• Thursday, June 13, 2024
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Get things done


It’s time for us to get into the practicals of designing a system that helps you become more disciplined and productive. Much like attending an alcoholics anonymous meeting, the first step towards getting better requires acceptance…..acceptance that you’re really not as good as you think you are at remembering things. The mistake a lot of people make here is thinking they can remember the tasks they’re meant to work on.

I struggle with keeping track of my tasks and end up having to rush projects at the deadline, turning in sub-par work or in some cases completely forgetting I had work to get done.
f you’ve said something similar to this statement before, you’re definitely guilty. We’ve all been here before, so here’s your first lesson – your brain is more suited to analysis than it is to memorisation.

Also, if you rely on your brain to keep track of tasks, you’ll likely fall prey to the salience bias. This bias makes you pay attention to what’s super obvious…and what’s super obvious isn’t what’s super important. It might be super obvious that you need to respond to your best friend’s DM, but it isn’t necessarily super important. So how do you get your brain to focus on what’s important? By being deliberate about knowing what your tasks are and being deliberate about the task that you focus on.

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The key to keeping track of your tasks is to create a system around the collection and processing of your tasks. Here’s where the Getting Things Done method by David Allen comes in. The GTD method helps you build the right habits to:
1. Note your tasks
2. Organise your tasks
3. Review your tasks
4. Get your tasks done

I’ve outlined the main steps because it’s important you remember them. Now let’s dive in!

Note your tasks

1. Stop trying to leave tasks in your head. It’s a habit that at best does little but occupy your thoughts at best and at worse makes you seem unserious when you consistently forget tasks. Instead, make it a habit to consistently write or type down your tasks in real time. Noting your thoughts down make them more concrete and are a solid first step to figuring out where you start with managing your tasks. Take a blank sheet of paper and put down every task that you can think about. From doing your laundry to sending your boss a draft of your presentation. Take all the tasks from your head and put them down on paper.

2. Next, decide what you choose to use to take down all your tasks. This could be a notebook or it could be an app. If it’s a notebook, then I’d recommend you go for something that feels substantial i.e. a hardcover or a moleskin notebook. If you choose to use an app, there are multiple options like Wunderlist, Omnifocus and Things. I’ve tried all of them and found that Things works best for me. However, it’s rather pricy and only works with the Apple ecosystem. If you’re on Android, Wunderlist should suffice. If there are other options that you use, please let me know on twitter and I’ll include them.

Behavioral Psych Tip: How you frame your tasks play a significant role in spurring you to complete them. Frame your tasks in action terms. So instead of simply writing ‘Laundry’, you write ‘Get Laundry Done’. This frames your task as an action, which puts you in the right frame of mind. Pun intended.

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Organise Your Tasks

Once you’ve put down your tasks, now it’s time to process them. The mistake people make is put down their tasks and then do nothing afterwards. You might feel productive because you’ve put down what you need to do, but if you don’t make the next steps towards doing those tasks, then you’ve failed. Think about this like doing your laundry and having to arrange your clothes. If you were the organised type, you usually sort through your clothes and arrange them by type: Underwear would go in one pile, shirts in another, and trousers in another pile, and dirty clothes (hopefully) in another pile.

Just like most people have pretty much the same categories when it comes to laundry, most people’s tasks will typically fall into two piles:
1. Personal
2. Occupation/Career/Business

Break Down Your Tasks

The next step is important, it involves breaking down tasks. After every task gets written down, you have to filter, modify, and break down tasks. Place them in their own projects and subprojects. One of the reasons we procrastinate is because we see certain tasks as insurmountable and large. We then try to ignore the task in hope that it somehow sorts itself out. However, it never does. It only gets worse as time becomes a constraint. The way to deal with this kind of situation is to take the task and break it down into simple bits. This way, when you see the small actions you need to take, the whole project then takes on an achievable outlook. For example, if you were placed in charge of organizing an event, you’d have to figure out where to start. So start thinking of the necessary things for an event. Let’s focus on just the venue of the event. First, put down ‘Research Venue of Event’. Here’s how this part of the project would go.

1. Research Venue of Event
Search the Internet for Good Places in Abuja
Call and ask friends who’ve organised events in the past
Visit and take a look at these places
2. Select venue
3. Pay for the venue
You can see how we’ve made the act of finding a venue easy by breaking it down into smaller tasks which require minimal effort.

Put Deadlines to Tasks

Next, put start and due dates to this action. Tasks only truly become more achievable when they have an established time constraint. This way, you can incorporate these bits of the tasks into the empty spaces you have on the calendar.
Congrats! If you followed all these steps, you’ve unlocked the first level towards being more productive. Now you should have clarity on all the work you have to do. Here’s where the next level kicks in – developing the habits you need to stay consistent with tracking your tasks. After you achieve this, the next level requires you to get these tasks done. After all, that’s the entire point of this system you’re building.