I had a sacred cow in my life and I was so proud to own it.
Well, it didn’t really have any physical value, but I kept it with me everywhere I went. Little did I know that this sacred piece of distraction was killing my productivity during the day.
What was it? A spiral bound notebook. Yup, the kind you use in school. And believe me it was full from cover to cover. I even had several full ones that I didn’t know what to do with and would often take with me if I went on to a coffee shop to chill and read because I knew there I would have the time to deal with these notebooks.
Spiral notebooks full of To Do lists. Tons of them. Many of my task were not even any longer valid because I was beyond that phase of interest now.
I was the King Of To Do’s!
…and I was proud of it. I would tell people “you need a todo list”. Some people would follow my advice and get their own spiral notebooks. *My secret to getting spiral notebooks cheap later.
I was adicted. Yes, my name is Skip Foster and I was addicted to posessing a task list.
Why are task lists production killers…
Enter the logic brain. My creative brain was alive and well coming up with all kinds of things I should be, could be, would be doing. But that’s all it was. Years of notebooks and great thoughts and ideas. Oh, I still have most of them, but I don’t carry them around anymore and I certainly don’t let them dictate my day.
What is the most important thing an Entrepreneur can do during the day? Ship, Produce, Create.
My task list had 2 sides to it’s evil productivity destruction.
1- It never got smaller. Nothing ever got done. My logic brain knew this as an issue, but couldn’t quite figure out what was wrong. I needed a task to remind myself to figure out why my tasks weren’t working for me. Rarely do task lists get done because they are too random. Rarely focused. Just stuff that “needs” to get done. But not really.
2- I would conquer the day and complete 80% or in a rare day 100% of the tasks I wrote out for the day. But I didn’t ship. I didn’t produce anything and put it out into the world.
I cleaned my desk, I checked my email. I washed the window in my office. I went for a walk. I drove to the DMV and renewed my license tags. I went on Amazon and bought new ink for my printer… BUT I didn’t ship.
I had to come up with a different plan and quick before I dug myself back into a useless trap in my business of just completing tasks, but not moving the needle for myself or my clients.
Enter, from stage left, a combination of 3 different people who finally got to me and caused me to change my time-wasting ways.
Dani Johnson who taught me the value of a true time calendar to keep me on course for the day.
Todd Herman who’s 90 Day Year system is an integral part of my daily work life.
Michael Hyatt who has the most awesome day planner ever.
Dani gave me the kick in pants, (she’s good at that), to stop the madness and find a better solution. Her program “Time Secrets” began the turn-around. https://shop.danijohnson.com/collections/self-improvement/products/time-secrets. You see I thought Entrepreneurs were freebirds. Live the life they want when they want how they want. I supposse that might be true if you were chillin’ on the beach and had no goals or aim in life. There’s nothing wrong with that I guess, but I can’t just sit and do nothing. Not for long anyway.
Dani teaches the value of putting things on a calendar. A goal isn’t a goal unless you can put it on the calendar. I enjoy dreaming and I know there is a place for “some day” goals. We are there to move the needle. We are here to make a difference. If you have a task or a goal and can’t find a place on the calendar for it, it probably needs to be removed as a task. Saying to yourself, or should I better say LYING to yourself that you will get to that soon is a killer of productivity.
Todd Herman’s 90 Day Year system lead me to understand that my goals were way to far out in the distance. I, like everyone else tend to change my interest level on a regular basis and even projecting out firm annual goals is not realistic. There is nothing wrong with setting 1, 5, and even 10 year goals. I have them for sure and read my 10 year goals on a daily basis. Reading those goals are what help me stay on the path I need to be successful.
I set and focus daily on my 90 day goals as well. These are the goals that turn into tasks for my day.
And finally Micheal Hyatt’s Focus Planner is my physical planner I have with me on a daily basis. This is my lamp, my guide to tell me what is important for the day.
This takes us full circle to the focus of this article which is eliminating general task or todo lists is what has really turned my day around.
So if I don’t have a task list how do I get things done.
I have a calendar.
Everything MUST find a place on the calendar. We all have a hundred things we want to get done in a day, but that’s just not possible.
My rule… if I can’t find a place for it on the calendar and I’m not willing to move or delete something to make room. It must not be something I really really want to do. So it gets deleted.
This is very difficult to do in the beginning. Nothing keeps me more focused than putting all of my tasks on a calendar.
This is why I love Hyatt’s Focus Planner. And my favorite pencil. Ideas come up all of the time. People want things from us or just say “let’s get together some time”. When? Put it on the calendar. If my day is full and all penciled in and something comes up my eraser gets used and the items I erase need to find a new place on the calendar quickly.
Here are the steps I take to keep my tasks on my calendar:
You must be realistic about the time it takes to do something. If you don’t know then give your best guess. If a task is going to take an hour and you know there will be minor interruptions involved in your day then plan for 90 minutes. If you’re not realistic about the time it takes to complete a task or a project then you will come to the end of the day with unfinished items you now need to find a new place on your calendar. Moving to the next day is ok, but that pushes everything downhill. So do your best to set the time allotted as correct as possible.
You must be realistic about your habits and your life. Life happens. Mothers call, friends come over, things interrupt our lives everyday. You know the level of Life interruption that happens to your day so plan for it. If you keep your calendar too tight it will only frustrate you. Leave room to breath and enjoy your day. You are human and you still have to make time to eat, get up and stretch and go to the bathroom.
You must be realistic about context switching. This is my nemesis, context switching. Studies have shown that switching between tasks is a monstrous time waste in most businesses. Stick with one thing. Block out distractions. Rock it out.
Time blocking. It works best if you can block your days or at least large portions of your day to one particular concept or task theme. This works great for writing content, working on finances and proposals, tech work like website building, personal contacts, phone calls and email. Time blocking helps keep your brain in the same gear instead of spreading out your tasks in a jumbled mess of miscellaneous topics. Block time out for all tasks related to one theme. Work that for a while then move on the the next theme. Your brain will thank you.
Spend less time on the things that really don’t matter. Email much? I love emails and I hate emails. I know because I’m an email marketer and I love getting emails and reading them to see what others are doing to get clicks and opens. Emails are someone else’s agenda and you just can’t get pulled in. That’s a deep hole of non-productive work. The trick? Scan you emails to see if someone is responding to you from an inquiry or a question and read only those in the mornings. Unsubscribe from everything you can find later on the internet. You don’t need “new post” notifications when you can go to your favorite blog and read them anyway. Keep the noise out of your inbox.
Distraction elimination. I get it, your phone is the new drug of choice. The facebook likes will wait. Spoiler Alert: The email that just dinged is somebody wanting you to join them in their agenda and get you off of yours. Family, dogs, tv, they all can wait while you work. Whatever it takes to get your mind in the zone. turn it off and get the task done.
Enjoy your new life. No more stress of trying to figure out what to do next. It’s all in your calendar. Just start at the top and work your way down. Now working is fun.
Let’s discuss. What tools do you use to keep you day productive?