Today we introduce three productivity tips that can help increase the amount of work you get done while decreasing your stress levels. Sound impossible? We thought so too until we read this book.
Have you ever experienced that blissful state of knocking items off your to do list? It’s the feeling of running your to-do list instead of having it run you.
David Allen, the author of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity (referred to as "GTD"), shows exactly how to do that.
We recommend buying the book and reading all that the author has to say. However, we wanted to share a small portion of what we found to be most helpful.
Here are three awesome productivity tips from the book that can be implemented immediately.
The author notes that most people have a giant running list of things they want to get done. The items on that list could range from washing the dog, calling a friend back, finishing the proposal for your boss, or updating your web hosting. In other words, that list contains items that you absolutely need to get done today as well as items that should get done or would be nice to complete this week. There is nothing wrong with that as it helps keep all of your items in one place. GTD says the problem is that having such a broad list dilutes the emphasis on things that truly need to be completed today. Here is a powerful quote from the book:
"The way I look at it, the calendar should be sacred territory. If you write something there, it must get done that day or not at all. The only rewriting should be for changed appointments."
-Page 41, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity
Don’t worry if this seems a little jarring. The author lays out an entire system of how to organize your calendar and items so that they are easy to follow and update.
So how do you actually get it all done? The book shows you how!
If you have an item on your list that you want to complete then the author recommends writing it down.
Next, in one sentence, write down the desired outcome. It is important to be specific here. What would it look like and what would have to happen for you to completely cross that item off your list? For example, let's say your item is “finish presentation for client meeting”. Your desired outcome might be something like “print out final presentation and put it in a folder with the client’s name on my desk”.
Finally, to complete the exercise, GTD says to “write down the very next physical action required to move the situation forward” (page 14). In other words, what is the next action you could take to get closer to completing that item? It is ok if it is small. For instance, the next action for our example above might be to “open PowerPoint and finish editing slide 6 and 7”.
Then complete that action!
This points you in the right direction and allows you to get one step closer to your goal. Trying to complete a big project all at once is daunting. Focusing on one action step at a time will eventually lead to completing the project!
Try this productivity tip now! Pick up a pencil or pen and go through the exercise. See if you experience what the author says that most people experience in the quote below.
"If you're like the vast majority of people who complete that drill during my seminars, you'll be experiencing at least a tiny bit of enhanced control, relaxation, and focus. You'll also be feeling more motivated to actually do something about that situation you've merely been thinking about till now."
-Page 14, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity
You might be surprised to hear that managing time is not actually the key to being more productive. The author makes some amazing points with the sentences below:
"In training and coaching thousands of professionals, I have found that lack of time is not the major issue for them (though they themselves may think it is); the real problem is a lack of clarity and definition about what a project really is, and what the associated next-action steps required are."
-Page 19, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity
"You don't actually do a project; you can only do action steps related to it."
-Page 38, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity
Instead of figuring out how you will have enough time to complete a project, it is much more logical to start knocking out your action steps that you have already clearly defined.
Each completed action step will put you closer to your goal and it will be completed before you know it! Focusing attention on completing actions steps can allow you to get more done and can give you peace of mind!
If these three productivity tips are useful then it is easy to imagine how reading the entire book will help you be more productive and less stressed.
What productivity tips do you use to get things done?