Ever sat down to work and then…nothing? Or perhaps you shuffled some papers, cleaned out a desk drawer, did some filing, surfed the internet, and caught up on emails since you weren’t sure what else to do. If this sounds familiar you’re not alone – it’s happened to us all at one time or another. Here’s how to be more focused and productive so that you actually get things done.
We may have a vague idea of something big that needs to be completed, but we aren’t sure where to start. How do we tackle a big project that actually has several moving parts?
Prefer to watch? The video below gives a summary of the post.
In a nutshell, here are the three steps you need to take to get focused and productive:
Sometimes we’re not sure how to be more focused and productive. These three steps sum up the process.
- Get very clear on exactly what it is you need to do – break the project into very small pieces
- Put the pieces into a logical sequence that will lead to the completion of the project
- Schedule time to work on each of the pieces
Let’s look at each step in more detail.
Become more focused and productive by figuring out exactly what it is you need to do
It’s hard to be focused and productive when you’re not really sure what it is you need to do.
So your first step when you find yourself in this situation is to take a step back. Actually, take a step away from your work space.
Go find someplace to sit, grab a notebook and something to drink, and spend some time getting very clear on exactly what it is you need to do.
And I mean get VERY clear!
Figure out the big goal, and then break it down into smaller steps. Actually, break it down into pieces so tiny it feels strange to even list them out. Right now don’t worry about what comes first or second. Don’t pay any attention to the order you’ll need to do these tasks in…that comes later.
Your only mission right now is to get a list of every teeny tiny task you need to do in order to get that project/goal done and checked off your list.
breaking the bigger projects down into smaller tasks brings clarity…which brings focus
Once you’ve got a very detailed list of all the tasks, then it’s time to analyze what order they need to be done in. Figure out what to do first, what needs to be done second, and so on. This will give you the roadmap to follow so that you’ll know exactly the tasks to do and in what order.
For example, if your big project is to write a book, your task list might look something like this:
- determine book topic
- come up with working title
- research competition in the genre
- do keyword research
- outline topics to cover
- break outline into chapters
- write first draft of chapters
- edit and rewrite to create 2nd draft
- proofread chapters
- send final draft to beta readers
- finish final draft
- select/create book cover
- format book for publication to platforms
- upload book to platforms
You get the idea.
We’ve taken a big project and broken it down into much smaller pieces. Now when we sit down to work, we’ve got something more specific to guide our work besides just “write book” scribbled into our daily schedule.
Next, take that list and start scheduling those little tasks into your work time.
scheduling tasks into your calendar keeps you focused and productive
Now, a word about your calendar…
Your calendar (or daily schedule) should already have things written in it. You should be religiously adding any meetings, appointments, or obligations in your schedule so that you always know what is going on in your life and don’t get caught by surprise.
This is the foundational step making any scheduling system work for you.
Once you’ve done that, you can now tell what time is available for work.
So once you’ve got your task list, you just start plugging tasks into available work slots. And of course, batching similar tasks together makes the work flow more efficiently because you’re not wasting time switching back and forth between dissimilar tasks.
When that doesn’t work there may be another problem
Sometimes we’re unproductive because we don’t know HOW to get the project done. When that’s the case all the scheduling in the world won’t solve the problem. That’s when we’ve got to decide whether we’re going to learn how to do something ourselves or whether we’re going to outsource it to someone who already has the skills we’re lacking.
But we’ll discuss that problem in another post so be sure to coma back…or better yet, get on the email list.