After years of experience, I know a thing or two about getting it done. As an international digital data marketing expert with a successful track record as a serial entrepreneur, I believe that we’re often our own worst enemies when it comes to getting done what we need to. Procrastination is your enemy and it’s a dragon you can slay! All it takes is action and forward motion.
Why do we procrastinate? People put things off for many reasons, such as the unpleasantness associated with a task or a series of tasks, time-management mistakes or just not knowing how to start. Most of us feel we have no time. Between your career, your family, some necessary errands, a new series on Netflix (let’s face it, you can’t function without some time to decompress)…it often feels as if we’re being drawn and quartered, like we’re caught in the path of a category 5 something or other. It often seems like it’s all too much. But don’t batten down the hatches – throw them open! I follow a standard operating procedure (SOP), my fab five, for getting it done.
The Scott O. Hirsch Fab Five for Getting It Done:
- Do it.
Do it, whatever it is. Don’t put off that phone call, that email, that meeting…don’t wait, don’t save it, don’t assume you’ll do it later. It’s as simple as walking past a sink full of dishes and stopping to load them into the dishwasher. There’s a psychic and temporal distance between everything you decide to do and actually doing it. Your first goal is to shorten that distance, to obliterate it. The trick is to develop the habit of doing something as soon as you think about it (or to at least get started).
- Make a List and Keep Revising It
Much of what gets in our way is the result of chaos. There’s just too much going on all the time, and it never lets up – it often feels like everything is spinning. Here’s a secret to help: The Human brain loves organization and order (yes, even yours). Finding some way to harmonize your obligations, to prioritize, will make you more productive and less likely to procrastinate. Think about how calm you feel when you see a mountain range, the ocean…we instinctively seek order and rhythm, stillness. So perhaps you can’t find yourself in Boulder, CO, staring up at the Flatirons or gazing into a Cezanne landscape. What’s the best way to create order for yourself! Lists. Make a list, work your way through it, cross off what you finish (it feels so good), revise it, keep going. Make lists part of your standard operating procedure, part of your practice. Trust me, it will keep you steady. And it will help you get it done.
If you don’t need to do it, let someone else do it. This is crucial for startup founders, CEOs and other senior managers. When you’re running a company, leading teams, building your brand…there are a lot of tasks you can leave to your staff. Trust the people you’ve hired to do the jobs you’ve hired them to do. The thinner you spread yourself, the less you’ll get done. And, as an ancillary benefit, the more you empower your people, the more they’ll get done, and the more time you’ll have to devote yourself to the bigger picture. You don’t have to proofread every document that leaves your office, every social media post, etc. Taking on too much, and too much that’s not entirely necessary, keeps you from building critical mass – in a way, it’s another form of procrastination.
- See Each Task through to Completion
Substitute perseverance, as applied to one objective, in place of multi-tasking, and see projects with several moving parts through to completion. Once you take on a project or task, try to get through everything it requires for completion, and don’t leave any of it unfinished. Think of it in the old-fashioned sense: it’s done once it’s stamped and dropped into a mailbox: envision all the steps you need to take to finally turn away from the mailbox and get onto the next thing. As 19th century humorist Josh Billings once said, “be like a postage stamp – stick to one thing until you get there.”
- Manage Your Own Expectations
Remember, at the start of the day, you put your pants on one leg at a time like everyone else. At the end of day, you’re probably shot. You need to sleep, eat, spend time with friends and family. Trying to get everything done every single day is the best way to get nothing done. At some point you must be realistic about how much time and energy you have – you don’t have to take on everything on your list every day. Some things can wait. This isn’t giving up! It’s being strategic and managing your resources so you can be truly effective and accomplish what you need to on deadline. Figure out what you must get done and what you can get done, then go from there. You’re better off doing less and doing it well (and seeing it through to completion).
I try to work through my fab five every day and I’m definitely seeing an improvement in the quality of my work and a reduction of my overall stress. I try to take ownership of my time by committing to what needs to get done and doing it. I’ve changed my mindset! It wasn’t easy to do, but I think I’m getting further than I used to with what I want to accomplish. And in less time!