If you’re anything like me, you have a massive to-do list – and no matter what you do, that list never seems to get any shorter. It’s an issue self-starters have – we’re never complacent. We never feel like we’ve done enough. There’s always one more thing to do. (Or more accurately, a few hundred more things to do.)
So it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Taking a look at my lists of things to take care of (I use Evernote since it’s simple and portable), every day I risk the possibility of just staring at the list in utter shock at just how much there is to do.
Then when you don’t get anything done, or after you spend a few hours working, you take a look at the list and see what else is left to do, you can feel like a failure.
Maybe you even are.
But there’s one really simple tip I follow every day that keeps me moving forward – positive and productive:
Choose One Specific Task for Today and Do It.
That’s it. Just choose one specific task for the day, and do it. And that’s not something like “catch up on email.” Instead it’s something like “reply to John’s email.”
One of the more recent trends in programming has been the concept of Agile development. Basically it’s a system where programmers break down larger projects into individual tasks, and have them part of a larger overall sprint (or goal). Of course there’s more to it than that, but I love this general approach.
Not only does it break each project into much more achievable chunks, but it also allows for simpler switching of tasks and priorities. You’re never really stuck in a large project. Instead you’re doing something that’s part of a larger project, but it’s still just one task.
But that’s only part of why my “one specific daily task” system works.
It also works because once you’ve done your task, you’ve actually accomplished something. You set a goal, and you achieved it. And for me, setting and achieving goals is a huge part of what inspires me to keep doing it. No one likes to work in the face of failure. But success? That breeds positive attitude, excitement and more success.
So just because you do your one task for the day, that doesn’t mean you’re done. But it means you’ve accomplished something – and hopefully it was something meaningful. Then you’re ready to start tackling whatever else is on that list. Everything else you get done that day is gravy.
You’re no longer looking at a list where you’re overwhelmed. Instead you’re looking at a list where you can pluck off additional items to do and there’s no pressure behind you to get them done. Instead you’re just doing them.
My goal today? It was to write this article. I have a bunch of other things I’ll do today too – but this was my one specific priority for today, and once i hit publish, it’s done. Sharing it to my networks, prepping for that that phone call I have at 10:30, the Adobe chat I have scheduled for this afternoon? They’re all things I’ll take care of too – but I’ve started the day out on a positive note. I’ve set a goal, accomplished it, and am now primed for the rest of the day.
And no matter what, today will now be a success.
Then Do It Again Tomorrow
One of the things people in rehab for drugs and alcohol learn to help get them through each day is this: All you have to is not drink or use today. It’s not about the lifetime of sobriety and the crushing weight something like that can put on you. It’s about that one day.
Then guess what? You do it again tomorrow.
And every day is a success.