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How To Be Productive: 5 Simple Steps To Getting Things Done

Feel like you’ll never get on top of your to-do list? There is a way—we promise! Here are some simple steps to help you get productive pronto.
by Carrie M. King | Jul 26 2017

We’ve probably made it clear that at Blinkist, we’re fans of David Allen. He’s been on the podcast twice, and we’ve even been to visit him at home. So why all the fuss? Well, quite simply, it’s because we’ve tried his productivity methodology and it’s changed professional life for many of us. Instead of coming to work feeling stressed about an endless to-do list, we now know that we can handle whatever the day throws at us. And nobody works any more hours than they should.

Get organized

If you want to overhaul your own working habits, we’d strongly recommend you get your hands on a copy of Getting Things Done. In the meantime however, here’s a speedy breakdown of the key concepts Allen advocates for working better, every day.

1. Capture

Use a notebook, an online task management tool, a physical inbox, or whatever method you prefer to write down absolutely everything that’s dividing your attention right now. All tasks, — big and small, personal and professional, practical and pie-in-the-sky — projects, plans, and to-dos should be captured in this way. As David Allen puts it, collect what has your attention. You need to get all this clutter out of your head and into a concrete format before you can start to properly engage with it.

2. Clarify

Now that you’ve collected everything and recorded it in some trusted place, it’s time to figure out what it all means. Look at something from the list you’ve compiled and think, “is it possible to do this?” If it’s not, or not possible right now, then either decide to get rid of it or file it for reference. If the answer is yes, decide what’s the next step you can take to getting closer to completing this task. If it takes less than 2 minutes, do it straight away. If not, delegate where possible, or put it on a task list that you will get to when you can.

3. Organize

Now, it’s time to get yourself in gear. When you’ve got a lot on your plate, it’s normal to just start working rather than taking the time you need to sit down and properly organize yourself. However, by prioritizing your organizing time, you’ll develop a clearer idea of exactly what you need to do next, and will get through your work faster. Make a series of lists and divide your tasks appropriately, e.g. emails to send, phone calls to make, articles to write. If there’s a task that requires a few steps, break down each one into its constituent parts.

4. Reflect

Organized lists are all well and good but if you don’t review them frequently, you’ll just become a compulsive list maker which isn’t productive either! Look over your lists as often as necessary to help you figure out what’s the most pressing thing you need to do next. This frequent reflection and reassessment will help you to properly prioritize your tasks, and avoids the dreaded teetering pile of to-dos you should have completed weeks ago.

5. Engage

Crunch time: just do it. You’ve set up a great system to help yourself perform at your peak. Now, make use of it. Ticking things off in order of priority will help you to gain a sense of fulfillment every day, and will make sure that you’re speeding through your work like it’s nobody’s business. Don’t forget — these little frissons of accomplishment you feel when you complete something get addictive, and before you know it you’ll be smashing all your targets, and still making time for all the good things in life!

Now that you’ve created a system, the most important thing is to maintain it. By doing weekly upkeep on your systems, you not only get to see how much you’ve achieved, but you get to whet excitement for all the other great things you’re going to get done in the coming week. As always, we recommend reading the book in its entirety, but if you want to get a quick overview of Getting Things Done first, why not check it out on Blinkist?

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