How to get stuff done

Getting shit done in Megawatt Park, 1977 (photo via Dad)

Do you have a lot of stuff on your plate? Do you have notes and reminders all over the place? Are you always busy – yet feel like nothing gets done? Join the club.

If you have post-it notes strewn all over the place and, like me, have them sequentially numbered and, worst of all, connected to one another, then you’re in real trouble.

You ain’t gonna get shit done this way. Trust me on this.

Here’s a bit of a life hack. For free.

Let’s get started: Go fetch all those loose reminders.

First, identify the tasks that have a hard deadline: Exam papers? Tax returns? Car going in for inspection? Doctor’s appointment? Visitors coming over? Bills that are due?

Those dates are (mostly) set in stone. Write them on a wall calendar. Look at it every day. Ignoring these items may have negative financial consequences. The dates will not change, and everything else revolves around them.

Come back here when you’re done.

Done? Good.

Those are your true priorities. Everything else is fluff.

Let’s have a look at the rest of your loose notes. Lay them all down on a table — randomly.

Break any imaginary connections between them. Forget that this must come before that, ignore the self-imposed restriction that this task depends on the other, and never mind that you planned to do a certain thing while you were somewhere to do another thing.

Intentions cause inaction. Action brings results.

Now, do you see that one note — the piece of paper that’s already yellowed and dog-eared? Yes, I’m talking about that certain task you’ve been meaning to do but still haven’t gotten around to. Throw that piece of paper away. Scratch it off the list. Tear it up, eat it – just get rid of it somehow, I don’t care! Fact is that nobody cares… you certainly didn’t – because if it was important, you’d have done it by now.

There. First task completed. Award yourself a badge.

Somehow, through mystical forces unbeknownst to your reptilian brain, that note has been a burden that prevented you from continuing everything else. If it’s important or in any way relevant, you’ll think of it again. Chances are that you won’t because it’s certainly not on the calendar either.

Ah, yes, the calendar. Let’s look at the first thing on the calendar. That’s what you’ll do next. Prepare for that important deadline. It’s probably an unpleasant task — which is why you’ve been putting it off until now. Tough. Do it. Even if you only start with it, get it off your back. You’ll breathe a sigh of relief when that deadline arrives (because it will) and your task is done, or at least prepared.

What next? What about those other loose notes?

Pick a haphazard note or item from your task list and attend to it. Select your tasks randomly; by all means, let your significant other hand them out to you and use the element of serendipity and surprise. Chances are that you’ll also be checking off additional items beside the random one you just selected. That’s bonus points.

However, it’s important to focus on the task at hand; don’t let yourself get distracted. When it’s completed, throw away the notes or scratch it off your list. Done. Finished. Thank you, next!

PS: It’s OK to add new tasks to the pile, that’s normal – you will eventually find them on your calendar or get handed those randomly when their time comes. But stick to the plan. Make a game of it.

Games are fun, except in this game you only have one life. Quit procrastinating, get shit done, and remember that even if you win this game — you ain’t getting out of it alive.

Repeat this in a year’s time and you’ll see how the chores have turned into results.

You’re welcome.

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