important routines like shopping and creating a healthy meal yourself. Maybe you’ve always had a belief that you’re a bad cook.

        Write a diary

        Write down your thoughts and feelings around this bad habit. Writing things down forces the brain to think harder.[2] This helps you to find the source to your stress or limiting negative beliefs.

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        Alternate: Find a replacement

          Find a positive alternative habit

          Once you think you’ve discovered your trigger, try to find a similar but healthy option. This is where I replaced Coke with lemon water; slouching with simply taking a walk and stretching my back every hour; and chilling at home after work with workout exercises that I actually found fun.

          You could decide to walk to the office instead of driving or getting off the bus earlier to walk. You could switch to a healthier breakfast cereal instead of grabbing a sugary snack when you head out of the door.

          By doing this, you aren’t getting rid of the act altogether like you would if you completely gave something up with nothing to fill that void. This helps your brain accept the improved habit more.

          Create a defence plan

          Everyone has moments of weakness and that want to revert back to the bad habit will rear its ugly head. This is where a plan can help counteract these moments.

          Think of things you can do when the temptations come. For example, if you want to check your phone less, ask your friend or partner to keep it for you or switch it off and read a book. If you’re a starter for an exercise routine, like me, get someone to do it with you to keep you accountable.

          Decide on something you will do once you feel triggered to go back to your old habit. Repeating these positive alternative habits consistently will help wire your brain to see them as your normal new habit over time.

          Delete: Remove temptations

            Remove stuff that reminds you of the bad habit

            Getting rid of anything that reminds you of your bad habit is essential. For example, I got rid of coke in my office and at home and replaced my usual office chair with an exercise ball. It makes it much easier to stop slipping back in a weak moment.

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            Avoid all kinds of temptations

            In the same vein, avoid places or people that you know will tempt you back into that bad habit. Don’t go to the supermarket on an empty stomach to avoid the temptation to buy trashy snacks, don’t drive past that fast food joint but find an alternative route instead, say no more often to the friend you know will get you drunk again this weekend.

            It’s all about not putting yourself in the situation where you’re in danger of relapsing.

            Conclusion

            The Control Alternate Delete Method uses the right steps you need to overcome your need to indulge in your bad habits. Working with your core psychology, emotions and feelings behind your actions is what makes this method effective and easy to apply to all bad habits you have.

            Bad habits are easy to form and making changes can seem difficult but remember that it’s all about consistency and repetition.

            Start using the Control Alternate Delete Method today and you can stop a bad habit permanently.

            What bad habit do you want to put a stop to once and for all? You must set aside time and pick one bad habit to focus on. Start using the steps to increase and maintain more positivity in your life moving forward.

            More Resources About Changing Habits

            Featured photo credit: Picjumbo via picjumbo.com

            Reference

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