For quite a few years, I struggled to keep up. A pile of dishes in the sink, dozens of house projects to get done, and a workload I couldn’t reduce no matter how hard I tried. It was overwhelming. But then I read a book on negotiations and everything changed. The book talked about breaking up a negotiation into smaller chunks and I immediately got the idea to break up my daily tasks into smaller chunks. Since that day, I now have a strategy to finish things. Over the years, I’ve learned even more techniques to finish things, and they all work. Here’s a list of five techniques you can start using today.
Identify The Obstacles
Identifying the things that keep you from finishing things has a purpose: it’s to overcome the thing you identify, not merely assign blame. By identifying the things that keep you from finishing things, you can start the process of removing those barriers by facing them head on. If going to the gym kept you from getting dinner on the table, maybe it’s time to reevaluate whether poor scheduling is the problem – not going to the gym. Take your time and be honest, and you’ll quickly see a spotlight on the real reasons behind your failure to complete daily tasks.
Redefine Your Barriers
You try to blog or upload images, but your internet speed keeps you from finishing your work. You blame AT&T and start again doing the same thing the next day. What if your barrier isn’t really your internet speed, but the time of day you’re trying to get work done? If your internet speed really does impact your work, what if the problem is how you plan your tasks instead of the fact that you hit a speed barrier? Identifying your barriers helps you redefine them. Your internet speed isn’t keeping you from finishing things. Your choices of how you interact with your internet speed is what’s keeping you from finishing things. Redefine the hurdle by deconstructing how you interact with it. This technique works with every type of barrier you identify.
Make Your Goals Smaller
A couple of years ago, I ruptured my Achilles tendon while playing basketball. During my recovery, I gained more than 10 pounds. When I was able to get back into the gym, I really wanted to lose the weight immediately. The problem was that I had to make sure I didn’t re-injure my Achilles in the process. Each day, I would jump on the stationary cycle and try to increase my heart rate to a point where weight loss was inevitable. As I progressed, my Achilles would start to ache and I would have to cut my workout short. My doctor told me I was working my Achilles too hard and needed to slow things down.
This happened for a couple of weeks until I realized my goal of losing the weight quickly was too large of a goal given my recovery timeline. In order to lose the weight, I needed to create some smaller goals and accomplish those first. The first goal? Cycle for 10 minutes without pain. From there, 15 minutes. Within a few short weeks, I was able to cycle for 30 minutes without pain. I also lost five pounds in the process and felt better about my recovery. I reached the big goal by creating – and conquering – smaller goals.
Prioritize by Triage
Not everything that is left undone needs to get done. And for those things that do, in fact, need to get done – not all of those things need to get done right now. For the vast majority of us, we simply list the things we want to finish and then start working on the list. Over time, more things get added to the top of the list and the items on the bottom end up never being completed.
An easy trick to finish things you start is to triage. You prioritize by looking at two factors: (a) which things must get done; and (b) which things must get done right now. The highest priority item on your list is the thing that must get done immediately. The lowest priority items are those that don’t need to get done and certainly don’t need to get done today. Use this triage tactic daily and you’ll start knocking out the meaningful tasks almost immediately.
If you’re an author, it’s nearly impossible to watch TV and write at the same time. Kind of like texting and driving. Or, like shopping and talking on the phone. Sooner or later, you find yourself walking in circles up and down the aisles, disconnected from the conversation and pushing a cart of things you don’t recall picking up. The issue here is focus, or lack thereof. A simple tactic to increase your rate of completed tasks is to focus on one thing until you complete it. Don’t let your attention compete with itself. Do this, and you’ll see your ‘to do’ list shrink almost overnight.
I know I said “5 things,” but here’s a 6th – take action! If you want to finish something, start working on it right now! I wrote an entire book on the subject of getting things done – check it out here!