It is easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer number of tasks and to-do’s in the coming month. I’ve been experimenting with limiting my commitments to 30 hours in the coming 30 days. Not 30 projects, not 30 quick to-do’s but 30 one-hour tasks. Here’s how to do it:
Step 1: Realize there’s always time
If you really had to, you could squeeze in several hours this month. You’d wriggle out of something else that wasn’t as important to get done what you absolutely had to get done. What if you could wriggle into 30 productive hours in the next 30 days? You’ll do your normal job and work and whatever but there’s probably 30 hours of work that could have a massive impact on your life and business in the next 30 days.
Step 2: List possible 1-hour tasks
Grab a sheet of scrap paper and take five minutes to scribble down the most important 1-hour tasks in the coming thirty days. We’ll prune it down to 30 in just a bit.
Step 3: Split up longer tasks
Don’t kid yourself. Several of your tasks will probably take more than one hour. In that case split it up. Example: Make the Widget 1, Make the Widget 2.
Step 4: Choose only 30
Choose thirty and only thirty tasks. If you are skeptical about 30, go for 15 instead. Do not choose more than 30. You aren’t impressing anyone. When in doubt, reduce the commitment. If you are trying to choose between two tasks, do the one that will have the biggest impact on your life or business.
Step 5: Make it harder to fail
There’s always friction in getting stuff done. Make it harder to screw up. For any calls you have to make, put the phone number next to it so you can’t weasel out of it. Example: Call John Smith 773 555 4321
For tasks that require someone else, schedule them now. Don’t email them asking them when is a good time, pick up the phone and call them and schedule time. Don’t let phone tag become and end unto itself.
Step 6: Print and post your master list
If you keep it on your computer you’ll be tempted to move tasks around or negotiate with yourself. Consider your list frozen. If you don’t like what you chose for the month, cross something off as deferred and worry about it next month. The point is you are limiting your perspective for 30 days so you can do what really needs to get done. If your bastard co-workers will make fun of you, hide your list in a file folder.
Step 7: Get started. Reboot as needed.
Start early if you want. If you get overwhelmed or feel thrown under the bus, take a day away from the list and re-commit to it.
Step 8: 30 Days Later
Once your thirty day execution period is up, return to the list and evaluate your progress.
Bonus Rude Advice
Ask yourself which tasks you are most likely to procrastinate on or pretend don’t exist or hide from using email or voicemail. Do those first. You’ll squirm and twist but it’ll feel good to get the ‘hard’ stuff out of the way. Also: Do this exercise with a buddy and check-in weekly to ensure you’re getting things done.
Click here to download the complete PDF guide and worksheet.
30 Hours, 30 Days: Get More Done by Focusing on Less
8 responses to “30 Hours, 30 Days: Get More Done by Focusing on Less”
Good way to complete all those tasks where you just need an excuse to do them later sometime.
Great stuff! I’m excited to get started ….
Since you mentioned the whole “avoiding follow-up calls” thing …
Here’s an additional quick tip for dealing with some of the situations when you don’t feel up to doing a specific task. For example, when you get into the whole “grrr, stoopid follow-up call, do not want” thing.
First, you check in with yourself as to why you don’t want to do the thing you’re busy not doing. In the follow-up call example it might be a little residual fear of rejection.
So you notice it and agree to it by saying to yourself, “Hey, I’m human and entitled to have a little fear of rejection.” Now you aren’t fighting with yourself anymore.
Next you come up with six things you have in common. Ex. We both are passionate about our businesses, we both like to connect to people, etc. The more you think about the great qualities you share with this person, the more fun it is to call.
Same thing works for projects that don’t involve a person or group. Come up with 6 benefits of having this task crossed off your list. 6 ways the new web copy helps your business, etc.
That’s been my method for a while now, good results so far.
Looking forward to testing out the 30 day plan. I suppose the first (yikes, tomorrow) is as good a time as any …
This is great – made it easier for me to GTD properly. Ties is nicely with Seinfeld’s secret of productivity: “Don’t break the chain” http://lifehacker.com/software/motivation/jerry-seinfelds-productivity-secret-281626.php
Some great advice, Andy.
30 hours in 30 days seems a lot more do-able. When you consider the number of initiatives and projects you might have going, that may seem far too few to make a dent.
I have a few suggestions to add:
1. Schedule all of those tasks onto your calendar – don’t just keep them on a list. Set aside a particular day and a particular hour. It’s amazing how much more likely something is to get done when it’s on your calendar vs. a to-do list.
2. Email is a huge time-sink – or can be. If your email software has an auto-preview function (and provided you’ve got spam-ware enabled), use it. When viewing email, before opening a single email, go through and delete everything you possibily can first. Only once you’ve deleted (ruthlessly) should you open anything and actually read/respond.
It’s like snail mail – don’t open anything before you’ve recycled everything possible, and limit your space for the to-be-read stuff, otherwise it’ll take over your space.
Putting emails into folders to read later only works if you go to those folders later and read what you’ve put in them – that’s not something most people do. If you do, good for you – you’re a rare bird. If you really want to use folders, a computer reminder to look in those folders once every few days might help you actually read what’s in them.
3. For really important tasks, overschedule. I mean put that particular task in your calendar two or three times, so that if life or business intrudes (as we know it is quite likely to do), you’ve got a fall-back plan for accomplishing the most significant goals.
4. Partner – find someone else and email or call as your schedules and desires dictate – maybe once or twice per week. Set your goals and check in with each other about them. Celebrate, too. It’s a way of adding support, encouragement, accountability, focus, and community. Having partners has helped me accomplish more goals more quickly than trying to do everything on my own (including getting 2 books published in one year, and getting quoted in TIME Magazine).
5. Have fun, and enjoy the experiment.
I wonder what I would accomplish in 30 days with that 1 hour a day minimization. I would surely try this one, because stress is already eating me out.
Love & Gratitude,
Think Simple. Be Decisive.
Very nice post. Sounds like a good idea. might like to track back if you don’t mind ?