Article

How to Get Things Done, A Tested and Proven Technique for Anyone

How to Get Things Done, A Tested and Proven Technique for Anyone

Do you know, one of the top causes of stress is feeling under lots of pressure. Does it sound familiar? Why do we feel we are under pressure? One of the main reasons is that we have too many things to do and too little time. Many of us do engage in multitasking, resulting in low output or missing out on some of the critical tasks; most mid-to-senior-level professionals have on their plates on any given day between 25 and 90 projects (tasks that require multiple steps) and over 100 subsequent actions that relate to the various moving parts of their multi-level commitments.

Even the most efficient person on earth struggles at times to get things done, so you are not alone. Humans operate subconsciously 99% of the time and only 1% consciously. The subconscious brain can't think. It can only replicate past behaviours, patterns, and actions. If you have a bad habit, you will repeat it unless you are conscious. Being aware and conscious, you'll be able to create new habits and patterns. Only through repetitions you'll be able to embed those new patterns into your subconscious brain. Once the subconscious brain picks up the new pattern, you'll be able to apply it effortlessly. Many a time, we're oblivious to our environmental circumstances. We are overwhelmed with the amount of information, distractions, and the number of activities or tasks we need to handle at any given moment while, as human beings, we find ways to organize ourselves.

In contrast, to create the processes or systems to get things done efficiently and effectively, we need to go through multiple iterations to find the optimal mix. How about learning a time tested framework to help you organize, reduce ambiguity and reduce the load on the pre-frontal cortex (conscious brain)

In this article, I will share one of the ways to organize and get things done. Through this methodology, you will have a better time for yourself. You have time for reflection and can handle multiple tasks efficiently. 

Whenever an action or task comes to you, you may capture that on a piece of paper or a device; this habit will result in a huge laundry list. In comparison, this is a good strategy because you must capture everything you need to get done. Just having a laundry list may tend to overwhelm sometime. It may also lead to stagnation or even procrastination.

An alternative method to capture these action items/tasks is to categorize them into Eisenhower's matrix.  

  1. Urgent and important
  2. Urgent and Not Important
  3. Important and Not Urgent
  4. Not Important and Not Urgent

Urgent and important may look the same, but when analyzing them in terms of the Eisenhower Principle, the difference between them is critical. Differentiating between urgent and important within the Eisenhower Matrix can help you identify which tasks you should jump on and which tasks might be better handled by someone else. 

Urgent tasks require your immediate attention. When something is urgent, it must be done now, and there are clear consequences if you don't complete these tasks within a particular timeline. These are tasks you cannot avoid, and the longer you delay these tasks, the more stress you will likely experience, which may lead to burnout.

Examples of urgent tasks may include:

  • Completing a project with a last-minute due date
  • Attending to an urgent client request
  • Repairing a busted pipe in your apartment

Important tasks may not require immediate attention; however, these tasks are linked to your long-term goals. Just because these tasks are less urgent does not mean they do not matter. You will need to thoughtfully plan for these tasks to use your resources efficiently and avoid them becoming urgent tasks in the future. 

Examples of important tasks may include:

  • Planning a project
  • Networking to build a client base
  • Regular chores and maintenance projects

Once you know how to distinguish between urgent and important tasks, you can begin separating your tasks into the four quadrants of the Eisenhower Matrix. 

Have you heard the phrase, "well begun is half done"? Now that you have organized yourself, the next critical element is to have it executed. The Time Blocking Framework worked best for me and helped me achieve various tasks on time and complete them with utmost quality. 

Time Blocking is similar to the Pomodoro Technique, a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. It uses a timer to break work into intervals, typically 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. Each interval is known as a Pomodoro, from the Italian word for tomato, after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer Cirillo used as a timer. 

Firstly, plan your day. Depending upon your preference, you can do it in the morning or before sleeping (late evening). I start my day at 8 AM, and each day between 8 AM to 8:30 AM, I plan my entire day. What tasks do I need to complete and put on the Calendar? For example, I need to write this blog. I have blocked 30 minutes each day. I know. I will take 3 hours to complete this article, hence blocked 6 days on my Calendar. Ideally, if it is done same time each day at the exact location (it is brilliant). I decide each day since we live in an ambiguous, uncertain, volatile, and complex world. Remember, don't expect things to happen as per the Calendar. In my case, I rarely achieved 100% of what I had planned for. Since I have developed this habit and discipline, I achieve 80% on average. Balance 20% spills and eats up my evenings or spills to the next day. Also, I do not keep anything longer than 30 minutes; longer time blocking does not work for me. Another rule, I take at least 4, 30 minutes break during the day, which is 2 hours; in those 30 minutes break, I take a short walk, listen to music, play a video game, or maybe watch a funny video. The purpose is not to feel fatigued. Each task requires attention and consumes significant energy; hence you need a break to rejuvenate. 

The deadly combination of the Eisenhower matrix and Time Blocking has unlocked my potential. I can accomplish high-quality tasks effortlessly and rarely have I felt stressed out, burned out, or anxious. This process also helped improve my mood and strengthen my emotional intelligence. Because I am less stressed, I have quality conversations, improved my relationship with others, foster trust, and increased my credibility. Remember, initially, you may feel it difficult, overwhelming, and to some extent, you may not see a visible benefit. Only when you make it a habit, and over a period, you will realize the benefits and how much value you have unlocked. So, when you start, do not pressure yourself with another metric or goal; enjoy the process of change and allow it to embed in you subconsciously naturally. If you need help, you can connect with me on LinkedIn, and I can help coach your transformation.

About the Author

Dr. Parthiban Vijay Raghavan is an expert in solving an organization's complex problems through accurate diagnosis, designing, innovation, agility, and execution excellence. He is also expertise in Decision Making Process, Leadership Communication, OD, Learning Strategies, and implementation, He is a Certified OB/OD Professional.