In today’s society, the pursuit of the shortcut, the easy way to winning or achieving something is everywhere—from diet pills that promise an all-you-can-eat approach to weight-loss, to ebooks and courses promising a quick road to riches.

The irony of our pursuit of the shortcut is that we overcomplicate things. We consume so much information and become overwhelmed with conflicting advice. We highlight examples that support the shortcut approach whilst ignoring the facts around hard work, patience and the fact that success takes time.

Take weight-loss for example. Most of us inherently know how to lose weight:

  • Eat more real, natural foods
  • Eat less processed crap
  • Move or exercise more
  • Consume less calories than we expend

That could be the shortest ebook in the world, but you would feel a bit short-changed if you paid $10 for it—so marketers adopt an angle, throw in a few stories of success and hey ho, you’re reaching for your credit card.

But here’s the rub!
Knowing how to do something clearly isn’t the same as doing it. I’ve been overweight for most of my adult life and despite knowing how to lose weight, I’ve struggled with getting it down. And that’s where people and companies can bring value. They can provide solutions that help convert knowledge into actions—actions that lead to progress.

It’s the same with getting more done—deep down you know you’ve got to:

  • Avoid distractions
  • Focus on the immediate task at hand
  • Plan your work better

But…

The day-to-day stuff ruins our best laid plans:

  • New tasks
  • ‘Urgent’ requests
  • Ideas
  • Endless meetings
  • Endless emails
  • Social media
  • Fun stuff on the Internet being a click away

The Shortcut to ‘Getting More Done’

For me, there are three parts to this equation.
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1. Reframe What You Mean by ‘Getting More Done’

Let’s get clear about what you mean when you say you want to ‘get more done’. For many of us, we’ve a bunch of work that we want to do as quickly as possible. “I’ve been productive today because I got 10 things done!” On the face of it, that seems fine, but let me offer a different analysis…

What if we were to think in terms of ‘being more effective’, rather than in terms of ‘getting more done’? In that context, you have to examine the work you’re going to do to bring the most value to your company, or your client. In a personal context, you’ve got to decide what things you’re going to focus on that will deliver the most value and meaning to your life and your family.

Ultimately we’re looking to do our work effectively—which can mean getting more done in an allotted time, but for me, it’s all about having a stronger focus on the quality of work.

2. Find a Way of Dealing With Interruptions

Let’s have a look at some daily interruptions that pull you away from what you’re currently working on.

Meetings: I’m cool with having meetings where there’s a solid agenda but all too often, we’re pulled into meetings because it’s what’s done on a Monday morning, or a Friday afternoon. If you can, decline meetings or ask the person who has asked you to participate to forward a solid outline of what you’re meeting about—that will at least bring their attention to the importance of your time and put the onus on them to justify the need for a meeting.

Notifications: whether it’s email or notifications from your project management or team collaboration app, just snooze them when you need a solid block of time to get work done. The world won’t fall apart, and if anything is truly urgent, people can reach you by phone if you’re remotely working or head over to your desk if you’re in the office.

Colleagues: if Jeremy from accounts keeps interrupting you with his stories from the weekend, just politely tell him you’re really busy and that you’ll catch up with him at lunch time. This is something that should be understood at a company level—respect people’s time and the fact that they’re working.

Ideas and work requests: if an idea pops into your head, get it out quickly—I don’t mean ignore it, just have a go-to note or place where you can empty your head of incoming stuff—a place that you review regularly, process stuff and get it actioned or assigned. This one thing will eliminate so much distraction and worry. If you get asked a lot for help or advice, learn to say no—getting more done is as much about choosing what not to do!

The Internet and social media: look, this isn’t sexy advice or mind-blowing, but if you’ve got work to do, you’ve got to close those browser windows and log out of your social media accounts. Put the phone in the drawer or at least snooze notifications. Constant distractions will destroy your flow and ruin your work plans for the day.

You need solid uninterrupted spells during your work day to get meaningful work done. If your business doesn’t ‘work that way’ or colleagues don’t respect that, it’s time to gently raise awareness within your company…

  • Ask your boss to read this post. Honestly, if he or she is interested in the company being more efficient and productive, there is some solid practical advice here
  • If you work on a laptop, consider doing your best work somewhere more private—maybe a conference room or unused space
  • If remote working is allowed, consider working at the library or at home (if it’s free from distractions)

3. Have a System for Work and Communication

The problem with a lot of modern communication tools and team collaboration apps is that they make the ‘chat’ element really easy, but the doing element for progressing things is at best, an afterthought—at worst, it’s completely missing.

Chat apps don’t often provide a structure for getting things done. Chatting and discussing things is part of collaboration but if it’s not in the context of a project or a task, it can often be meaningless, and the biggest problem is that people think they’re being productive by participating—much like meetings.

Renowned author and pioneer of the GTD (Getting Things Done) methodology, David Allen, believes people with no structure to their work day will continuously struggle to cope with new and existing demands. That structure should allow you to:

  • Get stuff out of your head and into one place to review later
  • Create tasks and projects and assign to the right people
  • Share important events and milestones with ease
  • Chat and have a bit of fun with work colleagues
  • Set up real discussions about topics and ideas your company is interested in.
  • Store all files related to your company and projects so people can find things in one place
  • Forward emails in and get them actioned by the right people
  • Add quick polls to get decisions made quickly by the right people

If you and your company adopts a system that can deliver all of the above, then people have an opportunity to get more done. They can:

  • View their own tasks and prioritise what’s achievable
  • View the company’s workload and every team member’s workload
  • Keep everyone accountable
  • Avoid things falling through the cracks
  • Communicate faster with colleagues, clients, teams and the whole company—and in the right context
  • Find stuff faster
  • Get decisions made faster

It sounds pretty unreal, doesn’t it? And it is.

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