The Secret to Getting Things Done

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It is just me, or have you noticed that your business-related to-do list just seems to get bigger and bigger with every passing year? I think it has a lot to do with all the Internet-based content creation, presentation, digesting, and sharing that is going on these days. It has added a whole new element to running a successful business.

But given that the length of a day won’t be shedding its 24 hour limit any time soon, it presents a problem for business owners who are already pressed for resources. How do you accomplish a growing list of responsibilities in a finite amount of time without compromising on quality or burning out in the process?

And what is it with those people who seem to get a seemingly insurmountable list of things done, day after day. Have you ever looked at these “super doers” and wondered what you are doing wrong?

Productivity tips

The big secret to being exceptionally productive in your business and other areas of your life is not to try to change who you are, but to recognize how you process information, how you make decisions, and how you approach tasks in general. Once you’ve figured this out, you can then look for ways to either fill in the gaps or purposely set up some natural opposition in those areas where you tend to go astray.

With this is mind, here are several points to consider:

Be realistic! In this day and age of multi-tasking, when getting a lot of mediocre work done receives more approval then completing a little quality work, it may be hard to set realistic productivity goals. A lot of us are so distracted by all the noise (online and off), that part of the problem may be that we have forgotten how to focus on just one thing at a time. This problem is compounded by the fact that completing one task really well is practically seen, in the business world in particular, as a waste of work hours and resources!

Nothing could be further from the truth. Realize that certain tasks and projects will be completed far more effectively and efficiently if you can set aside a place and a time to focus exclusively on them. If this is hard and you find yourself constantly distracted, then start small, setting aside a few minutes a day (even 5 minutes) to focus on the task at hand, and then slowly build yourself up. If the task is creative in nature, then you want to identify your peak performance periods, as mentioned below, and try to schedule those tasks during that time.

Identifying the problem areas. If you really want to improve your productivity, then one of the first steps is figuring out where in your daily routine you are slowing down or getting held back. Are there certain tasks that you always seem to push off? Are there activities that you are doing that are not providing enough payback- not in the short-term, nor in the long-term? When are your least productive hours of the day? Sometimes a slow down in productivity can happen at certain times of the day or in particular venues.

Determine why things are not getting done. Once you’ve pinpointed the problem areas, try to figure out the causes behind them. Trying to fix the problems without identifying the root cause won’t get you very far. Are there tasks you just dislike doing or aren’t good at? Do you get very tired towards the afternoon? Are there too many distractions in front of you? Are you working too many hours or trying to accomplish too much in too short a time? Are there any external factors that may be affecting your productivity, such as health-related issues, money stress, or marital problems?

Getting to the right tools and techniques. There are many groups out there from time management “experts” to productivity app developers all proclaiming that they have the definitive list of tips, tools, techniques, etc to make you productive beyond your wildest dreams. But, the unavoidable truth is that some things will work, but others won’t because everyone and every situation is different. If you are in touch with who you are, where you are not being so productive and why, you can then devise methods to help alleviate the situation.

So, for example, if you tend be a bit scattered and forgetful by nature, then having a good time management app or productivity tool could be a real plus. If you find that you are more productive in the early morning or late by night, then you could try to re-arrange your schedule so you are doing some work during those peak times. If you are having a hard time being productive and motivated at work in general then you could tweak your break schedule and make sure to get some time away from work. If there are tasks that you dislike doing, you could break the tasks down into small increments, you could hire someone to do those tasks for you, or initiate some other changes to make the task a bit more fun or enjoyable… You get the point?

Get others involved. Where possible, getting others involved in your daily routine can make you a lot more productive. But here “getting involved” can mean a few different things: hiring someone to do the task for you, working alongside other people who are doing similar things, asking a co-worker or friend to help push you through the task by checking in on your progress, or even just having the emotional support and encouragement of others around you.

In short, the secret to getting things done is being in touch with yourself and the work that needs to be accomplished and being able to sift out the very unproductive tips, tools, and techniques that claim to increase your productivity, yet will only worsen it.

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Comments (4)

  • Hi Susan,
    I think being “realistic” is a very important piece of advice! It’s something many entrepreneurs unfortunately don’t do. Overoptimistic estimates lead to missing of goals and thus frustration. This cycle can discourage entrepreneurs especially when they are starting out. It’s so much easier to focus on reaching attainable goals and better for your business in the long run.

    • Hi Heather,
      True. But II think established business owners (and their management) tend to be worse than entrepreneurs who can afford to be a bit idealistic, and the bigger the company, the further away from reality and practicality it can all get.

  • The real secret for me to get everything done is a daily, prioritized “to do list”. When I don’t take the time today to itemize what needs to be done tomorrow, I will never get to the important things. I will only do the bright, shiny things that grab my attention. The first thing one needs to do is “Know thyself”, and act accordingly.

    • I’m also a big list maker. I actually prefer writing things down instead of having some digital equivalent. There’s something very satisfying in physically having to cross something off my list.


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