“Small things, done consistently, in strategic places, create major impact. What are our top “small things” right now?”
David Allen, author of Getting Things Done
One of my unique challenges in life right now is finding the time to finish my tasks. When I say “Getting things done in one hour a day,” I’m not necessarily meaning you only work for an hour a day. That is the goal in Timothy Ferris‘ book, The 4 Hour Work Week, but it is not my goal. I want more time to work. Finding that time is a big problem for me and is a constant juggling of priorities.
Allow me to explain.
I am a stay-at-home father of a one year toddler, Kylie, who has one goal in life right now: explore and master her house (it is barely our house at this moment). This makes it virtually impossible for me to do much during the hours when she is awake and at home. Apart from her one to two hour nap periods, it is real difficult to sit down at the computer without her wanting to sit in my lap. Of course, when she is in my lap, she wants to touch and grab anything and everything she can. By the time she goes to bed, I am left with only a few hours of time to do things.
At that point, it becomes a constant juggling of priorities:
- Do I want to relax with my girlfriend, or do I want to focus on the work at the computer and risk upsetting her?
- Do I catch up on the news and blogs I follow to continue marketing my own site, or do I focus on writing something new?
- Or do I spend the time to focus on my new business (which you can read more about at The Big Red Tomato) and my client’s work?
Thankfully, Kylie spends a day or two at her grandma’s, which allows me a little more time to work. The question still remains, “How do I get things done in an hour a day?”
A System of Work
Each night before I go to bed, I take a look at my List of Tasks (I’m currently using Nirvana, which I want to highlight in the future) that I use for my business work. I look at my big items on that list and look at the progress of each task, and judge whether I would be able to finish one task off completely with a focused effort in an hour, or whether I should leave it for one of the days when Kylie is away. I then look at a second list (Google Tasks), which I use to track my client’s requests via email. If they have a short task that I could easily knock off in less than 30 minutes, it goes onto the Google Task list. Anything longer, goes over to the main List at Nirvana.
This is the simple answer to my problem. I break major tasks into manageable micro-tasks that can be done in 15 minutes. This allows me to check off up to 4 tasks in an hour, but more likely 2 or 3.
The major key in making this work for me is staying focused. Staying focused for 15 minute chunks to finish these tasks sounds easy, but when the tasks deal with a lot of data entry, it can be tedious. In these cases, I practice what I preached in Pause/Erase. If I find that I have the urge to look away from one of my tasks, especially the data entry ones, I will save the file and tackle a different task. It may be just me, but when I handle the data entry tasks and am not 100% fully focused on it, I tend to make mistakes – most of the time it is with formulas which can be more difficult to find.
So far, this has been working out real well for my business work. I am completing tasks, getting great feedback from them, and the results are starting to show after a month’s worth of work. Now that the Client Train has left and is building up steam, I can put a little more focus on the other side of the business: namely, the website and promotional material. I also want to put a little more time into this site. I currently dedicate a few nights a week to writing stuff, and to visiting other sites to leave comments.
I admit that my system is mainly all in my head and is rather fluid. This is not ideal by any means. I would really like to migrate to a better system outlined by Stuart (What I’ve Learned About Blogging Over the Past Week), or eventually reach a level where I can implement Murray‘s Content Strategy system (Content Strategy: The Only Guide You’ll Ever Need to Create an Incredible Impact Online).
Stuart’s system is a straight forward guideline for the week with daily tasks to complete the overall goal of building traffic. Murray’s system is a little more complicated (he has outlined a daily schedule through to at least April) that has the goal of building traffic to his blog, his business online (PLR Articles Now), and future expansion.
I want to implement Stuart’s system right away to help me achieve more and keep me on track, while working towards Murray’s system so I can have longterm success here and on my business website.
The other challenges in getting things done in 1 hour a day are:
- Being inspired to work (which I wrote about in a previous Getting in the Groove post)
- Finding the inspiration to continue writing.
I am currently building up a list of my inspirations that keep me writing weekly, but Paul from One Spoon at a Time has two guest posts up in the past week that discuss my work flow for writing: How to Never Run Out of Things to Blog About (at Blogging Bookshelf), and How to Use Deadlines to Beat Resistance (at The Sales Lion). Both are great reads to help inspire you to write or work.
To Get Things Done in 1 Hour a Day, You Need to:
- Have a list of manageable tasks.
- Have a system to complete those tasks.
- Have the focus to work.
- Have the inspiration to work.
Do you have any other systems you use to Get Things Done? There are a lot of options out there, and I would love to hear from you.