I’m pretty good at getting things done. It’s always been one of my Secret Super Powers. After a recent conversation with the amazing Jessie Rau, I realized that getting things done is really hard for a lot of people. Which led me to think, how do I do it?
Step 1: I Hold Myself Accountable.
It sounds pretty simple at first glance, right? Ha! I swear, I’m always employing another sneaky move to make myself get done the things that need doing. Some have worked brilliantly, some have taken a violent nosedive and crashed back down to earth. Here’s what I’ve tried and how it’s worked out:
Make a To-Do List.
If you don’t like to-do lists, call them something different, for all I care. To-do lists have long been one of my favorite things. The best part is: it’s so simple! All you have to do is write down the things that you need to do. I write them on paper, I list them out in Word (bullet points are my friend), I type them out in Gmail and email them to myself, I illustrate them in my composition notebook that goes everywhere with me, or, more recently, I use Action Method Online to sort everything for me.
No matter how I do it, keeping a list of what I need to get done is always beneficial. It helps me prioritize and—maybe most importantly—it reminds me of what I actually need to get done. Every time I glance at it, I’m reminded that I need get off Twitter and go back to working.
Set a Deadline.
Action Method Online has seriously helped me with this issue, and for the most part, I get everything done by the deadline. A couple chapters of a book that I need to read before my next meeting with Jessie? Check. The first Code Year 2012 lesson? Check. Nine times out of ten, I know I need to get something done by a certain day, so if I actually give it a deadline, I will remember this fact. Prioritization at its best.
Continually Remind Myself.
This one usually helps me get things done, but never on its own. Put a note in your pocket. Write it on your bathroom mirror. Put a reminder wallpaper on your phone or computer. Write it on a sticky note and stick it to your computer. Chances are, if you constantly remind yourself that you need to do something, eventually you’ll either guilt yourself into it or you’ll be so tired of seeing the damn reminder that you’ll just do it.
Answer to Someone Else.
Sometimes it just doesn’t work to rely on myself to get things done. If I suspect this might be the case, I tell everyone I possibly can. My parents, my brother, my boss, my coworkers, my friends, my fellow designers, the barista at the coffee shop (ok, I haven’t had to do that last one yet, but I bet if I mention it, they’ll bring it up a week or so later). Having your friends and family hound you about getting things done is great. Nothing makes you feel guiltier than telling them that you’re still not done with a project due a week ago.
Make a Game of it.
Sometimes the trick is to pretend you’re not doing something so terrible. My mom has a trick to make herself stop procrastinating and start typing faster – she pretends she’s playing a video game. Everything she does is timed. If she does it in a certain amount of time, she gets bonus points. If she’s writing a particular difficult section, she acts as if it’s the bonus round, or the Daily Double, if you well. Sometimes all you have to do is distract yourself from what is otherwise an unpleasant experience and it’s much easier to just get it done.
Just Fucking do it.
Aaaand this is my Super Secret Trick. I’m really great at making myself guilty. There are a few things that I routinely tell myself: “It needs to get done and I know it, so I need to just do it.” “It’ll be over with quickly and then I don’t have to worry about it anymore.” “Think about how disappointed my client will be.” “Damn, I just made myself a whole lot more work.” Usually, these inner monologues do the trick.
And there you go. This is how I keep myself accountable. There really aren’t any secret tricks involved, nor any super powers (though it would be really cool if there were). Just a whole lot of guilt involved.