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How to get shit done


Become the ‘VP of No’*

When someone asks me to do something my first thought is to say no. It might not sound very charitable but it’s a necessary way to manage your time. In the past I’ve been quick to say yes to anything and everybody. The results are damaging to both me and to the people I intended on helping. If you say yes to everything you’ll end up running out of time, energy or even money. And you’ll disappoint the people you’re trying to help. Put your ‘out of office’ notifications on, work from a remote location or just tell people you’re too busy. This is true of new projects, features and ideas. It’s counterintuitive but I guarantee that saying no to more to get more done.

Don’t track time, track outcomes

Time is often described as the most precious resource you have. I agree with that but not all time is created equally. Yes, I said created. Time is a construct and we all experience it differently. Time is like happiness; we can’t create it but we can feel it’s rewards when the outcomes align with our goals. Outcomes are the real measure of successful time management. Ask yourself what you can achieve rather than what amount of time it’ll take to achieve it. Some things take a lifetime to achieve but are so worth it that time seems less important. Getting shit done isn’t about the short-term goals alone; it’s about achieving all of your goals.

Train others what to expect from you

In my experience I’ve noticed that people treat you in the way that you expect them to treat you. In other words, if you expect to get interrupted then that’s exactly what happens. I’ve leaned that the best way to set expectations is to tell people how to work with me. For example, I tell everyone that if I have my headphones on I don’t want to be interrupted. In some cases I’ll set my out of office reply even when I’m in the office to tell people outside the office that they may not get a response to their emails that day. Whatever you choose, make sure you’re the one setting the guidelines and not just being reactive.

Think long-term to get the most done

The best laid plans are sustainable, or at least repeatable. As our company name suggests the idea is to till the soil to make it fertile rather than be a ‘slash-and-burn’ farmer. Short-term thinking is lazy thinking. We think long-term about everything, which I realize has gone out of fashion recently. So many businesses and projects are focused on what can be achieved in that moment. Nothing wrong with that, except when you end up having to redo all that work to fix the mess that a short-term plan created. I love acting fast and seeing short-term results but our time management is focused on the long-term impact. A good example is prototyping. We really enjoy the prototyping process but will consider what we can reuse from the prototype so that we’re not creating more work for ourselves further down the track. There’s no point in getting stuff done if you have to do it all over again in a few weeks.

Be a morning person

I know, I know, some of you “just can’t do mornings”. Bullshit. Because getting stuff done has a lot to do with focusing creative energy and avoiding distractions, it’s important to know when you can do that. Endless amounts of research points to mornings as the best time to get work done. There are fewer distractions and, if you’re like most people, you’re also freshly caffeinated. The body goes through natural energy cycles so using this rhythm gives you an advantage. If you don’t have distractions at home, late nights can also be productive but your energy levels aren’t as high at night.

*The VP of No  is an idea I borrowed from Dave Grey and his team over at Xplane

Author Richard Banfield

As CEO, Richard leads Fresh Tilled Soil’s strategic vision. He’s a mentor at TechStars and BluePrintHealth, an advisor and lecturer at the Boston Startup School, and serves on the executive committees of TEDxBoston, the AdClub’s Edge Conference, and Boston Regional Entrepreneurship Week.

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