How many to-do lists do you have? I bet you’ve got many more than one! And this is a good thing! If you read my post about jotting down everything, then you know that I’m all for writing down your ideas, tasks, and other things. But at the end of the day, all of those things should be visible in one common to-do list.
Sometimes I’m asked how my interest in productivity started. The short answer is that it started with me becoming breathless after climbing up two floors of stairs. It happened December 29th, 2009. On that day, I decided that I had to get back in shape. That same evening, I went out for my first run. This single event changed my life. It resulted in me becoming almost 30kg slimmer, running 5 marathons (so far), and becoming passionate about productivity. If you want to know the longer version of the story, then read on!
“What’s the ONE Thing you can do?” This one simple question asked by Gary Keller in his book, The ONE Thing, forced me to re-think what my top priority is and what I should spend at least half of my time on. This question can be applied to my relationships, my personal development, my job, and also to this blog. This question is very simple, yet very powerful.
All of my tasks are on my to-do list, and I have a bullet-proof system for processing them. I do task after task. Everything works smoothly, or at least it seems that way. But unfortunately, from time to time I’m overwhelmed with the amount of tasks on my list. Sometimes I don’t know what to do next. Some tasks take too long to process. It seems like I have done everything to prepare myself to be productive, and still something is missing. Is there anything that can be done? The answer is yes – there are many things. But one thing is particularly easy to implement: define the end result for each task. Yes, it’s that simple. Why? How? Find out below.
Take a look at your to-do list. Read the first couple of tasks. How do you know when each of them will be done? What does it mean for a certain task to be completed? If you can’t think of an answer to these questions, you should write down the definition of the end result for each task. Why should you do this? This simple activity serves two purposes:
- You know what is a “good enough” result for each task. This can be your measurement stick when you think you are done with the task. You won’t overdo it (Do you believe in “good enough” results? I do!). You will also know when your task hasn’t been completed and how much more effort you have to put into finalizing it.
- You rethink the purpose of each task and you have an opportunity to either delete or redefine it. Deleting a task is always the first option to consider when you start to work on it.
How do you define the end result?
You may be wondering when I define the end result for my tasks. I do this while processing and moving them from my inbox (main list with the tasks I added during the day) to my projects list. I ask the below questions for each task that I process:
- What did I intend when I added this task to my to-do list?
- Do I still need to do this? Maybe I don’t need to do it anymore.
- What will I achieve by doing this?
- What will happen if I don’t do it? Maybe the consequences of not doing this task are easier to handle than the cost of finishing it. Think about the time you have to spend on this task and what you could be doing with that time instead. Remember, answering yes to one thing always means answering no to others!
- How will I benefit by doing it? How do the benefits compare to my investment of time?
You should ask all of these questions before you start doing a task. If you answer them, probably you will know what the end result should be. Maybe it will be even easier to start this task.
I want to give you a few examples of the end results for some of my tasks:
- Task: “Write an article about the quality initiative in your company.” The end result would be something like this: “Write a 20-page-long article . Include research and describe how developers from Making Waves work with the quality in projects.”
- Task: “Read the book The One Thing.” The end result would be: “Read the book. While reading the book, take notes on the most important ideas so that they are ready to publish on the blog .”
- Task : “Write down your expenses every day.” The end result for this task would be: “Process all your expenses from the previous day. Each expense is recorded in the application called MoneyManagerEx with the correct category and receiver .”
I have to admit that I haven’t fully implemented this yet. I’m in the process of forming this habit. But I’ve already noticed how much easier it is to work with the tasks that have a definition for the end result. It motivates me a lot to try to define it for all of my tasks. I hope that you can see the value in doing this, too.
Call to action
Can you try to define the end result for the top five tasks on your to-do list? I’m sure this activity will prove useful to you. If it does, can you share your thoughts with me? Please do so, also if you are skeptical of the idea. I’d love to hear all of your opinions!
I used to be subscribed to more than 100 mailing lists. My inbox was constantly bombarded with newsletters, updates, and offers. I tried to filter these emails, but it was a very cumbersome process. I didn’t want to just delete them or move them to spam, because I knew that something interesting might be in them. So I would save them, thinking I would read them later. Of course, this “later” never came. Luckily, I can say that I used to do this, and that I don’t do it anymore. Do you want to know my solution to this challenge? Of course you do!
The solution is called “Unroll.me”. This is an online service. You register for it and then connect it with your email account. Unroll.me scans your emails, looking for any sign of newsletters, subscription lists, or any other emails of this type. After scanning your emails, it gives you a list of all of your subscriptions. I’m warning you, this list is surprisingly long. You can decide what to do with each item on the list. And you have three options to choose from:
- Unsubscribe – you will be removed from a given subscription list,
- Add to rollup – the chosen subscription list will be added to your daily email with a summary of all new releases you are subscribed to and want to be updated with,
- Keep in inbox – nothing will be changed, and your emails will stay in the inbox.
You should go through the list and decide what to do with each newsletter. It is a very simple process. What do you end up with? A much cleaner inbox and one single email with a summary of all new newsletters you are subscribed to. If you are one of those people who is subscribed to multiple subscription lists, you will love this service ——which, by the way, is free to use.I checked the stats on my Unroll.me account today. I was very surprised when I saw them.
- so far, I’ve unsubscribed from 326 subscription lists. 326!
- I still keep 46 subscriptions in my inbox
- my every day rollup includes emails from 33 subscribed sources
Can you imagine receiving hundreds of more emails? That would require you to make so many more decisions every day! I’m very happy with this service. If you subscribe to a lot of newsletters like I do, I strongly recommend that you use this service. If you are striving to reach inbox zero, this is a solution that may help you reach that goal.
You can learn more about Unroll.me from their video
How do you clean up your inbox? How do you manage these kinds of emails? Do you treat them as spam? What is your system?
I have to admit that I didn’t know who Jerry Seinfeld was for a long time. I didn’t know that he is one of the most well-known and successful comics in the USA and the star of the the popular TV show called “Seinfield.” And the first time I heard about him was when I learned about Seinfield’s method. What is it? This is a method, described by and popularized by Seinfield, that helps you reach your goals by forming habits with building chains.
Seinfield’s method is about doing small things that bring you closer to your goal every day. Seinfield advises putting a calendar in a visible place and every time you do something toward reaching your goal, marking it on the calendar. That way, you’ll form a chain of the days you did something to reach your goal. After some time, that chain will be so long that it’ll be hard to break. You’ll think “I’ve worked so many days in a row, it would be a pity to break it now.” Not breaking the chain will become your only task. Even when you have very little time, you’ll do whatever it takes to add another part to the chain. Doing so, you form a new habit which brings you closer and closer toward your goal.
The key to success with this method is visualization of the chain. It can be done in many ways, for example by using Don’t Break the Chain service. When you’ve managed to work on your goal, mark a day there. However, for me personally, a much better option is to put the chain somewhere in a visible place. Somewhere where I can see it very often. That is why I hang it on a wall. It can be also a hand drawn calendar. Do whatever works for you and is visible in your space.
Marking a day when you have done something toward your goal is a very pleasant feeling. And when it is the 10th, 30th, or 100th day in a row, then doing whatever it takes to put the next link on the chain is quite easy. You don’t want to break the chain!
I’ve used this method to form a few habits. On the pictures below, you can see my calendars. One of them is drawn on a piece of paper and the other one is drawn on a wall covered with chalkboard paint. It’s just a pleasure to see the progress.
Seinfield’s method is really simple to implement. The only rule is to do something that brings you closer to your goal every day and mark it on your calendar. Then do the same the next day. And the next one. Take small steps toward your goal. Just don’t break the chain!
Good luck with building a long chain and reaching your goals!
We all have them – recurring meetings. They are in your calendar. Someone invited you to these meetings a long time ago and they just repeat every day, week, or month. Very often they do not have any meaning, yet they are in your calendar so you attend them. And you usually waste your time. What can you do about it? You can tame such meetings! How? Start by reading this post.
There are a few things you can do to make the most of of such meetings. And it does not matter if you are the organizer of a meeting or an attendee. Stop wasting your time in meetings that have no added value for you. How can you do this? You can find a few tips below:
- Challenge the agenda of the meeting – A day or two before the next recurrence of the meeting, check if there is an agenda defined for it. Send a short e-mail to the organizer with the question “What will the topic of the meeting be?” If you don’t receive an answer or the answer is “There is no agenda,” politely but firmly say that you won’t attend it. You can do the same as an organizer. Contact all invited people and ask if they have anything for a meeting. Unless you have an agenda prepared, tell them that if you don’t receive an answer by the given time you will cancel the meeting.
- Challenge the frequency of the meeting – Do you have a meeting that recurs every week, but there are rarely enough topics to talk about, so you keep canceling the meeting? Change the frequency of the meeting. For example, do a biweekly one. Suggest this to the person that created that meeting.
- Suggest a main topic for each meeting and a person responsible for preparing it – If the meeting ends up with just talking about random things and the group still insists on meeting regularly, you can propose to have a main focus for each gathering. That way, there will be at least one subject to talk about and your time won’t be wasted. Always ask to nominate one person to prepare the main topic. Then everyone will be engaged from time to time.
- Challenge the length of a meeting – What you do usually takes as much time as you plan for it. That means that even if you have a defined agenda that could be done in 30 minutes and the meeting is scheduled for 60 minutes, you’ll fill the whole 60 minutes.. If your observation is that the meetings are planned for a longer time than you really need, ask to make them shorter. You will manage to finish everything you need to, and you won’t waste any extra time.
I did the above things and changed a few of the recurring meetings I usually organize. Now we spend less time stuck in meetings, and these meetings are more to the point. We know why we meet and what we want to discuss. And now I try to ask the same of organizers of other meetings.
Can you share how you deal with recurring meetings? Do you attend them?