How to Do What Needs to Be Done on Time?
I have big problems with goals, I miss them all the time. I manage to do quite a lot, but rarely on time. Thanks to this questions I discovered a few things that help me getting things done:
1. A serious deadline.
This is by far the most effective tool to GTD (Get Things Done). My problem with them is that I am already terribly busy.
Often, when I have taken too much on my shoulders I’ve ended up overwhelmed or pissed on myself, that I didn’t keep the promise (to myself or others). The final result was that my “things” were not done and I felt low. That made me to give up on deadlines which didn’t help my productivity…. A vicious cycle.
That’s why I use them as a last resort weapon, very selectively and only for serious matters. I also try very hard not to beat myself if I miss a deadline, but get up and finish the job or at least save what’s possible.
For example last week I’ve finally finished three guest posts I promised to a few people. I also wanted to finish editing my next book and publish my monthly income report.
Well, the proofreader of my report was late a few hours and I was too exhausted in the evening to finish the job. I also didn’t find enough time to edit the whole book. I published the income report with one day delay and sent to my copy editor only the half of the manuscript, so he could start his job ASAP.
For me this works only for a specific events that are measurable in time. I can block an hour or two in my schedule in advance, but I cannot afford to extend such a block for even a minute. I have just too many things happening in my life.
So, if I know that I have a podcast interview in two weeks, I just mark it on my wall calendar at my home office and I plan all other activities around this event.
I cannot schedule editing of my books, because the time is never set with this job. It can take an hour, or it can take dozen hours.
I cannot block much of my time, because of my past choices I have to be available to many entities: my wife, my employer, my kids, my church community…
That’s why I use it rarely and for things that have a definite agenda and duration.
It happened a few times in the past that I simply was dead set upon something. I was so mad on me or something that happened, that I didn’t stop till I finished. It happened to me a few times that I worked till 4–5 am to finish a book, then slept 1–2 hours and went to my day job.
It’s certainly not sustainable and not as effective as good work organization (I work really slowly at 3 am), but it helped me to GTD when they needed to be done.
4. Writing down / breaking down.
This is, by the way, the core of David Allen’s GTD system. My problem with it is that I cannot organize one system to store all the tasks in anything resembling an order; and if I manage to organize such system the administrative overhead makes it disadvantageous.
Management of tasks takes too much time and it leaves me too little time to actually do something.
Nonetheless, writing down and breaking down tasks help immensely, even if it’s not in the context of a dedicated time management system.
I noticed that the tasks which I jot down, even on a scrap of paper, have higher likelihood of being finished on time, than those which I only carry around in my mind.
5. Identity/ habits.
A multitude of daily tasks is one thing, but if you want to carry out something greater there is nothing better like identifying with your goals and developing a daily habits to tend to them.
I want to be a full time writer. This is where I see my future. I see myself as a writer and writers write.
I created a habit of writing 1,000 words a day. With everything else I have on my plate this is a substantial time commitment (about one hour a day), but it translates into exponential results. Thanks to that relatively small habit I managed to publish 15 books, over 100 blog posts, about two dozen guest posts and articles, over 690 answers on Quora, etc.
Since 23rd of September 2013 I haven’t missed a single writing day. I produced over 1,250,000 words.
Yes, many times I crossed some deadlines, but very rarely they were writing deadlines. Usually, I procrastinate on later stages, like editing and organizing a book launch ;)