View Full Version : Question of the week: What's your secret for getting things done?
06-27-2011, 08:52 AM
This weeks guest on Kitchen Table Talks (http://bit.ly/tpnktt) is Darin Hager of Heyday Footwear and he's a one man wrecking machine of a business.
He does everything! And many of us are forced to handle everything in our businesses every day. So this QOW is intended to reveal
your secret weapons, your tools for making the most of your days.
What's your secret?
I'll be paying close attention to this thread, I need all the secret weapons I can get! Lately my most useful tricks have been simply better organization on my to-do's...thanks to Springpad, Evernote, etc. Once I finally admitted to myself that "no, you really WON'T remember this in half an hour so write it down NOW, dumbass" things got a lot better! :)
The other thing I'm working on is trying to allocate time between immediate tasks and long-term projects. It's too easy to spend all day on what's due now, and probably with good reason. But if I can devote even a small piece of time to something that may never be due, at least I'm keeping long-term ideation alive in my head, which helps me feel like I'm making the most of the day.
06-27-2011, 11:01 AM
I'm so with you on To Do lists - I won't remember it in 30 seconds let alone half an hour if I don't write it down - I bought a nice Moleskine diary in December and vowed to write ideas, To Dos etc into it as they occur to me - half way through the year (where did it go) and the pages are a lot fuller than they were in January so something must be working. I'm also getting a lot better at using Evernote - the android app is very effective.
Longer term To Dos / Projects are always harder - I remember going to a time management seminar 15 or so years ago and being given the concept of the four boxes: Important-Urgent Do now, Important-Not urgent, do next, UnImportant-Urgent, scrap, UnImportant-Not Urgent, scrap. The hardest thing to master is getting rid of the last two, I also remember being told that the real value is in the Important-Not Urgent tasks because these are the ones most people don't do. 15 years later and I'm still way off where I should be on time management but I notice I get quite a bit done.
06-27-2011, 11:28 AM
I'm with Josh! Better organization has been my main secret weapon!
Just organizing all my ideas, project info, web research, and client info in electronic & searchable format (via a mash-up of OneNote & Act & Outlook with Xobni) save me extra time and has boosted my productivity by leaps and bounds.
My second secret weapon is outsourcing certain tasks. Do you have tasks that take time away from what you do best (selling, writing, whatever)? Could you be making an extra $25, $50, $75+ in the time it takes to do a task that could be outsourced for $10? It's a no brainer!
06-27-2011, 12:19 PM
My first and biggest secret is to write it down. This includes having paper and a writing instrument close to my bed.
I heard the same story about the four boxes that Simon mentions above. I can never manage more than two. Box A is always what needs to be done today or tomorrow at the latest. Box B contains items I'm not really sure about, but I keep them in case they became urgent. About every six months, I take the bottom half of Box B and dispose of it.
06-27-2011, 07:25 PM
I'll second or third Josh as well. I've gotten much more proficient at managing my to-do lists. I use Wunderlist (http://www.wunderlist.com/), which syncs across all my computers and my smartphone. I started strong initially with Evernote last year in combination with Getting Things Done by David Allen, but it's kind of gone by the wayside this year. I like the Action Method a bit better from Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky.
For my most recent project my partner and I have been using Podio (http://podio.com) and Google Docs to push things along. I'm always up for tips. I'm out an about during KTT tomorrow, but I look forward to the watching the replay.
I am a procrastinator. This is wha school taught me about deadlines (wait until the last minute). Lately I have battled this with evernote and setting calendar reminders (setting due dates on stuff).
06-27-2011, 10:38 PM
Mostly my moleskine notebook where I write down everything that is important. At least for short-term and tasks that for the most part only involve me.
As a team gets involved it's basecamp from 37 signals.
And over the last 5 months having Shelby Sapusek onboard to remind me of deadlines and keep me honest when I want to delay things....thats' been huge. Takes a lot of guts to tell the guy signing your check he might be wrong and she does it at least once week.
Oh, and realizing you're wrong a lot and trusting your team, that helps get things done. :)
06-28-2011, 12:27 AM
My secret for getting things done is batching. Calls in one batch, emails in another, paperwork another, etc. I batch meetings and errands geogprahically, too, as much as possible.
Within a batch I determine the three most critical and do them first. That way if I can't finish the entire batch that day at least I've done the top three.
06-28-2011, 09:05 AM
One of the most effective things is to have an accountability partner in some way, shape, or form. In my profession as a coach/speaker/writer, I am very transparent about my goals and activities, so I use my social media channels as an informal means of being held accountable. I know that I would not be happy with myself if I'm not achieving what I set out to do, so I do announce it to the world deliberately so that I git r done.
Additionally, I have my own accountability partners, which includes mentors and coaches, and I strategically work with them to ensure I'm staying on-time and on-task with my short and long range goals. Having people celebrate your mini-triumphs with you along the way is very inspiring and motivating.
06-28-2011, 10:16 AM
I really struggle with getting things done for a few reasons:
- I am getting over perfectionism/procrastination
- I am easily distracted
- Our daughter (2yo) goes to preschool in the mornings only, but she will be going full days in the Fall
- I haven't found my ideal "to do" system yet, I am very visual and need things in my face, preferably a cattle-prod. I have attempted GTD many times.
- when my daughter is home, I am the primary caregiver, hubby is busy coding. Today we are potty training.
Thanks to Josh's rec above I am going to try Springpad, it looks very visual and I'll be watching this thread with interest.
06-28-2011, 12:35 PM
I have a mix. I use Evernote to organize my writing and posts, Things to keep my near-term and other future tasks organized by project or area. It also give me the option of creating notes in an area of things I would like to do.
I also have Post it notes, a Moleskin, and Whiteboard I try to keep it fun and write things done where they can be easily handled.
I agree with Josh and many others in organizing myself a few minutes a Day when I don't, I pay for it heavily. Based on suggestion by Chris I use Egg timers to make sure I am on track in completing tasks. To make sure I bill clients the most precise time I have my Freshbooks timers on my mac, iphone and Ipad.
To get my head cleared first thing in the day I do based on Joe Sorge's Recommendations I do the Morning Pages.
When in a Team I use Podio which we are very happy with at the moment.
Since I get bored using some tools I switch it up depending on the project or scenario.
06-28-2011, 03:40 PM
The last few weeks I've been working on my systems and efficiency. Here's what's working.
Less social media, more targeted focus. My Twitter and FB use has become much less frequent and more strategic which allows me more time to get things done.
Planning to do fewer specific tasks from start to finish in a day. I used to break up tasks over days, now I pick 2-3 and complete them.
I do schedule down time. Now that summer is here, my son is around more (Mondays and Fridays to be exact). Those days I'll be much less productive and I'm planning for that to happen. I figure I have to get to the beach sometime : ).
Intense focus on one project at a time. This is new for me and a big deal. I used to have a few projects all churning at once, but not getting much traction on any. Now I have one- my membership program that I just launched and want to grow. All my marketing, networking and content development is going into that now through December 2011. I have a 'reach' goal to get to by that time and without focus it wont' happen.
So far my stress level is much less. The focus is taking time to develop. We really do rewire our brain with all this surfing and browser refreshing. So I need to retrain my brain to focus more and I'm getting there. It feels so great to get things done, rather than worry about getting them done...
06-28-2011, 07:56 PM
A few of my secrets:
Know the important projects and the next action on each one. I use a folder for this.
Know what activities are Income Producing Activities. Give the IPAs higher priority than other activities.
Make and follow a Six Most Important Things list every working day.
Plan your week on Sunday night. Don't wait until you start the day to plan it. That's too late.
Your wifi or Internet connection has a switch. Use it to help you focus.
Recent experiment: I moved Twitter off my second monitor of my working computer, to my iPad while working. I'll open TweetDeck for short bursts only as needed during the workday. The iPad lets me know as mentions happen, and I can decide to reply or ignore.
I'm starting to think I ought to write these up as often as I share them.
Secret: I learned most of these as a Mary Kay representative. Say what you want, they do know how to do training at Mary Kay.
06-29-2011, 11:45 AM
I like "Income Producing Activities" - that's a good focus point!
Installed Springpad as recommended by Josh above - seems more intuitive and simpler than Evernote so it may be a keeper. Still like pencil and paper though!
06-29-2011, 07:42 PM
I don't think I have secrets: I often feel that things get done because of clarity, and don't get done because of confusion. So I believe that any system that will allow more clarity to someone will work with that person (and the same system might bring confusion to another one, so I am careful at adopting a system that will work for ME and not necessarily for everyone).
- Noting things down of course
- Having priorities that match goals
- Planning and evaluating
- Scheduling and keeping track
are my main areas of focus.
Now that I have written this down for you, I am thinking that maybe I do have a secret: flexibility.
Organization and time-management often rhyme with rigorism and discipline but because of the confusion factor I was mentioning above, I observed that often I get frustrated at things not done, and tend to beat myself up for my lack of discipline or consistency. Which doesn't serve any purpose of course! So if I add a dose of flexibility, I can let go.
I do miss deadlines, opportunities, and often have found myself pulling my hair off (I have lots of hair fortunately because it's happened a lot) because I can't find papers or can't remember where I have jotted down some things that were supposed to pick my brains, but hey, I am still kicking and running, and getting results in the areas that are most important to me.
So yes, my secret for getting things done would be to accept that sometimes they don't, and start over.
07-05-2011, 03:11 PM
I have a few rules that I follow:
#1 I use TeuxDeux.com for my personal to-do lists (home, personal etc) and actionmethod.com for my big projects. Both sync from my browser to my phone and iPad. I use those dilligently.
#2. I batch and use a Pomodoro timer (free iPhone app). 25 minutes per task, focus till done - lots of short bursts of productivity work better for me.
#3. Check email only a few times a day. (Yes, I fail at this regularly)
#4. Focus on doing the 3 most important things on my to do list first thing in the morning, before I do anything else.
07-05-2011, 10:23 PM
Yep. Write. It. Down. I learned that quickly from Jim Raffel and while I didn't acquire the coveted moleskine notebook, I did just start a notebook of my own for my business recently. Suddenly, things are much clearer. I can refer to things quickly and enter them into a computer system later. And, as I have an affinity for print products, I just like having a business journal handy for reference later. I think it will be very useful down the road to look back and see what I was doing when and how I handled certain issues.
07-06-2011, 09:22 AM
and while I didn't acquire the coveted moleskine notebook, I did just start a notebook of my own for my business recently. Suddenly, things are much clearer. I can refer to things quickly and enter them into a computer system later.
Shelby, your notebook is way cooler than my moleskine. At least for you.
I just realized I do all those things you listed. I'm often updating basecamp from pages of notes taken during client meetings. Great insight.
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