Someone said to me out of the blue the other day, You know, you really get things done. You don’t need reminded. You’re so organized and you just quietly go about your business. People can really rely on you.
This came as quite a surprise to me as I was just finishing up a job. Hummm, I thought, this is what I do all the time. I don’t know where this trait came from as my parents were never the kind who pushed me (although they were very organized, too.) And I will readily admit, my getting things done trait doesn’t extend to every aspect of my life as my family can attest. I can definitely walk past piles of books without a compulsion to straighten them up.
I think the attention to finishing tasks began way back in high school when I was yearbook editor. How many kids are told, Here’s your $10,000 budget. What are you going to do with it? Thanks to a great adviser, I learned how to plan, meet deadlines, make assignments, and finish the task on time. These skills were a great help in college when I was juggling a full slate of classes while working part-time jobs. And so it goes ever since.
Even in retirement, it seems I still rely on these skills. Currently I’m working on a series of paintings which will total sixteen in all. I’m halfway through. This is where the push comes as my energy flags. Or as this week when I’m gardening, planting pots, and tackling other outdoor projects. Whatever it is, I just keep at it.
I’ve been thinking about the conversation mentioned at the beginning. What does make some people better organized than others? What follows is my short list. Of course, people work differently so these may not apply to you, but maybe some of them will.
- Decide what your final destination will be. As the saying goes, if you don’t have a goal, then any path will get you there. As I have mentioned in earlier posts, I make long-term goals at least to give myself direction.
- What is your short-term plan? What do you want to get accomplished this year, this month, this week, today? I am an unapologetic list maker. I get great pleasure crossing things off the list. But I’m not compulsive about it. I frequently do not get everything done that is on the list. That’s OK, but I got some things done.
- Break bigger tasks down to sections. This doesn’t have to be formally but it can be if the project is big enough.
- Set aside some time to do the project. Start early. Get something done – the outline for the report, the materials lined up, your tools ready, whatever. Take away excuses.
- Set a timer if you really are avoiding the job. You know, cleaning the garage or the basement or your closet. When the timer goes off, you’ll find that you’ve probably accomplished a lot more than you thought. I find that I often am in the groove and reset the timer or keep carrying on. But I know that I can quit if I want to without guilt.
- Tackle the hardest thing first. If I find myself procrastinating, then I usually know I’m avoiding something. Just doing the hardest thing first will often give me the momentum to carry on.
- Focus, forget multi-tasking. Just do one thing at a time and try to finish it, or at least part of it. Jumping around only leads to distraction and doesn’t accomplish anything. Close your office door if you have to.
- Don’t be a perfectionist. Yeah, me. As General Patton said, A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.. Sometimes it’s more important to get a job done, make a good start, than it is to vacillate and over-plan. You can always fix it later.
- Set the project aside and come back and review it later. Mistakes will be glaring.
So these are just some of my little tricks for getting things done. There are entire books and websites devoted to organizing your time. Coaches, personal planners, all kinds of gimmicks and aids. But you don’t really need all that. You just need to get started. What are your favorite ideas and tricks for getting things done? I’d love to hear them.