Failure to get stuff done convo.
Me: Oh look I completed 10 items on my list thingy today.
Also me: *dramatically throws hands up in air* Out of 25! I’m a failure! How have I survived this long as a human? I suck at life. *sigh*
Ever had that conversation with yourself? I have. So. Many. Times. At the end of the day you look at your to do list and only see half or less of the things on it completed. Guilt and shame burst in the door and you feel like a failure. That guilt and shame carry on with you until the next day – making that day drag on, and on, and on. It is a vicious cycle that continues to kill your productivity.
So how do you work around this and get stuff done? Well I’m here to give you some good news. You don’t suck at time management – time management sucks.
I’m going to give you some tips on how to shift your perspective and increase your productivity and your sanity.
A 54 hour day is not realistic.
Most people create a list dump of things they want to accomplish that day without considering the time it will realistically take to complete all of those items. Most people, myself included, actually schedule a 50+ hour work day! And then beat themselves up when they only complete half of the list.
When you are unrealistic with your schedule you don’t get an accurate picture of your accomplishments and where you need to improve. And you feel icky for nothing. The good news is realizing this is the very first step to solving this problem.
Guilt and shame are productivity killers.
Perspective shift #2 – feeling crappy about being seemingly unproductive can actually make you even more unproductive. Yeah, you read that right. Just from observational research – generally, when you feel like a loser you are not operating at your highest level. Amirite?
Recognize the difference between task and mini-projects.
The easiest way for your day to get out of control is to write down mini-project as one task. You know that item that you want done but didn’t really think about. Then you start creatively avoiding it because that one item looks and feels daunting. Finally, you realize that in order to get that item done you have to do 3 or 25 other times. That is a mini-project, my friends.
By estimating how much time each task could take you are preventing adding in 5 mini-projects into your day. And if you have a mini-project – no worries. Just break down the tasks it would take to complete it. Maybe it all fits into your day, or maybe you need to spread it out over a few days. There isn’t a wrong timeline as long as it is realistic and not making you want to pull your hair out.
Schedule 3x the amount of time you think a task will take.
Another way to reduce stress in your day and get stuff done is to be cool with inevitable distractions. While I highly recommend setting your work environment up to limit distractions – life is generally unexpected. And distractions happen. Writer’s block happens. Kids get sick. Giving yourself extra time for a task helps reduce the stress associated with that task. You also feel like Superwoman if you finish early. But if something unexpected did come up or you got stuck – your day is no longer derailed.
I discovered this trick 9 years ago when I woke up super sick but I had a huge deadline to meet for my business. After looking at my list I said, “Okay I am only going to do this one thing that absolutely needs to get done and then I’m going to take a nap. Forget the rest of my list.” So I started working on the most important thing and I could care less how much time it took because I wrote off all my other tasks.
I ended up completing that task way sooner than I expected. So I took a nap because I felt like crap. Luckily I was working remotely – I know this isn’t usually realistic in an office setting. I woke up from my nap feeling a little better. There wasn’t anything interesting on daytime tv – my options were things like ‘The Jerry Springer Show’. So I thought, “Okay I’m going to do one more item and then if I feel icky, take a nap.”
I completed this process 4 times, taking 4 naps and completing 4 really important to-dos on my list. Surprisingly it was a really productive day and I felt better at the end of the day because I slept half of it.
How was this possible? I didn’t understand how I could be just as productive as any other day while being sick and snoozing half the time. *light bulb* I removed the stress associated with each activity because I didn’t set an unrealistic time limit on it.
Add an “if time” or “would be nice” section to your list.
I get it. Sometimes it’s hard to let go of that long list – because you have been doing it for so long it feels weird to only look at 3-5 items for the day. If you really need to have extra items on your list, create an “if time” section. That way if you do end up finishing early and want to keep going you can start to tackle that list. If you don’t get to that list you can still feel good knowing you had an amazingly productive day.
Basically, the gist I’m trying to get across is creating a 50+ hour day for yourself serves no one. Don’t feel bad if you realize you are in the ridiculous overachiever club. I did the same thing over and over again. In fact, sometimes I fall off the wagon and back into my old ways. But the awesome thing is I’m aware that these unrealistic days exist. When I only complete half my items I can ask myself why and bounce back so much quicker than before. The trick is to reduce guilt, shame, and stress that plummets productivity by…
- scheduling 3x the amount of time you think a task is going to take
- Breaking down mini-projects into bite-size tasks
- Add an “if time” or “would be nice” section for those tasks that might not fit into your day but you just can’t let go of.
What is one thing from this article that you want to try today? Tell me how you get stuff done in the comments below.
Did you find this useful? Don’t keep it a secret. I would love it if you would share it with a friend, colleague or loved one. It is the biggest compliment you can give me.