Develop a system to work on the critical tasks and stop the swirl.
Being organized is something everyone struggles with.
In this edition, I will show you the systems I’ve been taught and have recommended to others to stay organized, prioritize your work, and ultimately be more productive.
There are many different systems, but after reading many articles and trying many techniques, I’ve found this system simple and effective.
The great thing is there are more benefits than just productivity when it comes to staying organized. In addition to getting work done more efficiently, these systems keep the mind chatter at a minimum.
After waking up in the middle of the night thinking about things to do, I knew I needed a system to stop my mind from being overactive.
The process below is designed to get the tasks out of your head and tangible - and finally - check them off.
Unfortunately, most people don’t have an effective system.
Why is it hard to stay focused on priority work?
Most people can’t stay organized or focused because:
Tasks are in multiple places and systems
It is easier to get the little things done vs the hard, meaningful things
They keep information organized in their heads
There is no time to get organized
Scheduling time to get organized seems impossible
The good news is that there are ways to get tasks organized that are simple but do take a small level of discipline.
Here’s how step-by-step:
Step #1 – Schedule time for task creation and review
The #1 reason for not being organized is time, but then we don’t make time for it!
Here is the system I have found effective.
Block 15-30 minutes in your calendar first thing in the morning and at the end of the day. This is SACRED time.
If you find that calendar time always gets moved or scheduled over, find time before the day starts when you are drinking morning coffee and in the evening before you go to bed.
It doesn’t matter how it gets done; the important thing is that it is a consistent part of the schedule.
Step #2 – Get tasks out of your head
Now that time is scheduled, brain dump all the things on paper that need to be done for at least 15 minutes without distraction.
A mistake I see people make is they try to start to classify or edit at the moment. Don’t get distracted by whether it is right to put it on paper. The goal is to get them out of your head, make them tangible, and be able to see them all in the context of one another.
Tasks could be all-inclusive, long-term or short-term, personal or professional. Everything from getting a birthday card for a friend to researching the best methods for customer experience. Write it all down.
This output should ideally be done two times a day - one in the morning and one in the evening.
In the morning, think about what needs to be done. This exercise is forward-looking and proactive.
In the evening, you review the list from the day and make your list for the next day. The following morning, review the list from the evening and add anything that wasn’t captured before.
Think about it as a flywheel of tasks.
Step #3 – Prioritize the list
Now is when the fun begins –prioritizing and getting it done. This step is where to identify what to work on for today that will make a difference.
A tool that I personally use and have recommended to others is the Eisenhower Matrix. The Eisenhower matrix was recommended to me by my SCORE counselor when I was spiraling and overwhelmed with things to do for my business.
I was caught in an endless cycle of working on little tasks like emails and social posts when I should have been developing a sales plan. I was bouncing from task to task and not making any progress. The business was suffering.
The Eisenhower matrix allowed me to keep track of tasks but, more importantly, not be distracted by the little things. We gravitate towards tasks that we can check off the list and then never get to the big stuff that will make a real impact.
It works like this:
Tasks are classified into 4 quadrants:
· Urgent and Important
· Less Urgent, but Important
· Urgent, but Less Important
· Neither Urgent nor Important
Urgent and Important - tasks that you need to do right away. Make a plan to finish these first.
Less Urgent But Important – tasks that should be worked on next, and make a plan to get started.
Urgent But Less Important – tasks that could be automated or delegated to someone. They need to be done soon and should be watched.
Neither Urgent nor Important – tasks to decide if you genuinely need to get them done. I think of this as my parking lot. After it sits in the parking lot for over a month, I determine that it can be deleted.
In the morning, after brainstorming my tasks, I put them into the Eisenhower Matrix for classification and organization.
There are a lot of templates available online.
Here is a comprehensive collection of Eisenhower matrix templates in all different formats from Smartsheet.
You can choose the format that works best for you.
In the evening, I review the matrix and make adjustments. I remove the completed things, and add any from the day.
Using the matrix takes a bit of discipline, but once it becomes a system, you will find that you will be more productive.
There it is – your personal work design!
1. Task organization requires focused time
2. Brain dump
3. Use a system for prioritizing the list
I hope that is helpful!