3 Simple Ways to Get Things Done

I’ve just finished a book by R.L Adams. Towards the end, he makes a bold statement.

Roughly translated:

 “Time-wasting is the biggest cause of unachieved goals and dead dreams.”

Bold. I like it. And I agree.

photo credit: Hard At Work (Closeup) via photopin (license)
photo credit: Hard At Work (Closeup) via photopin (license)

Your time is your most precious commodity. You can never get it back.

But we take it for granted. No matter how much you waste, you always get more the next day.

Time wasted: nothing gained, nothing lost. Right?


Still to this day, I’ve got a quote on my bedroom ceiling. Every day, in high school, I’d wake up to an A4 dose of harsh reality:

“Every morning when you wake up, you have only two choices. The choice to work hard or the choice to not work hard. That’s it, no other choices. Either you work hard or you don’t; it’s pretty simple. If you choose not to work hard, you will fail. If you choose to work hard, you still might fail! How is that for a deal? Success is never guaranteed, but it is impossible without hard work.”

Jim Valvano

Every time I read it, it sends shivers down my spine.

So how can we get into action and work hard? Stop procrastinating. Much easier said than done, but here’s 3 ways that help me get things done.

Start small.

Doing something small everyday means you’re doing something. Everyone’s got a spare 5 minutes. Make them count.

Take a tiny step towards your goal. No matter how small, do it. Every. Single. Day. Over time, you’ll want to do more. Action inspires action.

Start small and build it up.

For me; chin-ups at the gym. I’d always put off doing them, until I added a few in at the end of each set. A month down the line, 10 chin-ups was no sweat, and they were an automatic part of my routine. No more procrastination.

Want to read? Go for 10 minutes a day. Drawing? Draw the simplest things first. Eating healthy? Make one meal time a sumptuous salad. Start small, build it up.

Why don’t we do this? Probably because it’s harder to see short-term changes. But now and again, take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Look at where you’ve come. You’ll be amazed.

Tiny steps, done over and over again, lead to big change.

Starting small triggers a lovely snowball effect; accomplishing small goals everyday builds momentum and motivates you further.  Before you know it, you’ll be juggernaut-ing your way through all obstacles in your path.

Don’t underestimate momentum. Start small, build it up, fill your life with action.

Have a Plan

I talked about this in the last article. Daily planning. Making an attack-plan the night before helps you wake up already in the zone to kick ass.

Now take it a step further.

Plan your week. Plan your month. Plan your year! Ask yourself, “What’s my goal for this week?” “What do I want to accomplish this month?”

Once you know your goals, break ‘em down into tasty bite size chunks, then plan away.

This tactic works amazingly if you know why you want to achieve your goals. What does you goal actually mean for your life?

For example, this month I’m trying to beast up my writing skills. I’m using a three-pronged approach;

  • Read books (in Spanish) for ideas.
  • Take notes and summarise the ideas in each book. Use them to plan out and write blog posts.
  • Copy the works of great authors word-for-word.

That’s a fair chunk of time out of each day. 3 x 45 minute blocks. But by knowing what these things mean for me, it suddenly becomes an awesome way to spend time. I’m excited to be doing them! Action!

Reading books: expands mind with new ideas. Reading in Spanish will improve my Spanish. Useful.

Note-taking, blog posting: Get better at structuring thoughts. Useful for academic career as well as anything business-related. Selling anything involves presenting your thoughts in a well-structured manner. Useful.

Copy-work: Hopefully absorb style of great authors, making my writing more entertaining. Again, being able to write things is pretty useful in life. Useful.

That’s one goal (improve writing in August), and 4 kick-ass reasons why it’s important for me.

Limit Distractions.

Distractions are real killers. Cutting them out of your life means less time wasted, more things done and an action-infused life.

Facebook users, here’s what I’d invite you to do.

  1. Go to drop down menu (the one with logout on it)
  2. Click new newsfeed preferences.
  3. Go to “People”.
  4. Now unfollow anyone who’s just a distraction. People who add nothing to your life.

What are you left with? If you’ve been trigger-happy, a pretty empty newsfeed.

You’re left with a cool bunch of people that genuinely cheer you up, motivate you and inspire you to take action. No more mindless surfing through swathes of negativity and bullshit. Win.

(This is an absolute beast of a tactic. Try it out!)

Phone notifications too.  Turn them off to stop you getting distracted. WhatsApp can wait. Texting can wait. Hell’s broken loose in Farmville? That can definitely wait.

Recent studies have shown that every 5 minute interruption at work costs 12 minutes of your time, because your brain needs 7 minutes to get back into gear.

So imagine if you’re interrupted 10 times in the day. That’s 10 x 5: 50 minutes of pure distraction. Then 10 x 7: 70 minutes on top just for your brain to get back on it.

10 harmless facebook surfs in a day?

120 minutes wasted. 2 hours! Holy smokes! That’s INSANE! Multiply by 7 for the whole week, and you’ve wasted 14 hours! Imagine what you could be doing with 14 hours?

Lots of things. Work out, learn new things, level up on Candy Crush….

Don’t level up on Candy Crush.

But what if I don’t have time to take action?

Ahhh…  the universal excuse. I often find myself in this exact situation.

Usually, it’s a case of cutting out distractions. Like the 14 hours a week in the last example.

For those who genuinely are busting their ass working all the time, it’s a case of prioritising what’s most important.

But if I need more time, I just get up earlier. In 2nd year, I was struggling to balance 2 part-time jobs, triathlon training and studying physics.

The solution? Wake up an hour earlier. Wake at 5am, train, then get to work for 6. By the time I hit lectures at 9, I’d already worked towards my goal, and earnt some cash. Action.

This tactic also forces you to go to bed earlier. You’re just knackered. Half 9? 10pm? Yes, bed time please. 11pm? Are you nuts?  Drawn out nights watching Youtube vids? Just, no. Need. Sleep. Now.

Productivity bliss.

So my tips to getting things done?

Start small. No matter how small, just do it every day.

Feel the momentum build, ride the snowball effect, and then move on to fry bigger fish. Step back in a month’s time, look at the big picture, and give yourself a pat on the back.

Congratulations friend. You rock.

Plan ahead. Make a next-day plan. Make a weekly plan. Make a monthly plan.

Know your goals, know why they’re important, break ‘em down into bite-size chunks, then plan, plan, plan.

Fail to plan, plan to fail.

Kill distractions. Change your newsfeed preferences on Facebook. Turn off the notifications on your phone. Keep your brain in the zone.

And if you don’t have time?  Read above. Get up earlier. Prioritize.

Be a do-er.

At this point, you should probably stop procrastinating, and go do something.

How do you get things done? What’s your secret techniques? Share in the comments :)

If you really want to fill your noggin, here’s an awesome little book about living on 24 hours a day. It’s a 30-45 minute read.  You’ll never think in the same way again…

Both links are to the same book. I like reading the AoM text. Comfy.



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