I wrote the other day about paralysis of endless opportunities. The to-do lists you’re holding are much like it – paralysis of options. Do this or do that? We’re faced with so many things we’ve gotta do that we stop moving. We’re going to drill the list down. This process is not about prioritizing, it’s about guerrilla warfare on your to-dos, it’s about leveraging constraints, it’s about leaping, not stepping.
Leap 1: Eggs in a basket
Welcome, likely, to your first instance of where putting all your eggs in one basket is a good thing. Start this leap by collecting all open loops, bring all your notes, to-dos, stickynotes, binders, phone lists, into one place. I suggest Evernote.
This is going to look counterproductive and, once you have all your lists, dreams, to-dos, in one place it’s going to look scary.
Do not try to categorize them or order your notes. Dump them all in one space that’s easy to edit. Preferably as bullet points.
Leap 2: Actionable vs Serial
Start this process by going through your document and asking yourself does the task require one action or is it a series of actions?
Really ponder each one. “Clean the deck” might seem like a single action, but don’t you have to call your neighbor to borrow his pressure washer to clean the deck? This becomes a serial task. In these cases, write what the steps are next to the goal or task you want to accomplish.
If it’s one action. Do it right then and there. If you don’t want to do it right then and there (or can’t), delete the task or put it in a new list to run through next week. If you still don’t do the tasks on that list next week, delete them. It’s like looking at your wardrobe, seeing something you want to keep but haven’t worn, if you don’t wear it by next Sunday, toss/donate it.
Side note: By this time you ought to have deleted a handful of notes that no longer resonate to your current mission, that no longer matter, that you no longer want. If you haven’t cleared out at least a quarter of all your tasks/ideas/wishes/dreams/goals, then you’re being too easy, too attached to not doing anything because there’s so much to do.
Pro tip: If you delete something of your list and don’t think about it again next week, then it was never important enough in the first place. If you do think of it again next week, add it back to the list.
Congratulations on your start to GSD, hopefully you’ve now removed all the actionable items from the list either by doing or by cutting them out.
Now all you’re left with are tasks that require multiple steps.
Leap 3: The biggest hack for GSD
The best way to complete a task is to not go to sleep until it’s done. Now it’s time, each morning, to go through your list, choose one that you believe you can accomplish that day and do it. Forget about all the other things that you want to do and focus on that single series of tasks.
At this point you might be wondering why we’re not prioritizing. The reason is that if it needs to get done by a certain date, you’ll do it. Why try to focus on doing something that is already guaranteed to get done by the time it’s due? Doing so is likely what got your to-do list so long in the first place.
What if you don’t complete those series of tasks in a day? Go into the next day working to complete them until they’re done. Then you can move onto the next one.
That’s it. Three leaps to getting shit done.
Pro tip: This same process can be used in email. Is the email an actionable item? Do it or put it in a folder to look back on later.
Lists, productivity and GSD are all about action, not about reprioritizing each day, not about strategizing timelines, not about ranking biggest tasks to smallest ones, and, especially not about doing everything that’s on your list.
Lastly, I want to propose something I’ve done before because I was paralyzed by all the things I wanted to do. Once you have all your notes in one spot. Delete them. Delete them all. As mentioned, if a task is important to you, you’ll remember it a week from now. This is the hail mary of GSD.
Stay Positive & Go GSD