I’m a lazy guy with big dreams. And I no longer have a socially imposed career progression to follow so everything is up in the air and I am forced to find my own path to productivity. This is why many of the books I read over the past year talked about exactly this. And based on those books, as well as random Internet resources and conversations with productive people, I now adhere to a system to get stuff done which is as follows.
What You Need:
– A good calendar that you can write on. Or use Microsoft Outlook’s calendar.
– A reliable Alarm clock, either physical or within a smartphone device.
How it Works
Step 1 – The Big Picture: Make a long term plan for your life. What do you want to be, or what do you want to accomplish in, say, ten years? This could be anything from buying a house for your mother to eliminating poverty from your Muhalla or becoming the person who destroys Justin Bieber’s career. It doesn’t have to be an in depth thesis, but it does have to be a specific goal. The only way you can stay focused is if you have a long term goal to accomplish. Put this goal somewhere visible, and go back to look at it often.
Time required: A few hours to a day for brainstorming and finalizing a long term mission statement for your life.
Step 2 – Interpolate: Based on this long term goal, decide what you would have to do in smaller time increments. For example, to end J-Bieb’s career ten years from now, how famous would you have to be 5 years from now, and how would you get there? How about two years from now?
And what would you have to do in the coming year?
Based on this, decide what you’d have to accomplish every month.
Time required: 1 – 2 Days.
Step 3 – Prioritize: Take the list of monthly to-do’s that you have and spread them out to develop a weekly and daily plan. Fit this into your Microsoft Outlook Calendar program and enable reminders. Then use a combination of your Outlook tasks combined with your daily To-Do App to know what you have to accomplish every day.
Prioritize your tasks in order of importance. Do the important thing first, and do them earlier in the day when you are fresh and have a decent supply of will power.
So a sample backward progression may look like the following:
10 years: End Justin Bieber’s career. 9 years: Become the most powerful man in the international music industry. 5 years: Own a major record label. 2 years: Work for a local record label. 1 year: Learn about the music industry. 6 months: Know how to play major guitar chords. 1 month: Know how to hold a guitar. This week: Buy a guitar. You get the idea.
Step 4: Execute !
Now all that’s left to do is follow the tasks that you have set yourself. Essentially what you’ve done is you projected your consciousness into the future, decided what you wanted, and then came back to tell yourself what you have to do right now to get there. Kinda cool. Here are some tips to make it work.
– Make your tasks specific so you know exactly what to do. This is critical; you must be as specific as possible. Instead of having a task on your to-do like “I must read more”, you should have something like “Read 40 pages every morning”. This removes gray areas – and the lazy part of us loves grays – and tells you exactly what you are required to do.
– Habits are your best friend. A habit is simply an activity which you have repeated so many times that it no longer requires will power to accomplish. Understanding and harnessing the power of habits is crucial to being an effective person. I’ll probably be treating this in more detail in another blog post, but for now you should look to make certain parts of your productivity practice habitual. For instance, waking up and checking the Outlook calendar and updating the To-Do App accordingly, or reading every morning, or exercising, or eating right, or all of the above, shouldn’t require you to exert mental effort. Initially it will be difficult but if you persist – a rule of thumb says it takes 21 days to form a habit – you would have developed the appropriate habits to no longer have to think too much about doing these things. Then you can focus on the important stuff and you’ll have more will power left over in reserve to maximize your output.
– Be mindless when executing. You should be thinking and planning during steps 1 – 3, but step 4, the actual execution, should be performed in a simple, mindless manner. If you are finding you have to think too much to execute the tasks you set yourself, break the tasks down even smaller and make them even more specific. So even something like “buy a guitar” first becomes “Search online for shops that sell a guitar around <enter City here>”. And then execute.
– Premeditate failure. There can be no success without failure. Assume from the get-go that you will fail, because you will. You’ll mess up, not finish tasks on time, not feel like doing anything, decide to drop an entire project, have a project fail in front of your eyes, and so on. This is going to happen, and all it shows is that you’re stretching yourself beyond your comfort zone and living in a place where failure is a possibility. Recognize that possibility. Learn from it, accept it, befriend it. And keep moving forward anyway. Make your treatment of failure an ego-less affair; don’t beat yourself up about it, just accept that it occurred and educate yourself about why it did. So that next time you can be prepared. And there is always going to be a next time.
– Factor Life into your Plans. Life will always throw curveballs your way and try to get you to trip up. Don’t use this as an excuse, rather give yourself ample time to deal with life’s daily nonsense. “I really wanted to learn the guitar, but my friend is having a birthday party today and I just have to go otherwise I won’t be loved etc etc.” Don’t get into this habit. Instead give yourself enough time to devote to random priorities. And if something pops up out of the blue, adjust your schedule accordingly. And learn to say no. Life will test us, we are just going to have to adapt.
Finally, use the alarm clock to get your lazy ass out of bed every morning, otherwise you’ll sleep your life away. And use Rescuetime to show you how much time you waste on your computer and adjust accordingly. Keep at it persistently and eventually you’ll hit a level of effectiveness you never thought possible.