Cliche of the day: Every day is a brand new start. That’s true. You wake up in the morning and your potential for getting shit done is limitless. But this is also true: Every day presents a million opportunities for wallowing and procrastination. Inertia is almost as powerful as potential. If you let yourself get sucked in to the compelling distractors that compete with your motivation, inspiration and sticktoitevness, then intertia wins. That’s why, at the end of so many days, your to-do list is as pristine and unsullied as it was when you wrote it.
I think inertia has become an even stronger force since the invention of the Web. Since I make my living gleaning info from and creating content for said Web, I can wallow in inertia as well as the next geek. If I didn’t have a few pretty good tips though for kicking my ass into gear (and getting the hell off Facebook), I wouldn’t be making a living as a writer. So here they are, my Seven Simple Tips For Getting Shit Done:
1) Start the day with meditation – Even ten minutes of meditation creates space in your brain for brilliant insights and ideas and allows you to tap into the universal source of all knowledge. Yes, that sounds very hippy-dippy, new-age guru, airy-fairey. So what – it totally works. On days when it’s hard, hard, hard to write and inertia has the upper hand, I think back to whether I tapped in to the source that morning or not. On the days I meditate (most days), it’s like having a personal assistant hand me the words and ideas.
2) Create two to-do lists – one for the week and another for the day. Put all your big goals on your weekly list like, “write this article, make that call, attend that meeting, etc.) and put your “must-do-today” items on your daily list. By creating two lists, you can shift things around to accommodate spontaneity and still get shit done.
3) Turn off the bells and whistles. Put your phone on silent, mute the volume on your computer and forget about answering every ding your personal technology delivers the moment it sounds the alarm. Instead, finish whatever task you’re working on and check your email, texts, etc at prescribed intervals. If you think something really must be addressed immediately – so be it. But understand that every time you pull yourself away from the job you must complete, you’re giving in to distraction. It’s always harder to refocus than it is to stay focused.
4) Make a commitment – Write it down, say it out loud or tell a friend – just commit with all you’ve got to get shit done. If it’s a big, big goal (say, for instance, to write your secret non-fiction book proposal), then think before you tell anyone else about it because other people might say, “You’ve got to be kidding. You’ll never get that done” Instead, commit to yourself that you WILL DO THIS. Then, push yourself. You know you can do more with your time than you already do, so just do it. Now – DO IT.
5) Break tasks down into bite-sized pieces. I know that when I have a really big-ass daunting project head of me, I find a zillion ways to avoid starting. It’s intimidating to look at something huge and know It Must Get Done! It’s easier to approach it if I assign myself do-able tasks, like – read the outline (that’s easy, right?), write opening paragraph (it’s only one paragraph), pull research items (hell, that’s permission to go online). You’ll probably find that once you get started, seeing the project through isn’t all that hard.
6) Take breaks – If you don’t create regular rest breaks for your brain and body, your brain will create them for you – AKA Facebook, Pinterest, the Frisky… Instead, take a short break every half-hour or so to get up, walk around, do a non-internet/computer task, and then, get back into it. Take a lunch break with real food and time away from your work and for god’s sake – take weekends or days off.
7) Indulge your weaknesses – If you find yourself unable to resist the pull of inertia and you seriously need a day of distractions and kitten videos – well then, why not indulge? If there aren’t any big pressing items on your daily to-do list, then maybe a day of leisure is just what you need to reboot your engine and get more shit done on another day. Just be careful that you’re not taking too many inertia days. There’s a big difference between rest and doldrums.
Now, get on out there and get shit done.