The Inconvenient Truths About Getting Work Done
By: Thomas Oppong
Founder @Alltopstartups. Curator at postanly.com. Columnist at Inc. Featured at HuffPost, Business Insider, Quartz, CNBC, Entrepreneur, & The New York Observer.
Publised on Medium
Humans are prolific procrastinators. People have struggled with habitual hesitation going back to ancient civilizations. It’s easy to make plans and throw dates on your calendar, and yet it’s practically inevitable that you’ll let some deadlines fly whilst you still have some tasks unfinished.
Every one strives to do better every day. But the harsh reality is that until you are 100% committed to doing actual work, nothing else matters. Your fancy goals and weekly to-do lists won’t help you if you can’t commit to doing them.
People have the mental capacities to make ambitious plans, yet almost no time at all to put them into practice. It’s easier to plan but a lot more difficult to do something about those plans.
No webinar, no online course, no ebook, no mentorship will help you if you do not go all in and get things done and actually check them off your to-do list.
Confused, lost and uncertain? You are not alone. Feeling under pressure to deliver? It’s the same old problems for everyone. Sometimes you lose control. There are many occasions when you feel uncomfortable and unfulfilled because of your inactions.
Many people who hear or read what productivity hacks and strategies won’t do anything with the information. They go back to their lives, don’t change anything and get the same results they were getting before: not getting stuff done.
There is no perfect system
Every productive person has a system for getting things done. What works for Tim Ferriss may not necessarily work for you. After years of using different systems and writing about them, I can say that there is no one-size-fits-all productivity system.
There are good guidelines and high-level principles that are universal, but you alone can define and refine what works for you.
When your system makes you feel comfortable and confident that your productivity bases are covered, and it has a track record of actually helping you do your work without missing anything important, stick to it.
If you try a system and it doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t mean the system is broken. It just doesn’t fit you. Move on. Try something else. Focus on the results, not the system.
Getting Things Done (GTD), The SMART Method, Timeboxing, Biological Prime Time, Personal Kanban, Pomodoro Technique, Getting Things Done, and Eating Live Frogs are some of the most popular and effective productivity systems today.
All of these systems are designed to do one thing: get stuff done. Once you try a system for at least thirty days, you’re free to stick with it or try something different.
Once you settle into your system, you need to customize it. Make it your own. Your situation is different from David Allen, Gary Keller, or Chris Bailey. You have unique needs for your specific situation.
Getting started is the biggest hurdle!
“To think is easy. To act is difficult. To act as one thinks is the most difficult.” — Johann Wolfgang Von Goeth
The biggest hurdle for many of us is simply getting started. Making that important decision to take a step. You can be as big and successful as you can possibly imagine if you build that mindset you need to push yourself to make that all important decision to just start.
You have everything you need to make an impact in the world if you can get past the many reasons why should postpone that task. Don’t think too far into the future.
Use what you have right now at where you are and witness the magic of getting things done. In Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World, Peter H. Diamandis says, “Right now, and for the first time ever, a passionate and committed individual has access to the technology, minds, and capital required to take on any challenge.”
Don’t wait for a perfect time to start anything. There isn’t one. You can only make progress if you start today, right now!
You will never be able to do it all
Success demands a singleness of purpose. — Vince Lombardi
Do one thing well, not three things badly! Many people want do well at work. And make the most of their skills. It’s incredible what you risk and do to progress. But sometimes you will have nothing to show for it. What you choose to do may be good use of your time but you probably won’t be able to show real results.
You won’t be able to do everything this week or this month. And that’s okay.As long as you are consistent and stick to the process. Sometimes priorities change. That’s part of the journey. It’s better to be clear about what you want to get done at any moment in time than combining multiple tasks.
It’s so easy to get seduced into the importance of a task, project or job and drive yourself insane to over deliver or impress. But it’s always important to take time out and ask: What am I risking or taking for granted? What could I have done different to achieve the same results? At the end of the day, is that the best use of my time?
Distraction is the enemy!
“If you see distraction externally, you end up creating an internally distracted state.” — Tim Ferriss
Demand for our time is increasingly exceeding our capacity — draining us of the energy we need to bring our skill and talent fully to life.
We are currently exposed to an unprecedented flood of information and requests than ever before. And we feel compelled to read and respond at all hours of the day and night. Being selective, doing less, is the path of the productive. It pays to focus on the important few and ignore the rest.
“The net is designed to be an interruption system, a machine geared to dividing attention,” Nicholas Carr explains in his book The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. “We willingly accept the loss of concentration and focus, the division of our attention and the fragmentation of our thoughts, in return for the wealth of compelling or at least diverting information we receive.”
There is no perfect time!
Stop looking for a perfect time to start work. Are you waiting for a perfect time to do that task or start that project? There can never be a best time to do anything. The perfect time is now. You may have convinced yourself that now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons.
“Do not wait: the time will never be ‘just right’. Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command and better tools will be found as you go along.” — Napoleon Hill
But come tomorrow, you will still give yourself another excuse. Just get on with it. Re-clarify your goals (get rid of your fuzzy goals). What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?
Sometimes the best thing to do is: nothing
“Reflect on what you do in a day. You may have never realised how some simple harmless activities rob you of precious time.” — Vivek Naik
Life is a challenge. Sometimes it’s common to feel like you’re constantly working against the clock every day, and moving plans and tasks around to meet deadlines. And guess what, when you do take time to relax … you feel guilty. But you shouldn’t.
Many productivity resources are focused on what you can do MORE of in order to achieve your goals. But MORE is hard to achieve. Many people can’t get a lot done. And they get anxious and stressed even more.
Doing nothing refreshes your mind. Taking breaks in our mental work is equally helpful. Brief diversions improve focus, according to research. Taking a break allows you to come back to your task with renewed energy and sense of purpose.
The next time you feel guilty about doing nothing, consider how much more effective it may make you in the long run.