The most useful trick for getting things done

Above image: Walking backwards through the snow. Photo courtesy of Ed Dunens. CC License.

10827993_10105245709692645_924453861790625259_oMy dog (isn’t he a cutie?!?) is a blessing in so many ways, not the least of which is his bathing schedule. He is not a collie, but like a collie he is pretty clean and odorless, and only should only be bathed about once per quarter, since his skin is sensitive.) Woo hoo!

Still, when I don’t have to do something all the time, it’s a little too easy to forget it altogether.

I noticed some time back that I’d been neglecting to give Charlie his bath, so as soon as I’d done it I set up a reminder on my phone to do so ever three months. Whew! I am a responsible pet-parent again!

Three months later the reminder popped up. Okay! Time to bathe the dog!

Every day I’d wake up and see this reminder on my phone. I hadn’t done it yet, so I couldn’t mark it as done. The reminder sat there while I did all my scheduled marketing tasks, attended all my scheduled meetings, completed all my scheduled responsibilities.

Day after day I would be reminded to bathe my dog whenever I was running out the door setting up my GPS directions, or whenever I needed to make an appointment, or whenever I was sitting and waiting for hubby outside his workplace to give him a ride home. It never popped up when I could say, “I guess I’ll just handle that hour-long process now!” (Yes, I could probably be more efficient.)

Finally, six weeks after the reminder first came up, I remembered this one basic “trick” that I ABSOLUTELY MUST DO if I’m going to get anything done.

I have to ask myself, “What do I have to do first before I can actually accomplish that?”

As soon as I asked myself that question I realized, “I have to make an appointment on my calendar–set the time aside–to bathe the dog.”

So I made the appointment, then at the appointed time gave Charlie a bath. And then I used my secret weapon: I changed my reminder. Every three months, I’ll be pinged to “Set an appointment to give Charlie a bath.”

(I have to do this with my volunteering, too. As soon as a volunteer coordinator asks me to do something, I have to set the time aside on my calendar or it’ll never get done.)

This month I’ve been walking my readers through a process designed to help you make 2017 an even more successful, even more productive year than 2016. It’s all about looking at what happened in 2016 with clear eyes (post one) and recognizing realistically what you actually can accomplish in a year, then (with a lens focused on who you want to be in future years (post two)) making arrangements to do that.

If you’ve been following along with each post, the last step you took was to start creating goals. For an example, this past year one of my goals was to learn business accounting and bookkeeping. Using the “What would I have to do first” technique, it looks like this:

What would I have to do in order to actually…

  • … learn business accounting & bookkeeping? Take a course or two.
  • …and in order to take a course? Find and register for (and pay for) the course.
  • …and in order to find a course? Do research.

Therefore, the first step I would have to take in order to achieve this goal is to Do Research into available/affordable business accounting & bookkeeping courses aimed at my stage of business development.

This same process applies to all goals. No matter where you want to wind up, what would you have to do in order to actually achieve that goal?

Keep asking yourself what you’d need to do in order to accomplish the step you’ve come up with until the step you are looking at is so brilliantly simple you could just do it right now.

Then, once you’ve accomplished that, look at the next step and ask if you can do it next. If not, ask “What would I need to do in order to actually _______________?”

This is how you break down the steps to get to your goal, just by walking backwards from the destination to your current location. Make sure that, for each one, you have an idea of the first actionable step you would have to take.

Create markers/reminders on a calendar or other reminder system once you have all the basic steps mapped out. Basic steps can include “figure out the next steps” if it’s a big enough goal. Sometimes you have to get partway there before you’ll know for certain what needs to happen next. I typically set up my reminders for the first half of the year in December/January, and then revisit my goals in June/July to map out the steps to take in the last half of the year.

Next week (after Christmas) I’ll introduce you to a spreadsheet where you can keep all your steps and goals organized for the coming year.


3 thoughts on “The most useful trick for getting things done

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