No this isn’t an ancient secret, there are no acronyms, no kind of formula or set of steps to follow to get more done. This article isn’t about me telling you some complicated way of getting more things done throughout your day or week. There are aspects of your life which will be different to mine; you might have more responsibilities or a different schedule altogether which means there is no right or wrong way of being more productive and getting what some people would consider as a lot throughout the week.
Let’s skip back to the beginning of last year (2020), I’ll set the scene.
Essentially, I was on ‘holiday’ mode. My job search was actively taking place but there weren’t any imminent responsibilities or schedules I had to stick to. The pandemic hadn’t even begun so I was taking life one step at a time, knowing that at any point it could change. That’s the key here, Tomorrow could be vastly different from today, and I’m not trying to scare you, but the idea to keep in the back of your mind is that no one is productive 365/365 days. We all have periods of intense productivity or work or commitments that take up a lot of our time. If there is one thing I’ve learnt from this pandemic, not just from my personal experiences but those of others’, it’s that life is unpredictable.
I also didn’t really have a strict routine during the week and apart from the blog, there weren’t any other projects taking up a lot of my time. I did work a portfolio update and helped out with family business things. But I didn’t feel the need to write down what I had to do for the week. Now, in university, this was totally different. Obviously, deadlines are pretty serious and at that time my sketchbook was the place where I would write down all the things I had to do from this week’s tutorial to next week’s tutorial. But it was never on my mind to try and get more done.
So sometime between January and March, I found Notion. Now, I’m not saying Notion specifically changed the way I work but instead, it’s the concept of capturing ideas or tasks. If you’re specifically looking for guidance on productivity, then I’d recommend watching the video below by Ali Abdaal, then reading Getting Things Done by David Allen. The first core principle in this book is to Capture.
So, this specific concept is what many people don’t really realise is key to getting loads of things done. If you look back on some of our posts throughout the year, I always mention creating lists and staying organised. The method is essentially the same. At the moment, I have so many things and projects to concentrate on that if there was no capturing method, I’m sure at least 70% of those would be forgotten about. That’s not great when you’re trying to get a lot done. So how am I able to even balance so many projects? Because I’ve got a system sorted.
In university, this system was good enough to get me by, but looking back now I cannot believe I didn’t even have something as simple as a digital checklist. The reason for it being digital is so that I don’t have to wait to get home to write it in my sketchbook. Let’s be honest, inspiration can hit you anytime, anywhere. Offline tools have their advantages, but there is an undeniable satisfaction in an analogue method – either apply here!
Strategy to Get More Done
The key here is the level of priority and urgency for your tasks in one week. The priority can depend on deadlines, time constraints and your involvement in these projects. But there is also a level of priority you usually have in your head on a day-to-day basis. For example, today was the best day for me to work on the next few blog posts and wrap up most of the tasks I usually have for this blog because tomorrow I’m planning on dedicating all my time towards a secret project 😉.
Every single morning, I sit down and think about what I have to do for today and sometimes tomorrow. Without fail, every single day.
Once you do capture all the information in your head, it can be a little difficult or overwhelming trying to organise everything. In Notion, I assign a priority that ranges from 1st – 3rd. Some apps like Todoist even do this automatically for you. Honestly, if any task takes the 3rd priority, I don’t even bother adding it. Do I really need to do that task? Chances are that I’ve either worded it wrong or the task I’m writing down isn’t so urgent as I think. The way you write down your tasks is super important. If you add something like ‘Complete plans, elevations and section’ you’re having a laugh!
But instead, if you break down these tasks, even into smaller tasks that might take you half an hour, you’ll not only feel a sense of satisfaction after completing it, you will also be able to see and understand how long the entire project might take you so you can get a feeling of what your personal pace is – which will also help you in the future. I usually give myself a limit of an hour. If it’s going to take me more than an hour then I need to split it into two tasks.
The other and very truthful thing about getting a lot done in a week is that you have to have a passion for whatever you’re doing because if you’re not, you will procrastinate for as long as you can to avoid it, and that’s not getting it done. Now, I don’t see working on the blog as a chore or ‘job’, in fact, I’m writing this on the couch, whilst watching Masterchef – this is my relaxing time (and when I write best)!. Once you eliminate the notion that your projects are detached from you and are just things you have to do, you start feeling a sense of pride and excitement. I’d always recommend re-evaluating what you’re doing at the moment and whether you’re enjoying it.
5, 5, 5
So how can you get more done in a week? Next week, for 5 days, try to start your day by adding 5 tasks that you want to accomplish each day. You could block this out in a calendar, you could even plan for the entire week if you’re confident enough. Then, at the end of the week write down 5 things that worked. Did you work better during the day or at night? Did you find yourself completing writing tasks quicker – and if so, could you go one step further by making it a filler task?
A filler task is something that you can do whenever, wherever without thinking about it. This means that if you are avoiding or procrastinating you can lean on your filler task and that way you’re still doing something enjoyable and completing something that is important!
To sum it up, what you may think of as ‘a lot’ could be different from the person next to you. But what is important here, especially for students, is that you need to be able to capture and prioritise what you want to be achieving. By creating systems for ourselves that we know work, it will be much easier to work through tasks and deadlines and still be able to make time for the things that matter.
So, that’s it. That’s how I get a lot of things done in a week. I make sure my system works for me and try not to overload myself and I make sure that anything I invest my time into, I enjoy doing. Make sure you’re asking yourself, is this worth it? In 5 years time, will what I am doing today be of any relevance to me? The answer in your head will immediately decide whether it is worth your time in the present. Remember that you don’t need to work as a drone either; switch up your routine, put things on the back-burner for the moment and do something new, fun and exciting. Strict routines could work for some people, whereas for others you just have to keep trying new things. You really never know where it can lead you.