Getting things done . . . one day at a time
Getting things done quickly and effectively is a problem for most people, and the reason might be in the mental attitude behind all our good intentions. There’s a thing people say when they’ve finally come to the point of commitment, and the task in prospect still seems too much to handle, and it goes like this: “Anyway, it’ll be alright, I’m just going to take it one day at a time, and, y’know, somehow I’ll cope”.
One day at a time …
Well, I don’t know about you, but where I come from (planet Earth), taking things one day at a time is the only option. That’s how days come at you round here … singly, one at a time, and in quick succession. No sooner has one finished but the next one’s right there, nipping at the last one’s ankles. But it seems we only realise this little fact when we’re faced with an overwhelming task and we just know we’ve got to face it. It takes that feeling of urgency to make us take stock.
Maybe what we should do is realise, once and for all, that we can only ever do things one day at a time. Doesn’t matter what it is, it generally takes the form of many little achievements, and you can usually only tackle them in isolation. Very few things have to be taken in one huge gulp. Usually (just like eating an elephant) we can only manage it one bite at a time!
Goal setting … where we go wrong
Goal setting is a great tool to use in getting things done, and we should definitely be engaged in goal setting if we sincerely want to see some spectacular achievements. But right there, in that very idea, is the problem.
We see these amazing and spectacular achievements as almost beyond our reach. We see them as unattainable. The bigger the achievement, the less likely it is we’re able to see it as something we can actually do. So right there, at the very inception of the idea, we’re stifling our chances. We make it monumentally difficult for ourselves by expecting too much, too soon.
What’s needed then is to keep using goal setting, but to adjust our goal setting targets to make them more easily reachable. And, very importantly, to realise that we can only do things one day at a time.
Face facts … it’s really not that hard
So how about making a deal with yourself. If it’s a difficult task and you feel overwhelmed, just face the fact that it’s really not that hard. Managing to finally nail that frightening, overwhelming task is actually a matter of winning many small victories. We already know that chunking is a powerful way to deal with things. Maybe we should just stop looking at things as being incredibly difficult, a river too wide to cross or a mountain too high to climb, and just accept that usually they are just made up of many small things. And each one of them is do-able. Use chunking as a way of splitting that frighteningly huge task into manageable parts.
Jerry Seinfeld’s secret to getting things done
Set yourself the task of making a note, each and every day, of what you did today to move towards achieving your goal. It could be in an online organiser, or in an actual paper diary (they still exist, apparently!), or, like Jerry Seinfeld, just make your mark on a calendar. The trick, as Jerry Seinfeld says, is not to break the chain. And for you, it might be to make sure you have something positive to write in your diary. And if not, admit it, and write something like “Did nothing worthwhile today … wasted day … wasted opportunity … no action taken towards [reaching my goal]”.
It won’t feel good writing that, and you won’t want to write it too many times. Write it anyway! It’s about you being honest with yourself, and accountable, and if you can’t be honest with yourself, there’s something wrong. If you did indeed fail to grasp the opportunities available today, be honest enough to admit it. Like I said, it won’t feel good, but it will spur you on to making sure tomorrow is different. It works for Jerry Seinfeld (and his success is testament to the fact that he is a master at getting things done), and it can work for you.
Keep Jerry Seinfeld’s secret in mind. It came from advice he was given by a successful performer, and it’s very simple. But don’t be put off by that – sometimes the simplest secrets can be the most effective.
Record your successes … or admit you wasted your opportunities
It takes just a few minutes to make a note in your diary or organiser. Actually, it’s a perfect opportunity to commune with your subconscious – as you start to write, ideas will very likely come to you and you can make a note of them. Those few minutes each evening might very well prove to be the most motivating of your entire day. Many’s the time I’ve used this approach and found myself not writing a quick note but a fairly long, detailed list of ideas, and offshoots of ideas.
That’s the thing with ideas, and with diarising. Once you start, the ideas flow. And once they’re out there in the wild, on paper (or onscreen) they take on a life of their own. You find yourself listing the logical steps needed to reach the goal, and listing the next step. Before you know it, you’re on the road to actually getting things done! Reaching that next step is an important point, it’s the crossover that takes you from wishing to taking action.
The next step …
And that’s important. Finding yourself at the next step puts you in a highly motivated position. You know exactly what you need to do, and you know it’s do-able (you must do, you chose the steps!). Next thing you know, you’re taking that next step (probably the next day), and you’re feeling that satisfying buzz of knowing that you’re that bit closer to getting something done.
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