Getting things done

August 1, 2013 § 5 Comments

One of the things I’ve wanted to be from the moment I first clapped eyes on Julie Morgenstern on the Oprah show, is a professional organiser. At the time, I didn’t know such a thing existed, but I was instantly entranced. Because I like nothing more than to climb into a room, space or filing system and get it sorted out.

This is not a passing passion for me – I’ve considered doing a professional organiser’s course through Get Organised, I wrote a column on the subject for many years for Your Family, and I’ve even written a book on the subject (which is languishing somewhere on my computer hard-drive, and probably needs a complete rewrite).

In short, I am the sort of person who likes to Get Things Done.

But I’ve not been very organised for most of this year, as I’ve been having a quiet little rebellion, which I won’t go into here. What has happened, though, is that as a result, the clutter has started to build. My life has been very disorganised, and I’ve forgotten things and missed deadlines, and double booked, but it was all okay while I was rebelling. Now the rebellion is over, and I’ve been getting irritated by the mess, and with myself. But over the past couple of weeks, slowly, but surely, I’ve been taking back my organised persona, and it feels great.

And then, yesterday, I decided to tackle my To-Do list with a vengeance; turn it into a Ta-Da list. By 10am, I had ticked six tedious tasks off; things I’ve been procrastinating about for ages, purely because they’re as boring as hell. And, as is my custom, I tweeted something to that effect using the #GTD hashtag, which is a known productivity hashtag. Within a couple of hours someone had responded offering me a trial of their productivity app. I was not amused.

Here’s my take on all these productivity apps. They’re a bunch of codswallop. Call me an old-fashioned fart if you like, but no app is ever going to make you productive. Only you will make you productive. You can set reminders and carve out time for things until you are blue in the face, but unless you actually get off your butt and do whatever the task is, the app isn’t going to help you.

Take this blog, for example. I have a reminder set up on Outlook to remind me that it’s Wednesday, and that I need to blog, and like clockwork, it popped up yesterday morning. Did I blog? No. Because I was busy doing other things. When it reminded me to blog again last night, I was too tired (and a little tipsy after rather a lot of sherry) so I decided to put it off until today.

I didn’t need an app for that. I just needed to sit down at my laptop and start typing.

It’s like writing. You can go on a creative writing course, follow writers on Twitter, read their top writing tips, buy books on plotting or dialogue or character or whatever and read those, but until you sit down and face the blank page head-on, you ain’t never gonna write no book, chile…

And just as a book is written by a) starting and b) stringing together words one at a time, being organised and productive is a matter of starting, eating the elephant one bite at a time, and keeping at it till it’s done.

If you want to get things done, you don’t need an app. You need just three things, that anyone, anywhere can access. A piece of paper and a pencil to write down what needs doing, and the ability to get started. That’s all. There’s no secret. Just pick something do-able on the list and get going, and don’t stop till you’re done.

Stop reading about productivity, and make like Nikey. Just do it.

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§ 5 Responses to Getting things done

  • 4 things actually. You need the sherry close by to reward yourself as you tick things off.

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  • Rene says:

    I really need to follow your advice. I’m usually great at starting things, but never seem to finish anything. Right before I’m finished with a task I’ll just drop it and continue with something else. Oh, and difficult tasks where I don’t know where to start I can procastinate for years.

    I recently read a post about eating an elephant. They said instead of one bite at a time hold an elephant party and get everyone to take bites 🙂

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    • That’s great advice because we so often think we have to do everything ourselves. As for finishing tasks, first, matching tasks to the available time is crucial, but if you don’t quite manage that, just pick up where you left off and don’t start the next thing till you’re done.

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  • I agree … An app does not replace action. Well said.

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