How to really get things done

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To do list with so many things note on paper with paper balls and pen

Do you have a task list?

For some, it’s the list that haunts them and is always pestering them to keep going.

For others, it’s the best thing in the world because it allows them to stop thinking and tick off the items on the list when they are done so they feel good about themselves

Which one are you?

If you want to get things done, you’ll need to change your point of view towards your task list. It’s true, for most a task list is nothing else than a list of actions that should be done.

Often items are added for specific reasons, because at the time of adding we believed that this is something we should do. However, these decisions are often taken because of circumstances at the time and these can change. An important item might become less important a couple of days or even hours later.

I am sure you’ve heard of the 20/80 rule. Meaning that 20% of the things we do count for 80% of our results. I would go even further. If you cut it down, you could even say that 5% of the things we do can count for 70% or even 90% of our results. The art is to identify the items that have the most significant impact on the results.

That means you’ll need to be very clear of your expected results. And that’s where many get it wrong. It isn’t about doing a task, but doing the right tasks to get results.

Let me introduce you to my way of organizing my days:

Instead of looking at my task list, which is purely a list of actions without any context, I start with the context first.

I have divided my working week into different categories — things like marketing, customer development, training, etc. I try to keep it to 5 categories. When I add tasks to my list, I always categories each item. Most items don’t have a date assigned to them, except the task is somehow very time-sensitive.

I also check my calendar for the week as some appointments might influence my choice of category for that day or the days before.
Once I have my week categories, I can see all the tasks that are listed related to the categories.

On the day when I open my task manager, I check first if there are any time-sensitive tasks on the list. If so, I ask myself: “Is there any way I can avoid doing those?”. My first job of the day is to reduce the number of tasks to the minimum required to achieve the goal of the category.

My job is to find a few tasks which, when completed, will have the most impact in that category.

Let’s take an example:

Category: Marketing

  • Write a new blog
  • Check Social Media statistics
  • Create a Facebook ad
  • Create a landing page for Facebook ad
  • Update newsletter
  • Create a new logo for X-campaign

There’s no way I can do all these tasks in one day. There aren’t enough hours in the day. That means I need to narrow it down. I need to decide what is my marketing priority for today. My main goal is to serve my current customers as good as I can.

That puts some weight on the tasks related to my existing customers. These are items like “Write a new blog” (which are written with my existing customers in mind) and “Update newsletter”.

If I have decided on the goal of the day in that category and selected the tasks required to serve that goal, I am preparing a successful day.

The art is in defining your goal of the day and the elimination of the tasks that don’t serve that goal.

It helps to be smart lazy and wanting to do as little as possible while getting things done.

When looking at your task list, ask yourself the following question:

Is there any way NOT to do that task?

I wish you many lazy successful days 🙂

John Di Stefano

An entrepreneur at heart and founder of the Entrepreneur Academy in Brussels, Belgium, this site is run by John di Stefano, teaching and supporting entrepreneurs to learn the skills every entrepreneur needs to create a better life for themselves and the people around them.

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