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How To: Get It All Done

Have you ever been accused of procrastinating when you were simply delayed by sorting through the voluminous number of tasks for one day?  Ever finish the day thinking you ran around in circles and ultimately didn’t accomplish what you wanted to?  We’ve all been there at some point.  How do you get it all done?  A strategy session is in order.

There are a few steps you should take gain control of your day.  These steps are most beneficial when done at the beginning of the day.  It’s task one.

Step One: ID

Identify the specific items that need to be completed.  This may be a daunting step.  The point here is to begin to maintain a list of tasks that must be done.  You can add to this list as you recall things throughout the day, or you can add to it as new things come up.  The point is to make sure you are not trying to keep it all in your head.  Humans are imperfect, and we forget things, so write it down, or type it up.  This list will take the pressure off your mind and give you the memory you need to go through the next steps.

Step Two: Prioritize

This means putting the tasks in order from most important to less important.  Some things may be just as important as another, so group them together.  A good way to prioritize is to consider the aspect of the task that makes it important (i.e., is it an upcoming deadline, is it a sensitive subject, is it an important client?).  Then consider whether those attributes can be prioritized as well (i.e., an upcoming deadline may be more important than an important client from time to time).  Be careful to keep this step separate from the “Strategize” step below. You must be able to prioritize your task before you strategize about them.

One great way to prioritize your time comes from Steven Covey’s “Time Quadrants” from his book, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”  Your tasks can be prioritized by whether they are “important” and whether they are “urgent.”  A cross-section of these two concepts, and their negatives (“not important” and “not urgent”) creates a grid in which all your tasks will fall.  Your priority list should then move from “important and urgent” to “important and non-urgent” as soon as possible.  Learn more here: <a href=“http://www.usgs.gov/humancapital/documents/TimeManagementGrid.pdf”>Time Management Grid from USGS.gov</a>

The prioritization of your list may change daily, or even in the middle of the day.

Step Three: Strategize

This is the step where you get to do some actual planning.  As long as your “important” and “urgent” tasks are being completed effectively and on time.  Use this step to group like tasks to be executed together (batching).  Also, consider whether there is a tool or resource you can use to streamline certain tasks (leverage IT). Use a schedule, don’t forget to leave time for rest and lunch breaks — I recommend at least a 15 minute break every 2 hours.

What does this all mean?  If you are going out to buy needed widgets for today’s important tasks (i.e., resume paper), and you also need to get a haircut for next week’s special event (i.e., job interview), and a hair salon or barber shop is right next door to the widget store, group them together.  Time saver!  So long as you can finish today’s task, you can tack on other lower-priority tasks, and ultimately you will avoid wasting time.  NOTE: It’s important to stick to your priorities (that’s why that step is first).  Look to reap long-range gains.

The example above will feel like more pressure today (adding a task to today), but it has the added effect of relieving stress later (like the day before, or heaven forbid, the day of your job interview).  Using resources other than yourself can be a simple answer.  Often we are too afraid to ask for help, but a simple phone call to a friend, spouse, parent, or neighbor can often help.  For example, if you shop at the same place your neighbor shops, synergize!  Ask your neighbor to pick up a list of items for you, pay them back, and give them a tip or offer to pick up for them next week after your job interview.  For some people, the answer may simply be, UTILIZE YOUR SMART PHONE!!

Step Four: Execute Until Done

Yes, it is procrastination if you spend all your time in steps one through three and ignore step four.  Execute!  This is the part you have been prepping for!  Follow through on your plans.  Do not let your mind turn to the left or to the right, you have already determined what your priorities are and the most effective way to reach your goals.  You should have scheduled a rest periods, so let’s see how much you can get done before that first rest period.  Then, actually rest.  Set everything aside, set a timer, and refocus your energy on positive thoughts.

Concluding Remarks

If you are still not getting everything done, you need to reevaluate.  Something is prioritized wrong, or you need to give up something.  You can’t do it all (we just established that).  It’s hard to swallow — especially after getting pumped-up to complete your tasks each day — but remember, the best plans sometimes fall apart.

Stay objective, don’t keep your head in the sand, and leave some room in your schedule to stay flexible.  When life happens, whatever that may be, you must adapt and be ready to embrace it.

One final thought for those that recognize the wisdom of ancient scriptures:

Proverbs 16:3 — Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.
Proverbs 21:5 — The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.
Luke 14:28 — For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?
Jeremiah 29:11 — For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Merrill A. Hanson
Law Office of Merrill A. Hanson
180 N. Glendora Ave., Ste. 201
Glendora, CA 91741
Tel./Txt: 626-905-4682

Originally Published January 17, 2014

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This page is not intended to convey legal advice.  You should contact an attorney for your specific situation.