I consider myself a pretty driven person.
I'm also a perfectionist A student (for the most part), which can be a hindrance when it comes to getting a lot of tasks done efficiently.
I tend to take too much time to make things perfect. My husband tells me all of the time, “It doesn't have to be perfect, use the 80/20 principle and just get it done”.
You see, he was NOT an A student (I'm not throwing shade at him at all, he will tell you first hand all about it). Things don't have to be perfect and he knows how to get A LOT of stuff done quickly and efficiently. It's brought him a lot of success.
When he offered to show me how he does it, I listened carefully.
Step 1: Brain Dumping
Brain dumping is seriously the best thing that has happened to me.
I wear a lot of “hats” in my life, as many people do.
Yes, I had to-do lists, but looking at them made me feel like I'd never be able to accomplish every task.
What really killed me, was all of the creative ideas and thoughts about future projects that I wanted to do would just evade my brain later.
I didn't write them down because I knew I didn't have the time to get them done. I needed to get through my growing to-do list first!
Brain dumping is basically having a special place to literally write down any thought, task, idea, vision that comes to you at any given time. You can also have a planned time to brain dump (every day or every week).
Write down every single idea or thought that you want to hang on to, no matter how silly or unrealistic it seems. It can be just words and doesn't have to be a complete sentence.
You can do this via a notebook that you keep in your bag at all times (if you're old school), but the best way is having an app that stays with you whether you're on a computer or your phone.
The best one we have found is Evernote. It's free to use and they have upgraded versions if you want to take your productivity to the next level.
So, why is this so imperative?
Getting thoughts OUT of your brain and onto something that you can reference later helps give you peace that you won't forget a great idea or a necessary task.
Emptying your brain helps open it up to accomplish current to-do's and think of new ideas.
It sounds like a bunch of hoopla, but it really works to keep your creativity flowing and boost productivity.
Step 2: Prioritizing Tasks
Not all tasks are urgent. So that to-do list that's piling up is probably visually messing with your head.
Just looking at it makes you overwhelmed, right?
There are 3 categories to place your tasks:
- Important & Time Sensitive
- Important, but not Time Sensitive
- Should Do's
Important & time sensitive: These are the tasks that have deadlines and may affect your life if they don't get done. It might be getting a report to your boss on time, getting your taxes done, or getting your car registered before it expires (no one likes tickets).
Important, but not time sensitive: These tasks definitely need to be done and are significant to your productivity, however, they don't have deadlines. Something important, but not time-sensitive, could be trying to find a new bank with no fees to save money, making a spending budget or watching a video/class to teach you a new skill for work. Your life won't unravel if you don't do these things right away, but they're still important and need to get done. If you wait too long, it could affect you.
Should Do's: These are things that are not going to affect you as much if they don't get done, but you should eventually do it if time allows you. This could be something like deleting old emails or buying a new couch because the dog put a hole in yours (duck tape will get you by).
Your Time is Worthy
Time is absolutely our most valuable asset.
Ask yourself a few questions when evaluating how you spend your time…
- How can I maximize my productivity by outsourcing tasks? (grocery delivery is a good example of maximizing your time)
- Is the cost of outsourcing worth the extra time to accomplish something else?
- Could the time I'm using be used for something of higher importance?
The more you work to eliminate the important, time-sensitive tasks, it will not only make you feel less stressed, but it'll open you up to working on things that can really move the needle to help you accomplish your goals.