What is the Secret to Getting Things Done?

the secret to getting things done
You can do a lot with just a notebook.

There is no secret. But there is a strategy. If you want to be a successful teacher, salesman, contractor or entrepreneur you need to grab a notebook and make a plan.

That’s it. Easy right?

Without a plan you have no way to measure progress; no way to know when to course correct. You are just winging it day by day and hoping for the best. So before you start your next project take a few minutes and come up with a concrete plan. It doesn’t matter how big or small the project is to see benefits from a solid plan either.

Need to grade 3 class sets of essays? Make a plan.

Need to train a new employee to take over a department? Make a plan.

Need to spring clean the house? Yes, make a plan!

Sounds like a lot of planning, doesn’t it? Fortunately, they do not need to be elaborate or time-consuming. You’d be surprised at how much more productive you can be after just 10 minutes spent with a pen and paper. Just ask yourself the following 4 questions:

1. What is my goal? You need to start with the end in mind. If you are not clear about where you want to go, how can you expect to get there? Ideally, this should be the easiest step of creating your plan. You want those essays graded, that employee to take over the department, or your house clean.

2. When do I want to achieve it? How long should your project take? Sometimes you don’t have a choice. The current department head is leaving in two weeks, so the new guy needs to be up to speed ASAP. Other times there is some flexibility. The world won’t end if it takes 2 weeks instead of 1 to complete your spring cleaning. There is a caveat though. Once you have decided on an end date, it needs to become nonnegotiable. If you give yourself wiggle room, then trust me, you’ll take it.

3. What do I need to do daily to see it through? Once you have an end date, start to break down your project into discrete tasks. How many systems does your new employee need to be introduced to?  How many essays are there in that to-be-graded pile? (Too many, always too many! ) Do some simple division and decide how much you need to do each day to complete the project on time.

4. How will I measure my progress? This is where you use the plan to up your motivation. Have some predetermined checks in place so that you’ll be able to both pat your self on the back, and determine whether or not the plan is working. Spring cleaning the house? Why not post before and after pics somewhere. Let your clean house shine. Training a new employee? Have some assessments in place to be sure he has master the systems he needs to know. If you find the plan isn’t working then make some adjustments. Just be sure to follow the same 4 step process.

Of course the best laid plans of mice and men…well, you know.

A plan is great. In fact I think it is key. But unless you have the perseverance to see it through it isn’t worth much more than the paper it is written on. More on this next time.