Getting Things Done

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WAH! After spending the last hour and a half! (Yes, that is a mid-sentence exclamation point because I’m upset!) writing this article, WordPress lost it in the save! I feel it’s important enough though that I’m going to rewrite it. Please pardon any typos, I don’t have time to edit.

I’ve got a penchant for time & organization management lately. Well, I hope the things I’m learning help you get your book written faster!

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Prioritizing your to do list can be difficult. I use to only use deadlines and the important/urgent table to prioritize. If you’re unfamiliar with the important/urgent table it looks like this:

Important/Urgent tasks that are important AND urgent Important/Not Urgent tasks that are important BUT NOT urgent
Not Important/Urgent tasks that are NOT important BUT are urgent Not Important/Not Urgent tasks that are NOT important NOR urgent

The problem with this method is that most of my tasks fall under the “important” category, and most of them under “important/urgent.” It makes me feel anxious to look at it, and then I just stop making them.

After interviewing Anisa Aven though (you can listen to the interview here), and listen to Leslie Householder interview Rich Christiansen, the author of The Zig Zag Principle, I’ve created a new method for prioritizing my to do list and getting things done.

Make your to do list: 

Make it a scatter list of all the things you need/want to do. I like to separate my to do list into categories. For example, I have Art of the Written Word, client, general, and Mary Kay categories.

Identify your frogs: 

In essence, the frogs on your to do list are those items that are hard to swallow, or you see difficult to do. They could include cold-calling, writing that chapter in your book you don’t want to write, revising your book, or just vacuuming the house. You can circle or draw a frog next to these items.

Identify profit tasks: 

You want to ensure the tasks you do first drive profitability by identifying profit tasks. These are the items that have a high return. How do you determine that? Well, it is mostly subjective: it’s up to your point of view. But let me help you out by defining what I mean by “profit”: profit is anything that brings you value in money, time, relationships, or feeling good (well-earned endorphins like those you get from exercising). So if you need to apologize to a friend, or your mother-in-law, that may not profit you time, but it will profit in relationships, so it is profitable. You can identify these tasks with a dollar sign, clock, heart, and smiley face respectively. You can double the signs if a task is more profitable than others.

Create project calendars for large projects: 

Now that you know everything you need to get done, you know which projects are big! Looking at a large task makes you feel the weight of the whole thing and makes it feel undoable, however, breaking it up into its pieces you’ll see that the large projects are merely a series (even if there are a lot of them) of small tasks. Then, STICK TO YOUR CALENDAR no matter what.

For example, I am studying for a big test in September. I need to read every chapter in the book AND take seven practice tests before the test date. I broke it down and found that if I read 3-4 chapters and take one practice test a week that I will complete all these things before my test date AND have a couple days to spare for any last minute preparations. Then, even if it is really late on Saturday night, I will finish every chapter and practice test for the week. By test day, I will thoroughly prepared.

If you do this for every big project, and stay up late even if it is already late on Saturday, you’ll accomplish every big project you have by the due date – even one you’ve given yourself.

This is the perfect method for writing that book. If you’ve listened to Anisa’s interview then you know that people who write down their goals (e.g. make a project calendar) are 90% more likely to accomplish the goal! 90%! Isn’t your book worth that? Yes it is!

Now, write down your due dates: 

All of them. If you don’t have a specific due date for a project, then write in the other due dates first and then choose a due date for the leftovers. Since you’ve already identified frogs & profit tasks, it should be easy, at least easier, to pick due dates. Some projects will need to be put off, but writing down & picking due dates will help you decide, especially if you have several frogs or profit tasks, what task to accomplish first. This is made considerably easier if you’ve broken down your large tasks first.

Prioritize your list: 

Now number your tasks. Tasks that are frogs, profit tasks, and have urgent due dates should get the lowest numbers – the lowest number tasks being the ones you do first. This is going to be subjective, but use your best judgment.

For example: you want to get that frog out of the way, but is it a profit task? Is that “frog” you’ve been sweating over not even going to profit you? Then delegate it, don’t do it, or limit the time you are allowed to do it in by setting a timer and sticking to it.

Another example, if you have a client task due at the end of the month which very profitable, but have a smaller, less profitable, task due sooner. Well, you should start with the task that is due the soonest and then work on the other task. If you have large projects, draw a map or table of what smaller tasks need to be accomplished and by when so that a bit of the project is done every week.

Choose what you are going to do today and leave the rest to God: 

Look at your list for things you need to do for the week, and then choose what must get done today. Limit your list to six items: your six most important things list. Remember you can only do so much in one day. Don’t sweat it if you can’t get everything done. Learn to delegate, hire help, and ask for extension when necessary.

If you need to, ask for extensions. If you are honest, and share why you need the extension (want to give your project more time and attention than I have currently, project is taking longer than anticipated, etc.), then most people will be understanding. It is much better to ask for an extension than to deliver two months late.

 A few late nights with Mountain Dew Code Red or some orange juice doesn’t hurt either.

Let me know if you have any questions. Good luck prioritizing your list and writing (or revising) your book! You can do it!

(Please pardon the typos, WordPress lost my original draft and I didn’t have time to edit it after writing it up a second time.)

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