In leadership our ability to make decisions efficiently and get things done is imperative to our success. Sometimes we can get overwhelmed with long to-do lists that keep us in our head and we start spinning in our inability to make a decision. There are many variables and factors to take into consideration to discern getting better traction. It is worth it however, as when we don’t get traction for a period of time it can be frustrating. So, how do we get things done? Here are a few tips that many leaders “forget” in our busy and overwhelmed states but will help to find traction, reduce stress and achieve results!
Make a list
Often the busier we get, the more we can feel we don’t have time to make a list and we plow forward keeping our list in our head. When we download the list and get them on paper, it allows us to see, organize, and let go. As we write the list down, we can realize additional steps or pieces that also need to be done. It is important to actually put down these milestones or smaller steps verses just the huge project. There are psychological endorphins in your brain that are released when we are able to cross something off our list. That helps us feel a sense of success and momentum.
It can also help to group items by different quadrants of your life: business, personal life, special projects, etc. Then when we are doing work, we work in one zone at a time. This helps to improve efficiency and speed because we are not jumping to different type things which take longer to wrap our minds around. Once downloading the list our minds are free to focus on the task at hand, rather than having a low grade stress about all the times, tempting us to multi-task. It also gives our minds more brain power to focus on the details of the task rather than trying to hold the other pending tasks. Remember the computer with too many windows open and how that starts to run slow, our minds are similar. Clear out your mind by downloading that to do list to paper so you can focus and get traction!
A lot of times when people prioritize, they are prioritizing randomly. We can prioritize better when we have more information. Information might be: what does it cost, how much time is it going to take, how urgent is it, the timeline or specific deadline, etc. When we put those pieces of information down, we give yourself more context in order to make a decision.
Often when making a to-do list, it can help to just add a note like TODAY, 10min, 1 hour, etc. Once done adding key notes, prioritize based on what is most important. It can help to highlight or circle the top three times or even write those on a post it note and keep the top task in front of you and set the list aside until the top three are done.
It is common that we do what feels URGENT or is barking at us. At times, we have to block and make time for what is IMPORTANT so it does not become urgent. Often it is the time we take for what is important that fuels momentum, a feeling of success and actually increases our speed in getting things done. As we remove the important items on that list that might have felt more overwhelming, like a burden or toleration. Brian Tracey has a great book, Eat That Frog, that helps to understand what an important vs urgent priority is and how to handle them so you get traction!
Set a goal
Being clear about what we are going to focus on and what success looks like is really setting a GOAL. When we create a framework for the task outline:
- the purpose (why)
- the tasks (what)
- any sub details (how, when, etc.)
This is creating a framework for the task and setting a goal for ourselves. While we are working on that goal, we want to push hard to get it done within that window of time. Having these elements helps to keep us on track, focused and drive to completion. Many people have a hard time finishing, so a rule of thumb is to work on that task for a set period of time, like one hour. Example: If you do not finish, when you get to your next block of time for project work, pick this project up and work until you finish.
Finishing items off the list is what fuels momentum. It can be tempting to work on several projects at one time but that often clutters our mind and slows us down. At times we have to be moving several projects forward in a day, but the key is to focus on one in that designated work time and then focus on finishing as soon as you can, even if you are working this rhythm with three projects. In a schedule that might look like: 8AM writing, 12 team tasks, 3 proposals. Repeat that rhythm daily until those three projects are done.
Traction, Do something and get it done
It is common to have many different things we are doing. The key is to start with one thing and finish it, and then move to the next thing. There is a program called, The Toleration Program. The program guides participants to make a list of 30 tolerations. Tolerations are things that bother us, but if they do not get done in one day it doesn’t matter, but it does bother you. Tolerations can be for your business, home, life, whatever. In the program, you make your list of 30 items (the first 10 are usually easy, next 10 very hard to think of and last 10 are really core tolerations).
While making the list it is important to make a toleration project sized that can be finished. A project is cleaning the shelf in the garage not cleaning the garage (that could be way to big). After making the list, pick one to start with. Like the goal list above, work on that toleration for a set period of time, i.e. 1 hour. The next day, work on it for another hour and keep that pattern until that toleration is done. Literally, do not move to the next toleration, until the one you started is finished, People get renewed energy and momentum when they set aside 30-60 minutes a day to really knock out tolerations and stay focused on these lists of priorities.
It is natural and normal for our days to get hijacked when we do not have a plan. It just kind of snowballs and before you know it the day is over. The things that seemed to be calling in the moment or urgent fire drills and even our own procrastination can eat the day. When we have a plan for our day, schedule or time and drive our goals and priorities we are able to FINISH and GET TRACTION in amazing ways!