Time & Productivity

The Get-Stuff-Done Guide

Learn how to check everything off your to-do list (and restore people’s faith in your abilities) with this no-fail guide for getting it together and boosting productivity.

Get stuff done with your To-Do List
Get stuff done with your To-Do List

Tired of being nagged by your spouse or boss to clean out the garage or get ahead on your report? Angry over someone else jumping in and doing a task that you fully intended to do, but didn’t get around to as quickly as he would have liked? Upset about people worrying that a job won’t get done just because you missed the deadline last time?

Here’s how to get all those annoying people off your back and those chores off your to-do list. Some of these get-it-done strategies will be a better fit for you than others. See which ones work best and use them at home and the office.

Set it up. An easy way to create some momentum on a task is to gather the necessary supplies and information or directions to complete the task. When it is time to start it, you’re ready to go. If you need to paint the bathroom, buy the paint, and the brushes and rollers, and put everything near the bathroom. The setup usually doesn’t take long, but it makes it easier to jump into the task.

Do tasks in clusters. Since it takes mental effort to shift gears, it can be helpful to group several of the same kind of tasks together (sending out e-mails, making shopping lists, doing online research). This way, you can move through several items on your to-do list quickly before switching to something else.

Create a reward for completing a task, if one doesn’t exist. Some chores don’t provide a reward for completing them. Unless you’re getting a big refund, sending off your tax return on time isn’t much fun. Doing the laundry weekly doesn’t ring anyone’s bell. In such cases, invent a reward to keep you from getting bored. It could be going out to dinner or seeing a movie.

Don’t squander energy bursts on easy stuff. When you feel alert and charged up, tackle more demanding tasks—either the ones that you haven’t felt like doing or those that require more mental effort.

Shoo the albatrosses. Most people have a handful of tasks hanging over their heads that they wish were done but that they can never quite manage to do. Imagine how good it will feel to have these albatrosses off your back, and commit some time to doing tasks you’ve put off.

Make it public. Use social pressure in a positive way, by telling other people about your plans to accomplish something (run a 5k or clean out the attic). Knowing that we may need to answer to other people can be a tremendous motivator. Ask a friend to check in with you about a project at a certain date, so that you have created a deadline.

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