Monday, 27 July 2009

10 Good Ways to Get Things Done

Everyone has their own techniques to get things done - and this is mine. A way to get done what needs to be done efficiently, and well. And then have time to Smell The Roses, which is a Good Thing to do at this time of year.

  1. Do Important things first. Consider the most important thing that was left undone from yesterday.

  2. Do difficult things first. This is a cornerstone in our work in software development, but also helps with other work. Getting difficult things completed stabilises a project.

  3. Do big things first. If you don’t have anything important or difficult (lucky you), do bigger things first. Smaller things are easier to fit around bigger things. (These first three point also work like Russian dolls, ie for any given task you can prioritise what needs to be done by Importance, Difficulty, Size.)

  4. Focus 100% on the task in hand. Although this has the biggest impact on productivity, it’s only possible when are convinced that whatever you are working on deserves your full attention. Turn off all distractions like e-mail, Twitter, MSN, etc. to help focus.

  5. Work for longer on the task that you think you need to. In other words – really finish it. Finish everything about it. Think about what you have done and whether it’s good enough/finished enough/needs input from anyone else. Finish the admin associated with it. Put things away neatly afterwards. Then it doesn’t reappear on your To DO list in a different guise.

  6. Plan before you do it – ideally at least a day before. This enables your mind to work on the problem/task beforehand so you are more productive while you are doing it.

  7. Work undisturbed in pre-determined blocks of time. The Pomodoro technique suggests 25 minutes. I like half days. This brings all the advantages of 5, plus it ensures you plan your time properly to get the thing finished before you have to stop.

  8. Make things a habit. For tasks that crop up regularly it is worth putting the extra effort in to engrain them into your psyche. You don’t have to think about habits, you just do them, so habits always get done.

  9. Plan your day. Spend time at the beginning of the day planning what needs to be done. Spend longer on this than you feel is necessary and really work through as much detail as possible. 30 minutes seems like a long time when working at the day level, but it pays off handsomely.

  10. Review your day. Identify what needs to be done tomorrow, what you could have done more efficiently, what could/should be made a habit. What can you do better tomorrow?

Then go smell those roses ….

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