Why are some of us seemingly more productive, driven, and efficient than others?
My experience — and the ideas I’ve picked up from others — shows me that we take more efficient action when we are aware of four basic prompts:
- What matters?
- Why does it matter?
- When will it get done?
- How will it get done?
These questions define my daily plan.
Simple as that.
The more conscious I have been of the answers to these questions, the more I’ve been able to overcome resistance, and get moving.
Questions make all the difference because they push us to run things through in our mind.
They engage us.
We often neglect the importance of following a set of simple, daily guidelines.
If you don’t have a plan, why should you trust yourself?
So you end up doing things that are less important.
You even act busy to feel like you’re getting something done. Or you avoid it altogether.
We fall at the first sense of confusion because we’re not conscious of what we need to do that matters more than the rest.
It’s not more discipline we need.
It is clarity, and the emotional push bubbling under it.
You may have oodles of discipline for sitting in front of the PlayStation for nine hours every day.
You may be wonderfully disciplined at opening up Pinterest to browse motivational quotes each day.
If you get frustrated that you could do more, the energy and the drive is definitely there.
These prompts show you what to do and where to redirect that energy…
1. WHAT matters?
What are the things I must do tomorrow that MATTER the most?
Identify what you need to do tomorrow, or every day for the next month or more.
This goes beyond your sprawling to-do list. It’s about choosing what matters the most and being ruthless with what you cut out.
What can you do that your future-self would be genuinely proud of? That’s what matters.
On which strengths should you be building? This matters.
What is worth doing that will lead to the most personal growth? This also matters.
Just decide, and note it down.
If you don’t commit, you are at the mercy of the chaos of life. To be a productive powerhouse, you must first decide.
Plan a week, month or year in advance if you need to. Alternatively, do what I do, and plan what to work on for the day ahead.
Decide what you need to do the day before, and then do those things the next day.
Focus first on the ONE THING that matters the most.
For me, it’s writing at least five hundred publishable words, and then addressing the other three highest priority tasks (from my larger to-do list) for that day.
I have a planner book coming out soon that helps you identify and write down what matters to you each day. Subscribe to the newsletter here to stay posted.
2. WHY does it matter?
This adds a little more kick to the first question.
We need to know both WHY we’re doing something, and WHY we can’t afford NOT to do the thing.
Pull and push.
Write a list of answers for each of the two points so that it’s fresh and sticky in your mind.
For me, I write because it develops my skills; it builds my audience; it earns me money; it keeps me disciplined and focused and thoughtful; it directs people to my books, and so many more benefits. List them all and remember them.
I can’t afford NOT to write because I would not build traction in my writing; I would be failing myself by not developing mastery in what I’m already good at; I’d be in poverty; I would lack confidence; I would have to find a job working for someone else, and so on.
Make the benefits clear, and its avoidance painful to you, so that you turn a ‘mundane task’ into a MUST.
You might include this in your planner or journal, or you may just make it clear in your mind.
3. WHEN will it get done?
Timings are vital. If I’m excited about starting something, but don’t allocate time in the day to do it, the thing likely will never get done.
I find it immensely helpful to set aside a clear block of time in ADVANCE, for when the thing gets done, free of distractions.
So, identify the tasks that matter from question 1, and then mark when they are to be done.
Write this in your daily or weekly plan/calendar, and set a reminder or alarm nearer the time.
Knowing HOW you will start something and how you will progress through it will give you added incentive to do the thing on time…
4. HOW will I do it?
Most procrastination results from not having an idea of HOW to do something.
We feel overwhelmed, and we avoid what we need to do.
You must find clarity. You need to know at least roughly what you’re doing.
Run through the task in your mind or write an outline of the primary steps involved in the job and keep it in front of you.
You can do this in advance, or just before you start.
Alternatively, find the first tiny step if you don’t know exactly how. This alone will motivate you.
Having an outline clears the mind and fizzles away the fear of uncertainty.
When it comes to doing an illustration, for me, that first step is a doodle.
For an article, that first step is ten to twenty minutes of free-writing.
You can sharpen your method further by factoring in timed, Pomodoro sprints so that you are working in smaller chunks that have a deadline.