If you’d told me a year and a half ago how much I’d get done in the next 18 months, I’d never have believed you.
Somehow, while raising kids and working a 9–5 I’ve managed to finish half an MBA and get a business off the ground. Now, as anyone who has read a lot of self-help books knows, the systems and habits you create are where the difference is really made. The following steps are the habits that have made the most difference for me.
Try these yourself.
As It Ends, Plan the Next
There are numerous famous examples of how writing a paper list for the next day of no more than six tasks every evening is the key to getting things done. However, I’m not a fan of paper tasks, as I like to switch between devices and keep permanent records. Instead, I set a calendar entry for the day it’s due in Google Calendar with my top six tasks written as simply as possible. I do the same for every other important planning period.
- When your workday ends, plan the top six tasks for tomorrow’s workday.
- When your week ends, plan your top tasks for next week.
- When your month ends, plan your top tasks for the next month.
- When your project ends, plan your top tasks for the next project.
- When your quarter ends, plan your top tasks for the next quarter.
- When your year ends, plan your top tasks for the next year.
Accelerate Your Progress
Tim Ferris is known for looking at his goals and seeing if he can work out how to do it in half the time. I’ve taken this to heart and I frequently review my goals to see if I can do something a bit quicker. I very rarely halve the time, but it certainly moves things along much more quickly!
There is absolutely nothing stopping you from doing things faster if you have the resources to do so, so why not try it?
Systems Are Essential
When you’re busy with kids and work, you tend to find that certain tasks can only get done at certain times, or while certain conditions are met. To make the best use of my time, I’ve developed systems and routines to guide each of these productive periods of time as best as possible.
I have a morning routine to ensure I get the most out of the time before my kids wake up, I have an evening routine to get the most out of those sleepy hours where I don’t feel as if I can work much anymore, and I have a “laptop routine” for those rare moments when I get uninterrupted computer time. The laptop time is so vital for certain tasks that I always ensure that anything that can be done on my phone is ignored until later.
When you’re a creative person, you often feel you need to be awake and “in the mood” to get the most important work done. That’s not really true, as you can always get the work done if you force yourself, but it certainly can help it along by boosting your mood to match your goals. Finding or setting up a playlist that has upbeat music with no lyrics is absolutely ideal for creative work and intense studying. I like to use a funky 70s disco playlist with very few words for my work, while I usually go for a mix of piano-based film scores for studying.
Mood changes everything.
Ask For It
A funny little thing about all walks of life is that you’re rarely going to get anything you want or need unless you ask for it. The local takeaway doesn’t know you want food until you place an order, your ideal employer doesn’t know you want to work there until you ask for a job, and your perfect clients don’t know you’re able to help them until you let them know.
The same goes for asking for information about what your customers want, asking for raises, asking to be admitted into a course, asking how to break into a new industry, and asking for someone’s time. Always look at the gap between what you have and what you need, and see if your next step is to ask someone something.
Focus On the Systems
I find that focusing on these processes and systems is what makes the biggest difference to the results I get. Maybe you will too.
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