As artists, when we’re setting our daily, monthly, and years goals it can be a pain to figure out where to start. Maybe you’ve read the book Getting Things Done by David Allen and looking for a refresher. Maybe this is entirely new to you. Either way, the Get It Done downloadable poster pdf is the perfect way to get your goals in motion. Making decisions can be daunting, here’s a Choose Your Own Adventure style strategy for making it less stressful:
Capture: Where do you start? Anywhere! Write down anything and everything related your goals. Keep an ongoing list as you live your life. “Do laundry.” “Answer Joan’s email.” “Talk to Tim about the Johnson Report.” There are tons of list apps for any technology platform. Everyone has their favorites. If you’re a paper and pencil kind of person, that’s always an option too. Capture thoughts as you work to keep them out of your mind. If you have a thought on how you get your ideas down, please share in the comments.
Is it actionable? As you decide whether a task is actionable, try to think of the smallest practical task. Think of a task in a way that’s big enough that you’re not wasting time listing the baby steps. And yet not so large as to make the task overwhelming. “Write the Johnson Report” would be a great project, not a task. Smaller tasks make up a project when a goal is too big to be a single task. What’s needed for your report? Who do you need to talk to? Think your goal out as much as you possibly can. For any task that tasks less than two minutes or so, just knock it out and cross the item off your list right way.
Smaller tasks make up a project when a goal is too big to be a single task. What’s needed for your report? Who do you need to talk to? Think your goal out as much as you possibly can. For any task that tasks less than two minutes or so, just knock it out and cross the item off your list right way. If an item is not now actionable, then:
Forget it: If the idea is something that would be nice and at the same time does not need to get done, is it best to forget it completely? Maybe you don’t need to talk to Tim about the report after all. His insights would be nice to have and still are not completely necessary. Drop the idea from your list. You might also change your original task at this point. Perhaps you’ll just email Tim thanking him for offering to talk your idea through. Let him know that due to time constraints you’re going to give it a go and if a stall happens you’ll check in.
You might also change your original task at this point. Perhaps you’ll just email Tim thanking him for offering to talk your idea through. Let him know that due to time constraints you’re going to give it a go and if a stall happens you’ll check in.
Someday/Maybe List: For tasks that are so low priority that you’d like to revisit them later and have no clear or necessary deadline, add them here. Perhaps you’re okay with a messy desk for a while. Someday you’ll organize things and for now, you can live with it.
Reference: Save the thought for reference. Perhaps this bit of information you captured isn’t necessarily something you need to act on. If the idea appears useful for your tasks, save the thought in a place that’ll you’ll be able to find it quickly. Many of my reference ideas end up being useful when I’m writing blog posts and emails
Right away? If the idea is an actionable task, the next question is whether a task must be done by you. If so, if it’s possible and necessary to do right away. This means that it’s a high priority task! Add the task to your “To Do/Action List” as a top priority. If the task is not necessarily a top priority task, consider your options:
Someday/Maybe List: See above. Send the task back up to the maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow list!
Delegate: Is this task better suited for someone else? That coworker who’s playing solitaire might want to feel useful. This also could refer to hiring a temp, freelance, or full-time employee if no one is around. If you can afford a housekeeper, you might delegate some of your cleaning. We live in a service economy, don’t feel as if you must do it all! Schedule a time to follow-up and let those you delegate tasks know that you are available
Schedule It: Add the task to your calendar. Today’s lower priority might be tomorrow’s number one task! This is also great for tasks that are better suited for certain days. Save that discussion for your weekly team meeting or quarterly review if it makes more sense. Call back your mom when you’re having a less busy day or during lunch.
Scheduling is a very powerful tool! I always schedule haircuts, dentist appointments, get-togethers with friends, and anything else I can! Also schedule reminders and conversations. I like to check in at some point before meetings to make sure that it’s still a good date. Also, schedule a time to check your tasks. At work, I like to do a quick check in the morning and after lunch.
Waiting List: If you’re waiting for a response, for files, or any other information then the Waiting List is where you’ll want to keep such tasks. If there’s a certain point where a Waiting List item becomes more critical, add it to your schedule. Wait and if you don’t hear back from Cindy in a week, you can schedule a follow up email. This is a powerful place to keep items that need some attention eventually, and that you can forget about for now.
Organize: There are many ways to organize all of your information. Calendars, lists, and apps are all popular goal trackers. Decide on rules keep these categories separate. You’ll be able to find clear answers as you work and keep moving. Always know what your highest priority task is! If you don’t, go back through the above steps.
Get it done! Work through your tasks in order of priority, one tiny step at a time. If thoughts pop into your head, capture them. Feel free to get back to that idea later unless you’re sure the thought is more important than what you’re doing. What steps add to your creative process? Let’s talk about your goals in the comments!
Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.