How Much Did You Get Done the Last Week?
In the last seven days, how much have you accomplished? Did things go according to plan? Was there a plan? If we were sitting together having a cup of coffee and I asked you that, what would you tell me?
Would you talk about how crazy busy you’ve been, and it’s that time of year when there’s so much more to do, and well, you probably didn’t cross as much as you would like off your list?
Or would you smile and tell me how you got a lot done, actually, and you’re pretty proud of yourself?
I have a confession to make. I don’t think I’d be smiling and telling you how much I got done last week. In fact, I can pretty much say that for the whole month.
So What Happened?
Of course, I can’t speak for you, but usually, when you don’t get as much done as you would have liked, it’s due to one of two things:
- You failed to plan or
- You had more on your list than was reasonable
Now while we’re on the subject of lists, let’s get something out of the way here – writing a list is not the same as planning. And I’m not preaching at you – please don’t think that. I’ve just done it enough times to know. 😉
Writing a list is just one small part of the planning process. And if you want to get to the part where it’s all done, there are a few more steps in between. And remember – my definition of getting it all done is doing what matters.
Well, I’ve already told you that I haven’t been very productive this month, especially compared to the last couple of months. And bottom line, the reason is that I didn’t plan. (Insert shocked 😮 face here. How are you ever going to trust me if you find out I’m human???)
When Your System Stops Working
I think that those of us who struggle to get things done, cross off our list, and remember all the things are sometimes guilty of looking for the next shiny object. I know I am. (Speaking of which, today I ordered Cultivate What Matters for 2020. It’s a goal-setting workbook for the year. Look for updates in a few weeks.)
So, shiny object syndrome, squirrel brain, ADHD (that’s me – well they all are) – whatever you want to call it – we get bored easily. And sometimes when that happens, the systems that used to work for us no longer do.
Sometimes the system may not have worked so well from the start. I liked the idea of a bullet journal a lot, but when I forgot to pay three bills in a row – whoa! Time for something else.
So if you find that things aren’t working for you as well as they have in the past, maybe it’s time to tweak your system, or at least take a good look at it.
Finding a Way That Works
People in the planning community talk about something called “planner peace”. It’s when they’ve found the perfect planning system for them; one that does exactly what they need it to do.
That can be a pretty elusive thing to find, and as I’ve already said, there are those of us who get bored from time to time and just need a little change. But let’s give it a try, OK?
Start with your current system of planning. If you’re not getting things done in the time frame that you would like, or you’ve just stopped using your planner altogether, ask yourself why.
What changed? Did you suddenly get busier and feel overwhelmed? Did the planner stop appealing to you? Was it hard to use, or maybe hard to take with you when you needed it?
This is a tool that you use in order to make your life easier and more productive. If it doesn’t work, then you need to make changes. But first, you need to know what’s wrong.
Doing Some Self-Analysis
It’s important to know yourself and how you function best in order to find the planning system that will help you the most.
For instance, I learned the hard way that a bullet journal requires me to add the structure to it; after all, it starts out as a blank notebook. I do well with structure, but I need it to be built-in.
Years ago, I used a digital planner. That’s something that you might want to consider. A digital planner has the ability to send a reminder or use an alarm to help you remember an appointment. Most phones these days even have the ability to remind you of something when you’re in a particular location. For instance, when you are driving past the grocery store, it can remind you that you need milk.
Using your phone as your planner can make a lot of sense, although for it to function well, you’ll most likely need to use a few apps to complete your system. You should also consider whether you will actually use it. Some people just prefer paper and pen, and actually, the act of writing things down can help you remember them.
Consider where you need to use your planner. Is it just for home, or do you need to take it everywhere? If so, then size can become an issue.
How Do You Plan?
Think about your actual system when you are planning. Do you have a set day to sit down and look at the week ahead? Do you look ahead at the coming week, or are you waiting to be surprised?
When you write a to-do list, are you ordering it at all, or just putting it in the order in which you thought of it? Again, not preaching here; just sharing hard-earned wisdom.
And if you have a to-do list, is there a time frame attached to it? Or are you expecting to just work down as far as you can get each day? Let’s go through a few things:
Your To-Do List
Most of us keep a list of things we need to do or remember. And most of us write it down as it comes to us, whether that’s sitting down and thinking, or adding to your list when something comes up.
What most of us fail to do is go back through that list and order things by priority. (Honestly, it seems so simple now, but it took me forever to figure this one out.) Here’s the deal: do the most important and urgent things first. And I hereby give you permission to cross anything off that list that isn’t important or urgent. Let’s face it: most of us strive for a perfectly crossed-off to-do list, but rarely achieve it. Wouldn’t you rather the things that didn’t get done were neither important or urgent?
The general rule is to try and limit your important tasks to no more than three a day. If you can get to more, great, but don’t push yourself. No one is winning a prize here, and if you ask me, the best one you could get would be time for what matters to you.
A Task vs a Project
A task is one simple thing. It’s actually kind of hard to think of a task because most things are more complicated than just one thing. A task would be like having some yogurt to eat, and a project would be more like having a salad, assuming you’re the one doing the work. There are more steps to making a salad, making it a project.
When it comes to planning, a task can stay on your prioritized to-do list and get crossed off when it’s done. A project needs to be broken down into steps (or tasks) and then ideally added to your calendar.
“Take my medicine” is a task. You can put it on your to-do list (with a high priority), then cross it off once you’ve taken it.
But what if you need to see the doctor in order to get your medication? That’s a project because you have to call for an appointment, note it on your calendar, show up, get the prescription, go to the pharmacy, get the medicine, and then take it. See the difference? I bet you have a few projects on your to-do list. You know what to do now, right?
Times and Dates
A to-do list is not meant to be a rolling perpetual thing, even though it seems that way at times. Once you’ve prioritized and broken projects down into tasks, they need a date and time.
Now maybe “clean the bathroom” doesn’t seem like it needs a date or time, but then, when will you do it? It’s OK for things like that to be put on a weekly ongoing list, as a cleaning schedule, but again, prioritize. Cleaning the bathroom comes before cleaning the baseboards (I can’t imagine who has time for that), and the only time frame you need is this week, as long as that works for you. If not, schedule it into your week. Yes. Date and time. If it helps you get the bathroom clean, then that’s what you do. And don’t let anyone judge you.
I happen to be in the stage of my life where I’m home most of the time. If that’s you, too, then a specific time may not be needed. You could break your day into morning and afternoon and that might be enough.
Review and Adjust
Every now and then, you may find it’s a good idea to take a look at what you’re doing and make sure it’s still working for you. Do you need to make some adjustments or try something new?
I think that’s a good policy in life in general. Take some time and review. What would you like to change? And what do you have the ability to change?
Remember, it’s all about what really matters.