Making progress on our ‘to do’ lists always seems to feel a little more urgent this time of year. As we look toward January with optimism and the hope of a clean slate, here are 5 year-end productivity tips for those of us muddling through the nearly-done, oft-forgotten, and utterly neglected items still on our lists.
Try them individually as time management tactics or as a series of steps to help you move a few more items into the ‘DONE’ column and get a jump on the new year that’s ready to unfold.
Tip #1: Make An Appointment…With Yourself
It sounds a little silly, but on the spectrum of productivity tips, this is on the side that almost always works. Set a 15-minute block on your calendar and commit to keeping that appointment, just as you would any other. You’ll be tempted to bulldoze over it with “urgent” things that pop up, but keep the appointment. The urgent will always be hovering about, but inviting it to have a seat in the ‘waiting room’ for 15 minutes can help you make a dent in the things you want to tick off your list. During your appointment, do a quick brain dump of all the things that are lingering on your ‘to do’ list. Don’t judge, just dump! Once they’re all out of your head and on a page, sort them into categories of Act Now, Act Later, and Not My Circus. Prioritize the Act Now column in the order you want to tackle each item. Then, do the same for the Act Later column. For the Not My Circus items, you can either place them in a holding area for another time or let them go altogether.
Tip #2: Do the Math
When you’re trying to move the needle on your list from ‘to do’ to DONE, basic math is vital. We are an optimistic species, always trying to convince ourselves that things can be done in an unrealistically short amount of time, with little to no regard for the bounds of time and space. Instead of doing that, go through your Act Now list and assign the amount of time you expect you’ll need to complete each item. Then, double it. This should get you close to the amount of time it will truly take, once you add in the invisible time costs of travel, other people, and Murphy’s Law.
Tip #3: Book It
From here, it’s all about follow-through. You’ve identified the thing and how long the thing will take. Now, book it by adding it to an available space on your calendar. Again, seems simple, but this is usually where the wheels start to come off. Knowing and doing can be next door neighbors or half a world apart. It all comes down to good strong systems and follow-through. When it’s on your calendar, your brain begins to hold space for it. You see it pop up in all sorts of different ways from notifications to emails to sticky notes. That repetition shifts your thinking from ‘should do’ to ‘will do.’ And, with this productivity tip, the odds of completing it begin to increase exponentially.
Tip #4: Check In With Your Village
People, by and large, like to be helpful. And that’s never more true than when there’s an opportunity to help that one person who always seems to have the juggling act down to a science. Welcome the help! Avoid the urge to go it alone or be the “it’ll be faster if I just do it myself” person. When you get to used to routinely going it along, it can be easy to forget there are all sorts of folks in our proverbial ‘villages.’ People who have a wealth of skills, interests, and hidden talents. Being able to ask for and accept help is a sign of strength, with the added bonus that it helps you get to know people better and build stronger relationships.
Tip #5: Recognize ‘DONE’
I can’t stress this one enough. When you decide to complete a task, it’s imperative to know what ‘DONE’ will look like so you can recognize it when it appears. Otherwise, there’s a fundamental risk of perfectionist procrastination: that process of perpetually refining, reworking, and redoing without ever actually finishing! Know what ‘DONE’ looks like so the good doesn’t get lost in the perfect.
Flip Your ‘To Do’ Lists
And, when your ‘to do’ list finally becomes a ‘DONE’ list, consider something different before diving straight into another one. How about a ‘to be’ list for all the ways you want to show up in the world. Or, maybe a ‘to don’t’ list for the red flags you need to watch for as you work toward your goals.
There’s lots of ways to move the needle from ‘to do’ to DONE. Here’s to all the ways that work for you and all the ones you might try in the new year as we work together to do productivity…differently!