Episode #4: How to Get Things Done
Welcome to the fourth episode of The Strategy Corner. In this episode I will be sharing a strategy I utilize weekly to help me to get things done.
I will be diving deep into a process that was first introduced to me by Brooke Castillo from The Life Coach School. I will share the process Brooke shared on how she gets everything done, how I utilize it, and what I have learned since I have implemented this strategy into my weekly schedule. For anyone who loves to be productive, plan their day and check things off their “to do” list knowing they are getting things done that matter, then this episode is for you. Enjoy and LET’S TAKE ACTION!
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Hello, and welcome to Episode #4 of The Strategy Corner, where our goal is to get you to take action. I’m your host, Michelle Zink, the owner of Intentional Solutions Corp.
Today, we’re going to talk about something really fun. This strategy is how to plan using your calendar, so you get everything done you need and want to do. I know, a lot of people out there don’t love to calendar, don’t love to utilize a system of that nature, because it seems very constraining and very restrictive, but I’ve come to find that the more I can get ahead of what I need to get done and get it on my calendar, the more I actually get done and the more flexibility I create in my life.
I’m going to start off by saying I have been testing out many systems and techniques on planning my life and business through the years. I have found this system to work most effectively for me, and I actually just found this system recently through The Life Coach School by Brooke Castillo. She does a weekly podcast, and on one of the podcasts, she talked about this system. Today, I’m going to share that with you. If you haven’t been to her website or checked out her podcast, you should definitely do it. She’s got an amazing one that dives deep into the mind and how we need to make sure that we have our thoughts in alignment to get the results that we’re looking for. Definitely go check her out.
Now, as you know, systems are systems, but if they’re not used, they’re ineffective. I ask you to be open to this concept that I’m going to share, and test it out in your life for a few weeks, and see if it works for you. Why should you do this? Because planning ahead of time helps you get everything done you want to get done, and it ensures you will get stuff done if you do what you say you’re going to do. And that’s the big thing.
When you go ahead and you start utilizing this system, and you say, let’s say, “Today at 11 AM, I’m supposed to be taping this podcast.” Well, right now, I’m actually taping this podcast, so it’s really not only scheduling on our calendar, but it’s actually doing what you’re saying you’re going to do, and that’s going to build a resistance or, excuse me, a resilience for yourself. It’s going to build confidence, knowing that what you planned, you’re going to get done. And so thus, you’re going to get more done.
The goal in this system is to never have a to-do list. That’s right. We’re going to throw our to-do list away. You know, the one that keeps growing and growing? But those items scheduled, we’re going to get those items scheduled so they can get done. Here’s the concept: I want you to pick one day a week and schedule a few hours. For the first time, I would schedule at least two to three hours. If you work in a corporate environment, doing this on the weekend’s a great idea, and if you have some flexibility during the day, if you’re a business owner, you could do that on a Monday morning or a Friday afternoon.
I personally am playing with that right now. I started doing it on Monday mornings and realized that I like to jump start my week and start getting things done on Monday, so I’m going to play with doing it Saturday afternoon, after I get back from activities with my daughter in the morning. I’m going to try to do that while I’m fresh and have some space in the afternoon. But the goal is, that’s right, to have once a week you take everything in your head, all the things you want to do, need to do, and have to do, and write them down.
Let me repeat that one more time. The goal is to pick one day a week and schedule, for the first time, two to three hours. Having more time is better for the first time. After that, it will take you about an hour to do it, and then you want to take that time. And the first thing you do is you sit down and you write down all the things that you want to do, need to do, and have to do, and write them down.
This list, just get some blank paper, have it in front of you. It’s going to have everything. It could be personally or professionally. It could be you need to take the dog to the groomer. You need to go grocery shopping. You need to hire a new employee at your company. Whatever it is, write it down. The first time, it could be several pages. After the first time, I’ve found that I usually have a page or two of things that I want to do, but the first time, it could be several pages.
Just remember again, that’s personal and professional. You’re really doing a brain dump here of everything that’s in your mind that you’re supposed to be doing, and you’re getting it out of your mind, and you’re writing it down. Then, you ask yourself, “What else?” Because that’s just the top layer. Once you get everything down, you need to ask yourself, “What else? What else do I need to do?” You can even go as far as asking yourself these questions that Brooke recommended in her podcast.
The first one is, “What is it you want to do?” This is a great question, because I don’t know about you guys, but life tends to happen. When I ask myself, “What do I want to do,” this brings up a lot of interesting things. It could be, “I want to go on a bike ride. I want to plan a vacation. I want to take a Friday afternoon off.” It really gets me to dive in and think about what I really want to do. Doesn’t mean I can do it this week. Doesn’t mean I can do it in a month, but it just opens up to what I really want to do.
The second question is, “What is it you have to do?” These are things that you just have to do. You have to take your daughter to the doctor’s. You have to cook dinner, possibly, on Sunday for the family. These are things that you have to do. You have to have that meeting with your boss. Or you have to hire a HR manager. All of these things are things you have to do. The next question is, “What is it you need to do?” The first one was have to do. “I have to do it.” And then you have these need items. A lot of times, what’s great about this is, when you have a need, it could either be something you really, really need to do, or it could be something that you think you need to do.
But you just write them down. You’re just, again, getting everything. “I need to schedule an annual checkup. I need to go on a run.” Whatever it is, you write that down. And then, the next question, question number four, “And what would be awesome if you did do it?” Meaning, “What are some awesome things that, if you actually did it, you’d be excited about?” This could be taking your family on a European vacation. “It would be awesome if, on the way home from work, I stopped off and got a coffee with a friend. It would be awesome if I went and saw a movie by myself.” Just write down everything that comes to mind that would be awesome if you did.
Then, the next question, which is question number five, is, “What would you wish that you would do?” This is something that really gets you to think about, “What would I wish that I would do?” And this could be related, again, all of these questions are personal and professional. You’re downloading for your whole life out of your brain, and so this could be is, “I wish that I would join Pilates. I wish that I would start making dinner in the evenings. I wish I could schedule a monthly date with my husband or wife. I wish, at work, I could come in late one day and have coffee with a friend.” Again, just writing down all those things that you wish you would do.
I’m going to repeat all of the questions. Question number one is, “What is it you want to do?” Question number two is, “What is it you have to do?” Question number three is, “What is it you need to do?” Question number four is, “And what would be awesome if you did it?” Question number five, and the final question, is, “What would you wish that you could do?” Again, first we’re going to go ahead and just sit down and write down everything that’s initially on our mind. And then we’re going to ask ourselves, “What else, what else is in there?” And then we’re going to dive in to those questions.
The first time, it’s really great if you can create the space to actually follow through this process. And then, moving forward, it’s going to come much easier and quicker to you. You’ve got your pieces of paper, and you might seem overwhelmed at first, seeing all those to-do lists or the to-do items, but that’s okay. The goal is to get it all out of your head, so you can schedule and then have a clear mind to focus on other important things, knowing you’re getting done everything you need to. Because, again, the name of this podcast, for this episode, is Getting It Done.
And this, by getting it done, you’re creating freedom, which is a game changer. Just remember that as you sit down and take two to three hours to do the initial download. Once you go ahead and you have everything written down, you think again. Is there any projects that you need to get done, like creating a new website? You can’t do that in one day, so you could easily take projects and start brainstorming all of the different tasks. Or you could go ahead and brainstorm what’s the next best thing you need to do on that list?
If you own your own business, you might have an IT professional, who you just need to contact to get them to start getting the ball rolling. If you own your own business, it could be that you need to research a website provider or a website developer to see about creating that new website. You need to go ahead and think about any projects that you might need to do. It could be around the home. Maybe you need to get your house painted, so you need to … Maybe your first best step would be to call a painter, get a referral. Think about all the projects that you have and write down everything that you would need to do for that project.
Or you can go ahead and just take a simple step, and just write the one thing that you would like to do this week or this month to move that project forward. Now that you have everything written down, you can look at your lists and see what, if anything, you don’t want to do. I know, it sounds crazy. “Well, what do you mean? If I wrote it down, I probably want to do it.” But think back to those questions we asked ourselves. When we asked ourselves need, wants, would love to, sometimes we write down things that, yeah, it would be great in theory if I did it, but I don’t really want to do that.
And maybe that’s making dinner for your family on Sunday night. Maybe you’d rather just go ahead and make sure that you spend time with your family, so you’re going to go ahead and order that in instead. Your to-do item changes from buying all the ingredients at the grocery store to just ordering in from your favorite restaurant. Go through the list, and just mark out everything you don’t want to do. When you’re looking at those things, it could be that you don’t want to do it, but you could delegate that too.
When you look at the list, and you say you don’t want to do it, it could be you don’t want to go to the grocery store. But who can I delegate that to? Well, I could delegate it maybe to my husband or wife. I could delegate it to my roommate. I could go ahead and sign up for one of those online shopping portals, so that they actually just deliver it to me. When you think about these items you don’t want to do, think about if you don’t want to do it at all and just cross it off, or could that be delegated to somebody else?
Is it something you think you should do, but don’t really have to do it? You need to cross those off as well. Those shoulds, “we should do this, we should do that,” don’t help us. Again, go through there and see if there’s any items that you wrote down that were a should item. “I should go ahead and wax my car.” Not something you really want to do. I’m going to cross that off. Once you do this each week, you will be able to see and then scout out easily the things you don’t need to do or the things that you should delegate. The goal is to get everything off the list that doesn’t need to be done by you or done at all.
Then, what is left is a pretty list that you can now use to schedule on your computer. Now, I say computer, because I use a digital calendar. I am someone who used a paper calendar for a long time, but realized that doing it on my Google Calendar really helps me to stay in alignment when I’m home or not at home, and I can schedule appointments much easier having and knowing my schedule is up to date on my phone.
Now you’re thinking, “How do I do that?” It’s just going ahead, and first, we’re going to schedule your time. The first thing we’re going to do is schedule your off time. Yes, put on your calendar your vacation days, any days you’re taking off. You need to schedule your downtime first, because it is most important. And in today’s day and age, you’ve been hearing more and more that, in order to excel in your job … This podcast is for executives and business owners, and so you’re excelling all the time. You’ve got a lot on your mind, so in order to be 100%, you need to go ahead and make sure you get those vacation days and those days off on your calendar, so that you can hit the reset button, and come back to work with brand new ideas and more opportunities to shine.
You need to schedule your downtime first. Then, you move on to the next step of putting things on your calendar. What I do is I look at the list and I see if there’s anything that needs to be done over the next week. I look at the critical items. Is there anything that I really need to do over the next week? I look through the whole list, and I end up putting number one next to them. I just go through and put number one next to all the items that I need to go ahead and get done over the next week.
Then, I go ahead and take those number one items, schedule them on my computer. When you schedule them, you do need to determine a time frame. What I like to do is, in the beginning, I was giving myself about an hour to do most of my to-do items, and then half an hour is for emails. The reason I did that, and the reason why I do that, is because I like to give myself a little bit more time. Because when you are more intentional and you slow down a bit, you realize that that email, you could make a little bit better. Giving yourself half an hour is just more realistic for myself, because things might come up, or I see another email I want to check. Having that half an hour, I know I’ll definitely get it done.
But this is where you can go ahead and play with a time frame that works best for you. Again, you take your number one items and you schedule them over the next week on your computer. Now, you go ahead and you cross those number one items off. You have those taken care of, and then you just start at the top and go one thing, one item at a time, and schedule it on your computer. Now, while you’re doing that, you always ask yourself, “What is a good time frame for me to get this done?” And so that helps you narrow in where you need to go on your calendar, and put it there.
What’s great about scheduling ahead of time is that, when you have all your items that you really need to do and you want to do and you’re happy to do, then when it comes to scheduling meetings or seeing if you can attend an event, you’ll know specifically by looking at your calendar if you actually have the time to do that. And for a meeting, you know when you can actually schedule it based off of what you had planned already.
Another thing I like to play with is, I like to play with setting a time challenge for myself. When I have something to do, let’s say, for taping a podcast, if I say that I’m going to do it in two hours, tape a few podcasts, what’s great about it is that it challenges me to get the work done in a shorter amount of time. I try to utilize this a lot when I’m dealing with any admin things that I want to do, such as my QuickBooks or making phone calls. I try to go ahead and create a shorter period of time. If I think it’s going to take me two hours, I’ll put an hour and a half, and see if I can actually get things done in an hour and a half.
This is when you’re fully focused, you realize that you can get things done quicker, and then you actually have that extra time to do whatever you want to do. Remember, scheduling your life is not restriction, but freedom. What I’ve learned from utilizing this process for the last, I would say, six to eight months, is that, again, I started with doing my download on Mondays, but then I realized that Mondays, I like to get started right away, so I’m moving it to Saturdays and playing with that. I do keep a list during the week, so when you talk about no to-do list, if things do come up, I actually write it down on one piece of paper, and then put it in my inbox.
This way, when I do my scheduling, I can pull it out and write those things on my list. The nice thing about that is that during the week, realistically, things do come up, and so by just writing it down, it gets it off my head. Putting it in my inbox, I know that I can go ahead and pull that out and get that taken care of when I do my scheduling. And then, if it is something easy or quick, I just do it right away. If I think of a quick idea during the week like, “Oh, it would be great if I added something to my task list or if I added this to a process that I’ve already created,” I’ll just go ahead and take the time and do it then.
Even though I’m fully scheduled, I do leave time to get things done that come to mind right away that are crucial. And for those of you who work in executive positions, your life is determined a lot of times by your employees or your boss, so giving yourself the time to actually brainstorm all of the things to do, and putting them on your calendar, allows you to also move things around. If you had something scheduled, and your boss schedules a last minute appointment, you can see where you can move things around, but you know that you’re actually not losing anything. You’re going to get everything done, because you wrote it down and you had it scheduled.
That’s what I’ve learned so far from using this system for about six to eight months. Now, how it’s helped me is, just to reiterate, I can now schedule appointments, lunches, dinners with confidence. I know what I need to get done and when, so I can easily tell people my availability. It has helped me to get done more things than I thought were ever possible, because with my time scheduled, it allows for less time for Facebook, Instagram, and to question my ideas or thoughts. That’s a big one for me, because I can definitely question. Having everything written down and just doing it helps me to actually move forward and to take action, and not to question my thoughts or ideas.
I’m also most focused and determined to get things done. It’s very rewarding to see that you’ve scheduled a full day, and you actually get to get those things done. One other thing that I forgot to mention, and it’s what I’ve learned, I’ve learned that, in the mornings, I like to create something for myself right away. I like to do either a blog post. I like to work on a client’s information. I like to work on a project. I like to get something done for myself or my client first thing in the morning, and so I tend to schedule meetings or conversations for later in the day, because I like to just get that out of the gate, feel accomplished, and feel rewarded right away.
I also feel amazing knowing I said I wanted to do X and did it. Some days, I fall behind on my schedule, but on most days, when that happens, I challenge myself to get things done in shorter periods of time. Just like I said before, if things come up, maybe your child gets sick or a meeting that was supposed to take an hour lasted two. It challenges you to look at your calendar and think, “Okay well, the things that I have here, maybe they’re not that important. I can just get rid of them.” Or, “Do I need to reschedule them?” Or, “Could I just go ahead and really focus and get them done in a shorter amount of time, so that I don’t have to worry about it or reschedule it?”
I do like to do that, and that is a fun thing to do. I like to play games, and so that’s one that gets me energized and gets me excited about trying. Now it’s your turn. Your call to action this week is, number one, pick a day to try this strategy. Any day, it doesn’t matter. Number two, give yourself two to three hours … Yes, I know that sounds like a lot of time, but it’s totally worth it. The first time, remember, it takes more time, but after that, you become more efficient.
Number three, get a pad of paper and a pen or pencil. Number four, do a brain dump. Write down everything you need to do. Yes, everything. Number five, look over the completed list and see what you can delegate or cross off, because it was a should or a need to item that really isn’t needed right now, or that you can delegate. Number six, plan your free time on your calendar first. Number seven, take your list and put the number one next to the items that need to be done over the next seven days.
Number eight, schedule those number ones over the next seven days. Number nine, go back and start at the top, and guess the amount of time it will take for each of the items on the list. Number 10, go ahead and schedule those items over the next few weeks, few months. Whatever it takes to get everything on your list done. Number 11, do what you say you’re going to do. That’s the big thing. We plan all this, but in the end, if we don’t do what we say we’re going to do, we’re never going to go ahead and get that traction or movement forward.
Let’s build our confidence. Let’s go ahead and do what we say we’re going to do. And then number 12 is, repeat this process weekly. Just make sure that, you do it one time, keep on going. Try it for a month and see if it becomes enjoyable. I know, it sounds crazy, but I love planning, because I have a lot of stuff on my mind of things that I want to do, and so the more I can get it out and schedule it, the more I can focus on what I need to do, and I’m not worried about forgetting something or losing something.
As always, please go to iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play to subscribe to The Strategy Corner. Go to my website, www.intentionalsolutionscorp.com and sign up to get my weekly blog post, which also has a link to the latest podcast. Until next time, remember, though action and growth, progression happens. Let’s take action together.