Recently I have been getting a ton of questions surrounding productivity. The essence of each question has been the same: How do I get everything done?
And you know how I answer? In a simple two word sentence….
That’s right, you don’t ever get everything done. The whole idea that you can is a myth. There will always be more to do – our lives aren’t static, they’re dynamic. We’ll be faced with ever changing obligations. And if we’re lucky, we’ll discover new things we want to do.
So if you can’t get it all done, then what can you do to feel more in control? What can you do to feel good at the end of the day? How can you feel satisfied with your level productivity? I’ve six tips that will help you be more productive, plus they’ll help you feel less stressed about what you didn’t get to.
First of all, you have understand your limitations. You only have so much energy and time to work with (it’s a scientific fact, it’s not a flaw in your system). Given that, you must be deliberate in how you invest those resources.
Second, you have to realize that the power to choose is yours – that’s right, yours. For real. You cannot allow yourself to get tricked into thinking that you are at the mercy of others. So you must take responsibility for how you use your time and where you focus your effort.
Third, you must get clear on your priorities. What do you value? What is most important to you? Clarify these and let them guide your decisions. You need to thoroughly question commitments and tasks that are not they in alignment with your priorities – they are an indication that you are misusing your energy and not being true to yourself.
And by the way, this is not selfish. It’s self care. Unfortunately, many of us have been socialized to believe that it’s better (meaning more noble) to put the needs of others before our own. But that’s a belief that really isn’t going to serve you well if you want to reach your own goals. You’ll always be disappointing yourself. And here’s a little secret – playing the role of the martyr only leads to resentment. Plus, when people see your martyr-like behavior it makes them feel indebted and uncomfortable. Bottom line, it’s a losing proposition.
If you need to look at it from another perspective, think about this: When you take care of yourself first, you empower others to do the same – you are modeling the kind of behavior that frees everyone from the shackles of sacrifice.
Fourth, you need to get comfortable with a never ending to-do list. As I stated at the beginning, we’re dynamic, creative and expanding beings. Because of this, I consider having a lengthy master to-do list the normal state – it’s the way it should be.
Of course this begs the question of whether or not all those items on your to-do list are really important, or are they the things that would be nice to do but aren’t really critical. Sometimes just recognizing the difference helps us relax about not getting to them. There are so many things I would *like* to do, so I always ask myself if the task is in alignment with my priorities. If it isn’t, I let it go. And I regularly cull my task list of anything that is nonessential. It’s always amazing how many things I find no longer necessary.
A way to get comfortable with you having more you want to do than time to do it is to predetermine your Most Important Tasks (MIT) for each day (make it realistic though!). These are the things that move us closer to our goals. They should have priority.
If you get these MIT done, you can consider your day a success. Why do I say that? Because most people never get to the important stuff. Most people focus on whatever seems most urgent (greasing squeaky wheels) and they allow distractions to derail them (chasing shiny objects).
Fifth, ditch the multitasking – it does not work. You must dedicate time to focus on your priorities. This is critical – we can only focus on one thing at a time, so if you allow distractions to take you away from the task at hand you’ll effectively be engaging in self-sabotage. Sounds harsh, but it’s true.
Sixth, and this a favorite of mine, keep a to-done list. This is especially helpful when I feel like I have been ‘busy’ but my to do list hasn’t changed. I take a quick inventory of the tasks I did do. I can quickly analyze whether I was truly productive (that is moving toward my goals) or if I got caught up in the busyness bubble (doing non-important stuff).
Confession – it’s about equal for me. Some days I get distracted by the shiny objects (I am a research junkie). And some days I move on something important that wasn’t planned (like responding to a new opportunity that aligns perfectly with my vision). When it’s latter situation I feel great, when it’s the former I use that as motivation to be more deliberate in my actions going forward.
So, what about you? Are you ready to relax and get comfortable with your to-do list? If you’d like some support, I invite you to join our private group – I’d be thrilled to welcome you! It’s the perfect place to ask questions, get answers and gather feedback. You can find us here.