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Productivity Made Simple: How to Keep Your Projects from Killing You

Productivity Made Simple: How to Keep Your Projects from Killing You

    Some projects can be a real pain in the you know what. Not all of them, of course. But there are some that just keep us awake at night. There can be many reasons of such a situation. Sometimes the tasks that need to be done are simply difficult to perform. Other times it’s the amount of time required that frightens us.

    But sometimes the most frightening thing of them all is that we don’t know what’s going on in a project, and can’t seem to find a way to plan everything out and get a clear picture of what needs to be done.

    In the previous parts of the series we were discussing what to do once everything is perfectly laid out. Once we’re clear about the exact tasks that need to be done, and once we even know when we want to take care of them. But there’s one part missing, and that’s of course the part of planning your projects and selecting your priorities.

    Most projects we decide to execute should be defined and planned according to five main steps. These are:

    1. Setting goals and rules.
    2. Defining your vision for the end result.
    3. Brainstorming.
    4. Organizing.
    5. Selecting next tasks.

    Of course, not every project requires such an elaborate sequence of steps. Some projects are really simple, and defining things like goals or visions would be a complete overkill.

    If you just want to get your car fixed then you don’t need any smart rules to be able to get it done … you probably know what needs to be done without any additional help.

    However, GTD was designed to be able to handle any kind of project, no matter how big or small.

    The steps mentioned above are doing just that. They can be applied to anything. And after you go through all of them you can be sure that your project will be clear and understandable. This, in the end, will improve your chance of executing the project successfully.

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    To explain this whole thing we’ll have to leave our simple examples and take on something a bit more complicated… So imagine that you’re buying a new apartment for you and your family.

    1. Setting goals and rules.

    This is the part where you answer the questions of why and what for.

    For our example the question is: Why do you want a new apartment?

    Some possible answers: you want to live closer to your workplace, you want your kids to live closer to school, you want to have more space for yourself and your family, you want to live in the city center because all the interesting things are happening there, you want a more modern environment, and so on.

    The reasons behind every project are of course different. Furthermore, personal projects are entirely different in nature from business-centered projects. But they still have a lot in common. If, for example, instead of buying a new apartment you’re starting a business then the question remains – why do you want to start a business?

    So no matter what you’re thinking of doing you always need to start with your goals and rules. Goals we have covered (it’s the why). Rules are even easier to grasp.

    Going back to our example; some rules: what is your budget? where do you want to live (what neighborhood)? do you want to get one room for everybody? do you need a garage? and so on.

    Once you have all these things lined up you can go to the next step.

    2. Defining your vision for the end result.

    This is where you’re answering the question of what.

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    Create a complete vision of what you want to get as the end result of the project. The more details the better.

    Your vision reflects the goals and rules you’ve set in the previous step. The goals are the main guidelines on what should and shouldn’t be done inside a given project. So now, you’re using these goals to come up with your vision for the final result of the project.

    A possible vision for our project:

    I want a 4 bedroom apartment in the city center. At least X square meters of space. Large kitchen. It must have a garage. The price should be less than X. Modern furniture.

    This sounds like a good vision. Of course there’s a lot more things we could include here, but for now it’ll do.

    The next step is to take this vision and do some brainstorming around it.

    3. Brainstorming.

    Brainstorming is probably the most creative activity for any project. You’ve been doing it many times, I’m sure. However, brainstorming has very little point when done prior to executing the two previous steps.

    A brainstorming session always has to be created around a strongly defined main idea, so we have some guidance and know where we’re going with it. And this is exactly what defining goals and vision gives us.

    The brainstorming session itself is a very simple thing to do. Essentially, it’s the answer to the question of how.

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    Some people like to set some restrictions, for example, time constraints. This is good if we’re working on a given project at work, and more than one person is doing the brainstorming. But if it’s just you then you can spend as much time as you want. Of course, within reason.

    Start by taking your goals and visions and placing them in a visible place. Then simply let your creative mind loose and write down every idea that comes to mind about the things you might do in the project. And I mean EVERY.

    This is not the time to assess the ideas and erase the bad ones. Not now. This is the time to write everything down, no matter how stupid it sounds at first.

    Our example: call the real estate agency, go to IKEA, hire a contractor, ask around and find out if it’s a good neighborhood or not, choose paint colors, get a full-size Elvis sculpture, get an internet connection, get a bank loan, hire a van, check all the installations (electricity, etc.), and so on. The list for such an example can go on and on, so we’ll just stop here.

    Once you reach a point when you can’t think of anything else it’s probably a good moment to stop brainstorming and go to the next step.

    4. Organizing.

    Yes, this is where you get to select the good ideas and remove the bad ones. Brainstorming should give you a lot of both.

    Why brainstorming and organizing at the same time is not the best choice? Because these activities are opposing to one another. On one hand you have to be creative and invent stuff, but on the other you have to get back to the ground and be reasonable while assessing it. Doing this at the same time simply doesn’t work. That’s why organizing is a separate step.

    The process is simple. Just look at your brainstorming list and remove everything that doesn’t have much to do with your goals and visions, or is simply stupid (like the Elvis sculpture … or is it?).

    Once you spend some time on looking through all those things your brain will automatically start to arrange things according to their priorities and what needs to be done first. You should use this state of mind and quickly shift to the final step.

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    5. Selecting next tasks.

    This is where our old friend – the Next Tasks List – comes back into play.

    At this point selecting the next task for your project should be easy. After the phase of organizing all ideas you should have a nice set of actionable things that are in tune with your goals and visions. Things that are absolutely crucial for implementing the project. Now, simply select your next task for the project.

    Everything you have at this point goes into your Projects List. And the next possible task goes to your Next Tasks List. From that point on you can go back to your usual work (GTD style). This is where everything ties together.

    What’s next?

    Basically, that’s it. All you have to do now is use the system to help you get more organized and execute your projects more effectively. Both in personal life and in business.

    Just to recap, and point you towards the specific parts in this series.

    I admit, there’s a lot to do if you want to have GTD fully implemented in your daily life. But would you rather be running around like a chicken with its head cut off because you don’t have a clue what to do next? Probably not.

    One final encouragement for you: if you think you don’t have time for playing around with such methodologies then suspend your disbelief for a moment and have a little trust because after you implement GTD you will find time for everything.

    Feel free to share how GTD is working for you. I’m curious to know. I, for example, have been using it since 2009 and it truly works like a charm.

    (Photo credit: Productivity or Motivation via Shutterstock)

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    Karol Krol

    Blogger, published author, and founder of a site that's all about delivering online business advice

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    Last Updated on August 20, 2019

    26 Useful Things to Learn Now That Will Change Your Life

    26 Useful Things to Learn Now That Will Change Your Life

    If you pay attention to your everyday life careful enough, you’ll know that you can learn from everything and everyone you come across. Our life is basically full of useful lessons that we should learn.

    Here are 26 useful things to learn that Abhishek A. Singh shared on Quora. Let’s see how these life theories would lead you to live a different life.

    1. Primacy and recency: People mostly remember the first and last things that occurred, barely the middle.

    When scheduling an interview, ask the employer the time slots they do interviews and try to be the first or the last.

    2. If you work in a bar or in customer service of any kind, put a mirror behind you at the counter.

    In this way, angry customers who approach you will have to see themselves in the mirror behind you and the chance of them behaving irrationally will be lowered significantly.

    3. Once you make a sales pitch, don’t say anything else.

    This works in sales, but it can also be applied in other ways.

    My previous boss was training me and just gave me pointers. I was working at a gym trying to sell memberships. He told me that once I got all the small talk out of the way and presented the prices, the first person to talk would lose.

    It didn’t seem like a big deal but it actually worked. Often there were long periods of awkward silence as the person tried to come up with some excuses, but usually they bought.

    4. If you ask someone a question and they only partially answer, just wait.

    If you stay silent and keep eye contact, they will usually continue to talk.

    5. Chew gum when you’re approaching a situation that would make you nervous, like public speaking or bungee jumping.

    When we eat, our brain tell ourselves, “I would not be eating if I were danger. So I’m not in danger.” This has helped me to stay calm.

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    6. People will always remember how you made them feel, not what you said.

    Also, most people like talking about themselves; so ask lots of questions about them.

    7. When you’re learning something new, teach it to a friend. Let them ask you questions about it.

    If you’re able to teach something well, you will be sure that you’ve understood it very well.

    8. If you get yourself to be really happy and excited to see other people, they will react the same to you.

    It doesn’t always happen the first time, but it will definitely happen the next time.

    9. The physical effects of stress — breathing rate and heart rate — are almost identical to the physical effects of courage.

    When you’re feeling stressed in any situations, immediately reframe it : Your body is getting ready to be courageous, you are NOT stressed.

    10. Pay attention to people’s feet.

    If you approach two people in the middle of a conversation, and they only turn their torsos and not their feet, they don’t want you to join in the conversation.

    Similarly, if you are in a conversation with a coworker who you think is paying attention to you and their torso is turned towards you but their feet are facing in another direction, they want the conversation to end.

    11. Confidence is more important than knowledge.

    Don’t be intimidated by anyone, everyone is playing a role and wearing a mask.

    12. If you pretend to be something for long enough, you will eventually become it.

    Fake it till you make it. Period.

    13. Not to be creepy, but if you want to stare at someone unashamedly, look directly past them and wait for them to try and meet your eyes.

    When they fail to do that, they’ll look around (usually nervously for a second) they won’t look at you again for some time. This is your chance to straight up stare at this person for at least 45 seconds.

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    And as suggested by Brian Stutzman:

    If you’re staring at someone and get caught, DON’T turn your head or your body to look away, because that just confirms that you were staring.

    Just move your EYEBALLS off the person. Unlike turning your head, it’s instantaneous. And the person will think you were just looking at something behind them and that they were mistaken for thinking you were staring. Do it confidently, and ignore any reaction from the person, and you can sell it every single time.

    After a second, you can even look back at them with a “Why are you staring at me?” look on your face to really cement the deal!

    14. Build a network.

    Become the information source, and let the information be yours. Even grabbing a beer with a former colleague once a year will keep you in the loop at the old office.

    Former coworkers might have gotten a new position in that office you always wanted to work in, great! Go to them for a beer, and ask about the office. It’s all about connections and information.

    15. If you are angry at the person in front of you driving like a grandmother…

    Pretend it is your grandmother, it will significantly reduce your road rage.

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      16. Stand up straight.

      No slouching, hands out of pockets, and head held up high. It’s not just a cliche — you literally feel better and people around you feel more confident in you.

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      17. Avoid saying “I think,” and “I believe” unless absolutely necessary.

      These are phrases that do not evoke confidence, and will literally do you no good.

      18. When feeling anxious, clean up your home or work space.

      You will feel happier and more accomplished than before.

      main-qimg-a0187fc57b3d874f251bd06c388991dd

        19. Always buy the first pitcher or round of drinks.

        You’d be surprised how long you could drink on the phrase “I bought the first one.”

        20. Going into an interview… be interested in your interviewers.

        If you focus on learning about them, you’ll seem to be more interesting and dynamic. (Again, people love to talk about themselves.)

        21. Pay attention parents! Always give your kid a choice that makes them think they are in control.

        For instance, when I want my son to put his shoes on I will say ,”do you want to put your star wars shoes on or your shark shoes on?”

        Pro-tip: In some cases, this works on adults.

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          22. Your action affects your attitude more than your attitude affects your action.

          As my former teacher said “You can jump and dance FOR joy, but you can also jump and dance yourself joyful.”

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          23. When a group of people laugh, people will instinctively look at the person they feel closest to in that group.

          Notice who you look at and who look at you when you laugh with a group of people!

          24. If you want to build rapport or gain someone’s trust quickly, match their body posture and position.

          If someone is sitting with her legs crossed, cross your legs. If they’re leaning away from you, lean away from them. If they’re leaning towards you, lean towards them.

          Mirroring and matching body position is a subconscious way to tell if someone trusts you or is comfortable with you. If you’re sitting with your arms crossed and you notice someone else is sitting with her arms crossed, that is a good indicator that you have/are successfully built/building rapport with that person.

          25. The Benjamin Franklin Effect (suggested by Matt Miller)

          I find the basis of the Benjamin Franklin effect is very useful and extends far beyond pencil borrowing. This knowledge is useful in the world of flirting too.

          Asking a girl in your class if you can borrow a pencil or her notes or to explain the homework will make her more likely to like you than if you let her borrow your stuff or are the one to help her. Even just asking a girl to buy you drinks (facetiously) leaves a much bigger impression than offering to or actually buying a girl a drink.

          The best part is it kills 3 birds with one stone: you get the advantages of the favor itself, the person subconsciously likes you more, and it makes them more open to future favors and conversation.

          26. Handle panic and anxiety behaviors by tapping fingers (Suggested by Jade Barbee)

          When you’re feeling stressed, worried or angry, tap each finger tip while thinking (or speaking quietly) a few specific words about what is bothering you. Repeat the same words while tapping each of your 10 fingers, including thumbs.

          For example, tap while saying, “I’m so angry with her…” Doing so will likely take the charge out of the feeling and return you to a more resourceful (better feeling) state of being. It’s called EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) or “tapping,” and it is useful in many life situations – emotional sadness, physical pain, food cravings, traumatic memories…

          Featured photo credit: Nicole Wolf via unsplash.com

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