The Simple Secret to Getting More Things Done

September 26, 2012 — Leave a comment

My goal is to share a very simple solution to getting more things done without a lot of hype and a virtually non-existant learning curve. I find that it also helps keep me from procrastinating to some extent. If you feel that you are not getting enough done, or that you really don’t have control over your daily work, keep reading for a plan that promises some immediate relief.

moleskine_notebook

In a world with increasing distractions and demands for our time, it can often be difficult to get important things done when we need to. We can see this manifest into a variety of products and services promising to help us get more done, to be more productive, and to regain control of our day. There are hundreds, if not thousands of solutions out there promising an increase in your daily productivity.

I have a simple solution that will immediately work for you to deliver positive results. I am not going to talk about any sort of task specifically, such as keeping up with your email inbox, but will instead give you a simple framework to ensure that your important tasks get done every day and at the same time, provide you with a motivational boost to getting more things done.

Before I describe my solution to getting more done, I should start with a few definitions:

  • Task – A piece of work to be done or undertaken. A task is not an entire project. I try to break large things down into chunks of time that take an hour or less. Ideally, I try to get them down to 20-30 minutes each.
  • MIT – Most Important Task.
  • Notebook – When I refer to a notebook, it can be anything that you can use to collect multiple days worth of your daily goals. It can be a day planner, a stack of note cards, a notebook, a legal pad, or even a simple app on your smart phone. I recommend this one to be paper based.
  • Master list – A place you can collect all of the things you need to do over an extended period of time. This can be a notebook, a file on your computer, a smartphone app, etc. It is your master to-do list that you will pull from to fill out your daily MIT’s.

TOOLS NEEDED

I personally use a Moleskine notebook (you can use a pocket sized version or one a little bigger) and a Quiver to hold my pen to the Moleskine. I use Evernote for my master to-do list and highly recommend this service. You’ll also need a writing instrument such as a pen or pencil. You also have the option to do this all electronically, but I prefer to have a tactile interaction with my tools while also using a digital system. It’s all up to you, use what you like, that’s the most important aspect of tool selection.

DAILY PROCESS

Setting up your daily notebook page template

  1. Open up your notebook to where you have a blank sheet of paper on the left and right.
  2. On the right side page, write the day and date on the top line.
  3. Under the day and date, write down MIT’s and underline it.
  4. Under the MIT’s header, number the next three lines sequentially as 1, 2, and 3.
  5. Skip a line or two.
  6. Write down Collect and underline it.
  7. On the left side page, write down the date and Extra and underline it.

Filling out your daily plan

  1. Write down the three most important tasks (MIT’s) you need or want to get done today next to each number you listed under the MIT’s heading. I pull my MIT’s from my Master List (described below). Do these MIT’s first thing in the morning (or whenever you start your day). I write boxes next to each number and check them off once I complete them.
  2. As new things pop up that need to be acted upon, such as new to-do’s, write these down under the Collect heading.
  3. Use the left page area under the date and Extra heading to write down messages, notes, etc. that you don’t necessarily need to act upon. I like to use this as an alternative to sticky notes and also as a reference that I can look back upon to see what happened on a certain day.

Processing your day

  1. I won’t do anything until my MIT’s are done. This includes things that pop up throughout the day, including little tasks. I write these down under the Collect heading and come back to them later, after my MIT’s are done. Your MIT’s MUST be done, so don’t allow any distractions to control you. I don’t even check my email until my MIT’s are done (yes, it is a hard urge to resist).
  2. I take some time during the day when I have a break between meetings (or other events) and at the end of each day to try to cross off as much as I can from the list of items I’ve collected. I batch process them for efficiency sake.
  3. Anything that is left over at the end of the day under the Collect heading gets moved to my Master List. I keep mine in Evernote and tag them as a to-do item. You can use any tool, whether it be paper or digital, as your master collection area.
  4. I normally don’t do much with information listed on the left page unless there are notes I need to keep that may be of use in the future. In that case, I enter these into Evernote as well and tag them in a helpful way.

THAT’S REALLY ALL THERE IS TO IT!

Optional tips/ideas

  • You can swap the left side page and the right side page template if you prefer that flow.
  • You can change the number of MIT’s to do each day. I recommend anywhere from one to five, but would encourage you to start with three.
  • One of your MIT’s should relate to a personal goal of your’s, not just work stuff. If you have a goal to get in better shape, write a book, start a business, etc., please consider choosing one of these related tasks as one of your MIT’s each day.
  • Choose a day of the week to write out this template for each day of the upcoming week. This will help you keep the habit by having a fresh template each day that you can use to plan your day. I typically will plan my day out the night before, but you can do it first thing in the morning if you prefer.
  • If you want to plan your week in advance, consider adding one MIT to each day of the week. This can help you be even more productive. I don’t recommend entering all of your MIT’s for the week at one time because most of the time, things change daily and you’ll want to have some flexibility during the week while also having some weekly goals.

You can use this simple method to get more things done and to reclaim some control over your day and life. It has worked for me since I started using it about a year ago and I’ve noticed an increase in my productivity level, I procrastinate less, and I feel a great sense of accomplishment each day. This has been a great habit change for me that has triggered a series of other habit changes that I will share in future posts.

Try it out and let me know what you think.

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