Have you ever come to the end of the day and asked yourself, “What is WRONG with me! What DID I DO all day?!” Instead of feeling proud of all the work you should have done, you’re left feeling depressed and despondent with no tangible outcomes to show for the 8 hours you sat at your desk.
The reason you “got nothing done” has nothing to do with your ability. You’re smart and able – you can do, and learn just about anything. Your issue is focus and concentration, versus, procrastination and resistance.
18 months to list a car
It was my job to sell one of our vehicles. The only thing I had to do was create a flier and post it on the local noticeboard – sounds really simply does it? Problem was, I was having major resistance. It required me taking photos, uploading the photos, figuring out what year the vehicle was made by searching the VIN online (therefore finding the VIN), noting the mileage, creating the flier, listing all the features, and finally hauling my butt to the local supermarket and paying for a spot on the noticeboard.
This was at a time in my life when I was experiencing an intense amount of work pressure, but I knew I just had to get this done. When I wrote down each step into the easiest, most achievable task (because I felt like small tasks were all that I could face), one after the other, they all got done over two days (and we finally sold the car!). I realised from this, that there was something special in doing tiny steps to overcome resistance. Since then I’ve continued to refine this method, and it’s still working.
Tasks Vs Goals
It’s really important to define some terminology at this point. That thing that you want to get done (like write a blog post), is not your task, that is your goal. To achieve your goal, you do tasks to get there. Yes, we could write more about this, but for now, tasks are the smallest, most doable things, and goals are the big things that need to be accomplished. And yes, many goals can make up a bigger goal, and bigger goals can make great goals – but you are never doing goals, you only need to do tasks.
The key to success!
Because I broke down my goal of listing our car into teenie tiny tasks which were so simple to do, resistance had no opportunity to show its ugly face. How could it? When a task was as simple as, “Go to car. Write down mileage,” it felt good to get something done.
“The key to succeeding with this method is to break down each goal into something you can do almost effortlessly.”
Let’s look at this example a lot of us face #allthetime – an Instagram post. (You can use any form of checklist to manage your goals and tasks. I prefer, recommend and love Trello.)
Even though the list on the right is longer, it contains each step that is required for the item on the left, but you know as well as I do, seeing how easy each task is, makes this goal more achievable. Tip: When you have a recurring goal, you can just copy and paste a list of tasks into a Trello checklist (like below).
“It is FAR easier to focus on one of many small tasks, than it is to tackle a single bigger goal without a gameplan.”
What happens when you encounter friction? (You can identify friction occurring as the moment right before you say, “Stuff this! I can’t be bothered anymore!” Then, log onto Facebook to see if there is anything interesting enough to distract you from the guilt you feel from not working.)
Friction is often the result of needing to do something before being able to do what you think you should be doing (I promise, that makes sense). If something is completely our of your hands, add it to your checklist and write “PENDING” before the task. Once the task is complete, mark it off and move on to the next step.
If you realise there is something else you should do first, quickly add it to your checklist. If you don’t, you’ll be attempting to remember and do two things instead of one. When the brain gets overloaded, it will get tired, prone to distraction and ripe for procrastination – cause yep, flicking over to Youtube or Pinterest is easier than staying in the focus-zone at this point.
“When you break down a task to the tiniest, most easiest steps, you’re not requiring much-needed brain power to get the job done.” #winwin
Have I convinced you to break down your goals? Look at your to-do list and pick the goal you just keep on skipping – that one that has been there for days or weeks. Apply this principle of breaking down the goal into the most simplest smallest tasks and start to working through your checklist.
If you made it this far, please enjoy the nutshell version of this blog post:
“Staying focused and achieving your goal is like catching five chickens – one chicken at a time.”
Got it? Now do it, and tell me how you went!
Trello is a free (or paid) project management tool, which can be used for just about anything you want: from managing software development, to being your weekly meal planner. Check out these sample boards for some inspiration:
Facebook Feed Eradicator
Ah… Facebook… how I
loathe used to loathe thee. What once was a pit of endless distraction, I have now turned it into a healthy place to network and participate in various business groups I belong to. I’ve installed Facebook Feed Eradicator into my Chrome browser which removes my Facebook feed! (See below) If I ever want to see my usual feed I just use my phone, or I can use open an incognito window using Chrome (Cmd+Shift+ on a Mac). (p.s. It is weird at first, but stick with it, I think you’ll love it!)
Download here for Chrome.
This is a newbie that I found during my two-day fling with Product Hunt. Developed by the creator of BetaList (btw), Tunnel Vision slots in nicely with Trello. As soon as you open a new tab on your browser, you’ll be reminded of the goal which is sat at the top of your “doing” list.
Download here for Chrome.
Over to you!
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10 thoughts on “How to REALLY stay focused & get stuff done!”
I love making lists, and never thought about breaking it up into smaller tasks to make it seem not so overwhelming!
Lists are great, and crossing items off is SO satisfying! The more the merrier! 😉
It is true that we (I) spend lots of time doing things that doesn’t do anything good for our objectives. What you say about breaking down the objectives into tiny tasks is super helpful and you feel much more accomplished at the end of the day. It just happened to me yesterday, my objective was to write an article and of course I didn’t finish it, so I was like “hmmm no good” but today, I opened my computer to finish it, and realized that most of the tasks needed to complete it were done! so yesterday’s work was good enough!
Lucky you! I agree about the part of feeling accomplished. I didn’t want to write a novel about this method, but check off so many tasks does give me a boost!
Amazing list of ideas and tools. Thank you!
Great post. Love the productivity tips and the various resources you’ve shared.
Awesome Puja! I hope it helps!
I love your post! I learnt a long time ago that the only way that I get things down is to break the big goals up into smaller, actionable items. I have been lazy lately, just noting down the big goal and feeling like I get nothing done. Thanks for the great reminder!
Thank you so much Nic 🙂 It takes a little more effort setting up the goal, but it is definitely worth it!