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Hello, loyal readers! I’ve missed you. I realize you haven’t heard from me in a while and that is because I’ve been knee deep in a project that’s taken up the majority of my time. Still no excuse, and this post is coming 2 days late, but hey, it’s coming! And I think you might even find what I have to say useful at some point, so keep reading. It gets good. I promise.

Before I get into my recent discoveries on getting things done, let me share with you one of my favorite resources on productivity in all areas of life, ZenHabits. Just in case my post leaves you wanting more…check it out. It is great stuff.

Onward, I’ve been down in the trenches lately, working on a project with an undefined scope and shifting deliverables. Not only has this meant lots of hard work and concentration, but also, critical thinking regarding what is necessary and when.

Looking back I realize I’ve made some smart choices, while other choices I likely would have made differently knowing what I know now. Here are 3 things I learned overall that I hope will help next time you take on a huge project with little idea of when or how it will end. Let’s go!

1 – Know the forest, but stay focused on the trees

Don't get overwhelmed by the details

An essential part of any large project is planning. Without some idea of where you are headed and when you want to arrive, any action taken in the present is unlikely to yield the results you desire. A famous quote by best-selling author and time-management consultant, Alan Lakein, pretty much sums up this line of thinking: “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

That being said, when tasked with the organization, development, and production of a project all at once, one has to let go a little and go with the flow. Realizing not everything can be planned for and focusing the bulk of your energies on development and production is key if you want to feel accomplished at the end of the day.

While you can almost count on being pulled in many directions at once and others who will look to you for direction on how to organize their efforts, if you want to keep your energy high, set boundaries. Learn how to say ‘No’, to yourself and others, and leave yourself time to produce…rather than falling into the pattern of always directing.

2 – Do the creative parts first…or at least somewhere towards the middle

Image courtesy of attractionmindmap.com

Image courtesy of attractionmindmap.com

Ever had a lightbulb moment where a brilliant idea pops into your head? You are determined to execute and sure it will lead to something stellar, so the first thing you do is start to research your idea and figure out what it will take to get it off the ground. Some time into your Google searching, note-taking, and spreadsheet-creating, you realize you’ve lost a bit of the spark fueling your frenzy.

So you take a break and come back to the task at hand, only to find yourself overwhelmed at the growing to-do list in front of you, a list that seems to multiply as go you. The more you learn, the more you realize you have to do, but in the meantime, the lightbulb is growing dark. Don’t let this happen.

Do the background research and get an idea of your scope, then STOP. Get started on the creative parts of your project while you have most of your energy in tact, or you’ll find yourself tapped out before you get to the $$$ part of the project. Take some time towards the beginning of your project to get your genius down on paper, and remember you can come back to the drier parts later. All that research, fact-checking, and analyzing isn’t going anywhere. I promise.

3 – Pen and paper are your friend

Pen and paper are great for to-do lists

I love a spreadsheet as much as the next girl, and creating them in Google Docs is oh-so-fun and efficient when it comes to collaborating with a team. But the look on my coworker’s face as he ran down my carefully thought-out and meticulously organized list of action items was all I needed to see. I soon understood spreadsheets can be overwhelming, and sometimes it is best to isolate the most immediate tasks using good, old-fashioned pen and paper. Once I removed the spreadsheet from the picture and made a handwritten list of just the most immediate tasks for us to work from, things seemed to flow much more smoothly, and no one seemed as overwhelmed.

What are your favorite productivity tips? Any productivity ‘myths’ you want to shatter? Post your thoughts below!

Comments

4 thoughts on “3 Things I’ve Learned About Productivity In the Past Week
  1. eandreasian says:

    Great article Amanda.

    As you might know I am very busy with work and with my MBA program that it’s a must that I write everything down for the day and set goals for myself. This gives me an informal deadline to get this done and allows me to be more creative with my work.

    -Emin

  2. Amanda,
    Coming from an infamous procrastinator, great post! I feel that list making is the best possible way to stay on track. There is a little joy in crossing something off that list and you realize that you are moving forward, which is a great direction! Thanks for the Zen Habits link.

  3. Wilde says:

    “Staying focused on the trees” is one of the best bits of advice whenever one feels overwhelmed. If one stops trying to take a giant bite out of a project, you can find that breaking it down into small actionable pieces can make a project less stressful and quite enjoyable.

  4. ade says:

    I get a great satisfaction from making a to-do list and ticking items off as I complete them. What you said about realizing that not everything can be planned for is very true, and accepting same reduces ones stress. Great post.

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