Continually revisiting an “I need to….” without taking action is a real productivity killer. Not only is it an inefficient use of your time and bandwidth, it can really wreck havoc on your mindset. But tackling this challenge is really quite simple: take action. Establish a plan to move the needle. A game plan generates productive momentum you can capitalize on to get the job done.
Apply the Proven Principles
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not attempting to oversimplify complex tasks. And I’m not suggesting you half-ass something to simply get a job done. My point is this: We all know that inaction is the antithesis of personal productivity, but thinking about action while taking no action is actually worse. So we’re going to work this rubric with some tried-and-true productivity principles. Think: planning, time management and purposeful execution.
Frame Your Objective and Set a Plan
I’ll begin with a personal example. Maybe it’s one you can relate to. Over the last week, I’ve found myself getting anxious about the holidays. I was walking through the grocery store, and I spotted a promotional end cap featuring fried onions, cranberry sauce and all things pumpkin spice. Well, this didn’t catapult me into the holiday spirit. Quite the opposite happened. I started thinking about the logistics of my family’s Thanksgiving dinner and how nothing was nailed down. And it didn’t stop there. My mind next jumped to Christmas plans, gift lists and sending out holiday cards. I knew in that moment I had to take some action.
What I didn’t do was try to solve everything right then and there. Instead, I made a plan to make a plan. That evening, I did some time blocking, by scheduling an hour the next day to flesh out my holidays strategy. I committed to using that time to organize my holiday tasks. During that allowed time the next day, I listed out what I needed to do, i.e. get family wish lists early (hello supply chain challenges), plan a menu for the meal I’m hosting, order my holiday cards, etc.
Next, I scheduled some time over the coming weeks to complete my tasks. I did this utilizing the timeline I had thoughtfully developed. So now, as I draft this blog post, I’m not circling back to a nagging need to “figure out the holidays.”
Schedule the Time
The truth is, the importance or impact of a to-do has no real bearing on this nagging dilemma because ruminating is ruminating, no matter the topic. Maybe it isn’t the holiday to-do’s that are dragging on your consciousness but rather it’s a large business need you must solve for, like establishing an effective workflow system to support growth or hiring a new employee to meet client demand. The system still works the same.
Set aside some time to think through a strategy. Then break it into manageable parts. Be sure to give yourself the time needed for research or consultations, if research or consultation is what you are needing. These tasks warrant scheduling just like the more mechanical ones do.
Scheduling time to develop a strategy is going to guide you to action, and before you know it that nagging project will be moved to completion.
Follow Through on Your Plan of Action
Now I know you skeptics are going to question the “guide you to action” line above. Alas it is true, YOU are going to have to follow through with your planned strategy. But this approach I’ve outlined will:
- Enable you to set yourself up to take effective action.
- Kill that destructive, unproductive internal “need to” dialogue that is truncating your overall potential.
Trust the Process
Too simple? Maybe on the surface, but I challenge you to give it a try. What is nagging at you? How has it crowded your headspace? Put some time on your calendar to work through a strategy. Check in with yourself once that’s complete. I’m betting you’re going to feel accomplished. And yes, maybe a bit anxious. But then start to work your plan, using your scheduled time to complete your tasks. Trust the process. Work the system. Take some action.
One side note before I go. It is true, the holidays can be stressful. What’s more, we often put unnecessary stress on ourselves trying to “enjoy” this season. My 2020 blog post on managing holiday expectations might provide meaningful input for your holiday strategizing.
Sara Genrich, CPO® is a Productivity Consultant, an Evernote Certified Consultant, and the creator of the Organizing@Work for Success Workshop. She’s committed to providing real-life solutions so her clients have time to focus on the things that really matter.