Getting things done in life is never easy, and there are a lot of stars that need to align to create the right momentum. When those stars do align though, it feels awesome and you finally start to see progress. By putting together the right tactics of decision making, commitment and planning, you will start your projects, and maybe even chase your dreams.
Getting things done: 3 types of people
As I have said many times in the past, if it was easy everybody would do it. Getting to work is extremely hard. Everybody struggles with it on a different level. In fact, I have come to realise that there are 3 main categories of people when it comes to getting things done.
The non-doers are the people that live their life on a day-to-day basis, without major plans for the future and/or big projects for some day. This category accounts for a big percentage of the population, and therefore the scope of profiles is extremely wide. Rich or poor, worried or stress-free, hard-worker or dilettante, penny hoarder or big spender…
The only specific criteria for this category of people is that they tend to let life happen to them. They don’t have big plans, they live their life, and whatever happens… happens. Some people in this category are really happy with their life, others not so much. Others might be seriously sad about it, hiding it day after day, or only telling their friends about it.
These people will not try to change anything. Regardless of their feelings towards their own situation, they will not change (unless they create the required massive mindset switch).
The doers without commitment
The doers without commitment are the people that live their life on a day-to-day basis just like the non-doers, except they do have plans. They have major plans for the future and/or big projects for some day. They just can’t seem to start working on them.
This category also accounts for a big percentage of the population, but the profiles it includes tend to be easier to categorise.
Doers without commitment are usually dissatisfied with their situation, to a certain degree. They wish they had more time to get things done and work on their projects, but life always tends to get in the way. They might even have an action plan ready, a bucket list to check off, a blueprint for this great idea sitting at the bottom of a drawer.
And the more life keeps going, the faster time flies by, the more they feel like they’re missing out. This feeling of missing out can translate into different states of mind and/or behaviours: guilt, indifference, procrastination, inability to focus, indecision…
Doers without commitment are on the right path to self development and fulfilment, but they’re missing one thing: action.
Finally, the doers. Some of them used to be in one of the 2 other categories, some of them have always known how to get things done.
They make up a small percentage of our the population, and as a result tend to be a big source of inspiration for a lot of people. Doers without commitment look up to them, as they are stuck in the first step of success: knowing where you want to go.
The doers know how to create and use the right tools and processes to generate progress for themselves. Some happen to be born with it, others have worked on their mindset for a very long time.
As mentioned in the past, it takes a massive mindset switch to become a doer when you are not one to begin with. This switch includes a tremendous amount of variables that all need to be set to the right value.
It almost always takes an environmental switch, through practical action and not only psychological change. This is what I want to talk about here. Practical (but not easy) tips to get consistent periods of work flowing through your schedule, once you have switched your mindset to the one of a doer.
The 10 golden principles
As always, you are more than welcome to tailor my advice to your own reality. Those 7 principles have worked consistently for me ever since I started to commit myself to working on my projects. Everybody is different, so take what you need and mix it up with your own strategies, as long as it works.
#1 You are the product of your environment
Your workspace needs to be an optimal reference point. Optimal, because it needs to ignite success in you. And a reference point, because it needs to be the place where you work the most, a place you know by heart. You might have to travel sometimes and/or work somewhere you didn’t necessarily choose, but work should be done in your workspace as much as possible.
It’s all about mental associations. Don’t work in your bed, even if you think you’re focused. Beds are for sleeping. Don’t work in your couch, even if you think you’re on a roll. Couches are for relaxing. Always getting work done in the same place (your workplace) will slowly build up to an automatic habit. When you sit in this very chair, at this very table, your brain will know it is time to turn focus on.
#2 Turn off distractions
Distractions are part of your everyday environment. They shouldn’t be part of your work environment. No matter what your work/hustle consists of, keeping distracting technology to a bare minimum is highly recommended.
I never keep my phone next to me when I work. I most of the time leave it in a different room. And if I do keep it in the same room, I make sure all notifications and sounds are off. Make sure you work when the probability of getting distracted by somebody in the same room/house as you is low (that’s in the morning for most people).
Sometimes, you might think you deserve a little break and head to Youtube, Facebook or Instagram. This is usually the beginning of the end when it comes to productivity. I wrote about youtube addiction in the past. When it comes to having a break, how about stepping outside or having a coffee in your favourite room? Get some fresh air, enjoy the simple things in life.
#3 Have a plan
It is so much easier to get somewhere when you know how to get there. Laying out a plan is one of the most important principle to get things done. I know for a fact I can’t work without a to-do list I check off at each stage of a project.
Take this blog. I would not be able to write and get my posts out there if I didn’t follow a strict list of pre-chosen titles. I brainstorm titles every week, and I log them in a daily schedule. This way, I know exactly what I will write on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, all the way to the weekend. Without this process, I get completely stuck mentally and I can’t get to work.
#4 Stick to the plan
Once your plan is set and you are sure that it is realistic and doable, all you have to do is follow it. Having a realistic plan is really important, otherwise you will lose your motivation. A common technique to plan things is to underestimate sometimes beyond reason. For instance, if you have a project of writing 3 articles per week, and you think this is a realistic target, divide it by 2. In this case, set 1 article and a half per week as a target.
You might end up with weird metrics for your projects, but this works. It greatly improves your chances of success in any project by removing part of the stress that comes with self-imposed targets.
You are already being hard on yourself by working twice as hard as other people on making your dreams a reality. Going easy on the deadlines (while still respecting them) is important, otherwise you will be stressed and angry at yourself for not making it.
Following a plan enables you to focus your energy where it needs to be. It makes it less easy to get off track.
#5 Don’t work late
When you think about the pros and cons of waking up early versus working late in a pragmatic way, it’s pretty straightforward.
Would you rather: Work all night on your hustle and show up at the office looking like a zombie.
Or: Show up fresh and ready, on time, and having already hatched down 2 hours of work on the things that matter the most to you.
Would you rather: Wake up late on the weekends because you need to catch up on sleep, missing half of your Saturday and a quarter of your Sunday, to show up in the office on Monday feeling like you missed out on your weekend.
Or: Enjoy your weekends, meet up with friends somewhere else than a bar, and even have time to work on your own hustle.
A lot of people say they are night owls, but how many ever tried to be early birds for more than a couple days in a row?
Working late is usually not sustainable in the long term. It will make you unable to have periods of uninterrupted focus during the day, which is also when most people live and interact with you.
The investments of today are the profits of tomorrow. Going to bed early will ensure you can be at the top of your game the next day.
If you wish you were an early bird and are struggling to wake up early, here is a short and sweet article that could help.
#6 Work early
We’ve all heard the saying “Early bird catches the worm”. But just because you don’t get the 5am worm doesn’t mean there won’t be any left at 6 or 7.Just because you don’t get the 5am worm doesn’t mean there won’t be any left at 6 or 7 Click To Tweet
Waking up early means making sure that you will have enough time in the morning to take care of yourself without being late to other obligations you might have (like a 9-5). Having breakfast and getting fresh and dressed is the bare minimum. Working on your own projects in the morning requires waking up even earlier, but it is well worth it.
Some people get to work within the first hour after they wake up. I’m not a fan of this technique because I like stretching, doing yoga, and having breakfast first. I find my brain to be a bit too foggy to get to work right after waking up. But if you find this works with you, go right ahead.
What is undeniable is that early mornings are one the best times (if not the best time) to get uninterrupted periods of work.
- Mornings are quiet
- There are not too many people around (less distractions)
- Your brain is not tired from the day yet
#7 Differentiate breaks from procrastination
Breaks are a healthy interruption of your work. Depending on the type of worker you are, you will need breaks more or less often.
The problem is that technology makes it too easy to inadvertently turn a break into a full-on procrastination session. Browsing the web aimlessly and/or watching youtube for 15 minutes after an hour of work is not a healthy break. Plus, it will most likely turn into a 30-minute break, or even longer.
To avoid having unhealthy breaks, a good tip is to have them outside of your work environment, and without the use of your work device. A break is supposed to change your mind, so switch it up. Go to a different room, avoid technology as much as possible, and if you really want to check your phone and/or browse instagram, setup a timer for yourself. When it goes off, get back to work. Apps exist to help you limit your time on useless… apps.
Breaks can also happen on a larger timeframe. I for instance take weekends off, because I know I need them. The tricky part is to plan those longer breaks, otherwise you will mess up your schedule.
It’s really hard to stay inside for a couple hours to work while you would rather be outside on a sunny day. But that’s what makes the difference between a reached target and a missed deadline. Both add up on a different side of the success scale.
In the end…
Uninterrupted periods of work will rarely happen if you don’t work on setting them up for yourself. Keeping those 7 principles in mind and tailoring them to your needs will help you create room for more flow in your schedule, and hopefully reap the fruits of your labor: getting things done.