How to get stuff done

On any given day you can have multiple priorities.  Some of these are things that have to do that can be done relatively quickly (such as submitting your Business Activity Statement to the tax office on time) and some of them are tasks associated with larger goals that may take weeks to complete.

Here are two things you can do to make progress on your priorities:

  1. Break your priority down into tasks that you think you can complete in 25-30 minutes
  2. Say no to everything else, get rid of all other distractions, and just work on that one task.

So, let’s say that your priority is to reconcile your bank statements for your business, and that overall this task usually takes around 5-6 hours because you have 4 separate bank accounts and credit cards.  Break this larger task down into workable 25-30 minute chunks.  

You may be able to achieve this by doing an entire bank statement, or perhaps you’ll need to reconcile just a week from one account at a time if it has a lot of transactions. I like to use Trello to break a task into chunks, and move each individual card from ‘working’ to ‘done’ as I finish it.

  • open only the tools and applications that you need to perform this task.  
  • Close your email and any other messaging and social media applications.  
  • Put your phone in do not disturb mode, if it’s not already.  
  • If you work on a mac, turn on do not disturb there as well.  
  • Then get to work.

Go for 25-30 minutes to complete the chunk, then take a short break and work on another.  Take a longer break after every fourth chunk is complete.

The concept of working in 25-30 minute chunks is one popularised by Francesco Cirillo, the creator of the Pomodero Technique, and is a deceptively simple but powerful way to be more productive.

If you work at home in a potentially noisy environment like I do, then try this:  Put in some earplugs ( I find Hearos are the best), then put on headphones with another of my favourite productivity tools,, turned right up.  The earplugs block out the environmental noise, and the sounds of the music from block out noise further and make it much easier to focus.

Likewise, if you, like me, are a small business owner who spends some time managing and directing people, and some time creating, then you need to figure out how to eliminate interruptions from your staff.

You may find that it’s best to assign the first few hours of the day to creating and to let your staff know you are not to be interrupted unless it’s an emergency.  Then open up the rest of the day to allow for interruptions.

For more on this, read What should you do next? and Busting the multitasking myth.