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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 November 16, 2020

    10 Good Habits to Have in Life to Be More Successful

    10 Good Habits to Have in Life to Be More Successful

    Habits are behaviors and patterns that you showcase by default. Many good habits to have will enable you to carry out crucial activities like taking a shower, brushing your teeth, and getting ready for work. 

    Interestingly, you follow this routine every day without thinking twice. Your unconscious daily habits create room for your brain to perform more advanced activities like problem-solving and choosing what book to read.

    Everyone has habits, and several of those habits are activated every day. I would classify them into three groups:

    • Habits that you hardly notice as they have become a major part of your life, such as brushing teeth or getting dressed.
    • Good habits to have to be more successful, like eating healthy, exercising, and reading books.
    • Habits that are harmful, like procrastinating, smoking, or overeating.

    Good habits are fundamental to becoming successful in life. Yet, as significant as habits are, some lack the knowledge of their capabilities.

    While much of the emphasis falls on bad habits to break, it’s just as important to focus on good habits to have and cultivate in your daily routine.

    Here, we’ll talk about 10 good habits to have to be more successful in life.

    1. Begin Your Day with Meditation

    I recommend mindful meditation early in the morning. This practice helps you to place yourself in the present moment. Consequently, it enables you to be mindful of challenging situations during the day.

    Different stressors may trigger as you go through the day; meditation helps you to remain calm before taking on the challenges.

    Personally, it helps me to devise strategies and think about ideas. Meditation is a good habit to have if you want to be connected to what’s significant in your life.

    2. Be Grateful for What You Have

    It’s not uncommon to waste time thinking of what’s not enough. You become immersed in those daunting challenges. However, challenges justify the presence of hope. The only strategy you have to stop focusing on your problems is to focus on what you have.

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    Gratitude is a time-tested pathway to success, health, and happiness. It redirects your focus to what you have from what you lack. Try writing a list of things you’re grateful for each day in a gratitude journal, or make it a habit to say one thing you’re grateful for when you sit down to dinner with your family.

    3. Smile

    Can you pause and smile before you continue reading this?

    Now, here is what just happened based on research conducted by the Association for Psychological Science; you set a pace for living a happier life when you smile. A genuine smile, or what’s called a Duchenne smile, is a good habit to have if you want to find spiritual, emotional, and mental peace of mind.[1]

    Smiling induces the release of molecules that function towards fighting stress. The physiological state of your body determines the state of your mind. When you slouch or frown, your mind takes cues relating to unhappiness and depression. However, once you adjust yourself by putting on a smile, you begin to feel a new level of excitement and vibrancy.

    4. Start Your Day With a Healthy Breakfast

    Starting your day with a healthy breakfast is a good habit to have and forms a crucial part of your life. Nevertheless, about 31 million Americans skip their breakfast each day.[2]

    If you are fed up hearing that breakfast is a crucial component of your day, you are only fighting the truth. If you want to become more successful, you need to “break your fast” with healthy foods every morning.

    This habit is not difficult to form if you usually rush out the door every single morning. You can wake up earlier to fix yourself a meal so you don’t break down during the day.

    Get inspired by these 20 Healthy Breakfast Choices That Will Save You Time.

    5. Exercise Daily

    One of the good habits to have is to exercise your body and muscles on a daily basis. You don’t have to run a marathon or lift tons of weights. You only need to engage in activities that oxygenate your blood and inject endorphins in your body, trying to squeeze in at least 15 minutes every day.

    Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, classified exercise as a good habit to maximize his already jam-packed schedule.[3] He said:

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    “I wake up by 5, meditate for 30 minutes, seven-minute workout times three, make coffee, and check-in.”

    He said on Product Hunt that he follows this routine every day as it gives him a steady-state that empowers him to be more productive.

    6. Manage Your Time

    Another good habit is the act of managing your time effectively. This goes a long way toward impacting your achievement.

    Time management is what separates the successful from the rest of the world as we all possess the same amount of time. How you leverage time determines your potential to succeed in life[4].

    Good habits to have: Time management tips

      So how do you manage your time effectively?

      Here’s Jack Dorsey’s recommendation in one of the Techonomy events:

      “I accomplish effective time management by theming my days and practicing self-discipline. These themes help me handle distractions and interactions. If a request or task does not align with the theme for that day, I don’t do it. This sets a cadence for everyone in the company to deliver and evaluate their progress”.

      And this is Dorsey’s weekly theme layout:[5]

      • Monday – Management
      • Tuesday – Product
      • Wednesday – Marketing and growth
      • Thursdays – Developers and partnerships
      • Fridays – Culture and recruiting
      • Saturdays – Taking off
      • Sundays – Reflection, feedback, strategy, and preparing for Monday

      No wonder he was able to run two companies when others were struggling with one job.

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      7. Set Daily Goals With Intentions

      Everyone has goals, whether they relate to business or personal life. The truth is, we’re all tending towards a particular direction. Nevertheless, while long-term goals can offer you direction, it’s your daily goals that help you develop short-term goals that are essential for your success.

      Long-term goals may not give you the motivation you need to keep on, but when you implement your short-term milestones daily, you become fired up, and you can overcome the challenges that come with taking on bigger tasks.

      Here’s the main truth: Successful people don’t set goals without establishing their intentions. According to Jennifer Cohen of Forbes,[6]

      “What helps you to achieve your desired expectation is ensuring intentions accompany your daily goals.”

      8. Seek Inspiration

      It is usually difficult to be inspired for a considerable length of time. Sometimes, you become discouraged and feel like giving up on your goals when things are not working out as intended.

      A practical approach to stay on top of the situation is to inspire yourself each day. When you wake up in the morning (after meditation), watch some motivational videos, and let the story of great leaders inspire you.

      Establish what Anthony Robbins called the “hour of power.” Determine how many minutes you spend, but make it count. Inspiration is the fuel for achievement because when you can conceive it in your mind, you can accomplish it.

      Michal Solowow, an investor and the founder of Mitex, puts it this way[7]:

      “The problems I encounter in everyday life motivate me to find solutions. This is a self-propelling mechanism. Becoming a billionaire was never a motivating factor.”

      9. Save Steadily, Invest With All Prudence

      I can’t exhaust the good habits to have without talking about saving and investing. Most times, you overlook the significance of saving for the future when you are living in your present moment. According to CNBC, a $1000 emergency will propel several Americans into debt.[8]

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      However, it is not enough to save, and you must invest your funds and be wise with them. If you pay attention to this now, you will set yourself up for a life of success in the future. Ensure you save at least six months in your emergency account so you can be prepared for any future emergency.

      If you’re looking for a simple way to save money, check out the following video:

      10. Budget and Track Your Spending

      Benjamin Franklin warned of taking the precaution of little expenses. He said:

      “A small leak sinks a great ship.”

      It is easy to discard little expenses, but the truth is they always add up. This happens when you fail to budget.

      Budgeting is a good habit to have, and it can impact your financial life significantly. The money you spend on extravagant lifestyles can be saved and invested in your future instead.

      The Bottom Line

      Endeavor to start developing good habits to have to become more successful as you journey through life. The quicker you cultivate them, the faster you will achieve your goals.

      More About Cultivating Good Habits

      Featured photo credit: Andrijana Bozic via unsplash.com

      Reference

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