Last year I attended my husband's annual meeting with him. He works for a major national insurance brokerage. Each year they have a themed message. That year it was "GSD". Those three letters together were all over the place (and this company spares no expense at these annual meetings). There were cozies and cups and stickers. It was on all the napkins. Shoot, there were even ice sculptures with the letter GSD engraved on them. After a day or so, the CEO finally let us in on the meaning - Get S**t Done. Now, I've watered it down for you guys. Get STUFF Done works just as well for those of you that prefer less profanity in their lives. Either way, I love the simplicity behind it. I've always been a go-getter and a good multi-tasker - but I realized that a lot of my success has come just from that. I know how to GET STUFF DONE.
At the end of the day, the ability to get stuff done comes down to two things. FOCUS + PRODUCTIVITY. Everyone is different, and the most important thing is to figure out the process that allows you to achieve those two things. Here are some tips that have helped me over the years - try them out - you may find yourself getting MORE done!
Start the day with a small, easy victory.
It's hard to turn a rough start to your day around. But it happens (this morning I discovered my coffee cup had a hole in it.... while the Kuerig was actively pouring coffee into it.... right after my 5 year old discovered that our senior-aged dog had an accident in the house - YIKES). Despite the mornings where everything seems to be against you, I've found that if I can get myself feeling accomplished early in the morning it sets the right tone to my day. Most days for me that means getting up before the rest of the house to get to the gym (things I NEVER thought I'd do). But it doesn't have to be that extreme. It could be remembering to make the bed every day. Or getting your morning devotional in. Or maybe it's just remembering to drink a full glass of water first thing in the morning. The point is, find something that will make you feel good about yourself and feeling accomplished and then set out to get it done first thing in the morning. It will get you in the right mindset to conquer the rest of your day.
This is imperative. You can't get things done if you have no idea where things are or what you need. Even if you manage to get things semi-accomplished while being disorganized, you're wasting time, and more importantly energy & focus. You can do so much more when you're organized. This doesn't mean you have to color-code folders and turn your office in Marie Kondo's, but it does mean spending a little bit of time on the front end to keep things neat and logical.
Reduce the clutter.
Cluttered spaces make my mind feel equally cluttered. I'm by no means a neat freak. I'm guilty of letting things pile up - I'm a full-time career woman with two kids under five and active hobbies. Things get messy. But I've found that if I put in a little work to reduce the clutter, my anxiety goes down, and that allows me to focus on what I need to get done, instead of feeling distracted and consumed. It definitely takes a little more effort to keep things from piling up and keeping my space clutter-free, but the payoff is well worth the extra effort.
Write it down.
I found this great list of benefits of writing things down on productiveandfree.com. There is power in writing things down! You may be one of those ultra tech-y people who has software for everything. That's okay - you can still benefit from the process of typing out your to-do list and what you need to accomplish that day/week/month/quarter. Although, my non-scientific opinion is that physically writing things down - like with pen and paper - is the way to go! So find a planner or notebook that helps you stay organized and write things down. There are MILLIONS of options out there. There are lots of planners that will literally help you plan out every hour and every detail of your day. I used to think I'd like that, but it turns out keeping up with the task of updating it was more daunting than doing the actual work and I'd end up abandoning it altogether. I've found that I work best with planners that provide structure to my week and let me think through my priorities across the week without forcing me to be too bogged down on every hour. I try to place the big priorities of my week across the days and then keep a separate to-do list where I capture the more mundane tasks. Everyone is different though. All you may need is a blank notebook. Try different things but find the process for writing things down that works for you and then stick with it. Oh, and the other benefit of writing things down? CROSSING THINGS OFF YOUR LIST WHEN YOU'RE DONE. Talk about small victories. Can I get an amen!?
This goes hand-in-hand with the process of writing things down. Pretty quickly you'll see that there are more things written down on your list than you're probably able to accomplish at once. Knowing how to prioritize well can be a bit of an art form, but if you can learn to do it you'll be more focused and make more of an impact with your time. It helps me to have everything I have going on written down (hence the prior point), and then to look at it holistically and start to assign a priority to the tasks. I often get as detailed as assigning (in pencil) a number next to certain tasks on my to-do list when it starts to feel too long. I'll assign the number one thing I need to get done and go from there. Sometimes I know I won't get to all the numbered items in that day but at least I'll have done the most important things and I know where I need to pick-up the next day. And I do it in pencil because sometimes priorities change!
Not good at knowing HOW to prioritizing yet? Ask yourself a few simple questions. What has a hard deadline? Which of those hard deadlines are closest? Which tasks require more time or concentration versus which can you knock out quickly? Which are nice to have versus a must do? Better yet, if you're not familiar with the Eisenhower Grid, I recommend getting to know it and applying that thinking to your process of prioritizing your day.
Done is better than perfect.
Sheryl Sandberg got it right when she created the "done is better than perfect" mindset at Facebook. And don't get this wrong - this is not an endorsement for mediocre work or an excuse to not do your best. However, it does release the pressure of trying to be a perfectionist about every detail and therefore draining all your time and energy. There are times where taking your time to make sure the details are perfect are necessary, but most of the time getting things done well trumps perfection. Truthfully, I could probably write a whole blog post on just this topic (and I probably will). I'm a firm believer in continuous progress and that most of the time you're better accomplishing things at a satisfactory level than striving for exemplary every time. Perfection isolates too much time and energy. And let's face it, even when we think we've reached perfection, there is usually still something to do better. Don't get stuck in that cycle. Do good work you're proud of, but get it done and then move on.
That's it. You're ready to embrace GSD. Now go get some stuff done!