How Do You Get Things Done?

How do you get things done? Do you feel you’re an achiever who enjoys checking off the boxes? Do you see yourself as more laid back, getting to things whenever you can? Whatever your style, the truth is, if you’re in business for yourself, you need to get things done, and chances are, no one else will jump in to save the day. Which begs the question: How do you do things most easily and best suited to you?


What’s your style?

In working with clients, I see two typical categories of doers: 1) Those who love making a list and working through it, some going so far as drawing their own little check boxes next to each to do item in a notebook, or 2) others who take a looser approach, writing items on the backs of envelopes, on their hand, or random Post-it notes. Both approaches have their merits.



On the surface, it’s easy to make up a story that the box-checkers are better at getting things done. After all, that’s how to-do lists work, right? You make a list, check off each item as it’s done, and move on to the next one. If you operate this way, chances are good that you get a lot done in a day. If there’s a cautionary tale here, it’s to be flexible with the to-do list. Sometimes you can be so driven to accomplish something that you get lost in the details, or lose the overall focus of what you’re working toward. I once had a client plot her entire vacation day in New York City, checking off the boxes as she went. She literally did all she wanted to do, yet some of the joy of the day was lost by the intense focus to check off the boxes.


Back of the Envelopers

People sometimes wonder how those who operate this way get anything done. A client I work with has piles, random notes to self and meetings with herself on the calendar, and often remarks she feels like it’s a miracle she accomplishes anything. If you’re wired this way, the cautionary tale is to stop trying to fight it and instead figure out a way to work with your tendencies. Embrace your back-of-the-envelope style and give yourself ample time to get things done. Realize that you do get tasks done; look for when you feel the most energized and do more things that way. You may also consider partnering with a box-checker who understands you, someone who won’t “make you wrong” because you’re not wired like they are. Those people exist, and they love helping people like you.


Making It a Habit

Whatever your style, it works best to set aside specific time to get done what you’d like to accomplish. The key to success is having a system and working it consistently, but how that works depends upon how you identify yourself. “Box-checkers” often work best with a structured schedule, doing things every day or on certain days of the week. “Envelopers” often work in chunks, where they get a lot of things done at once then coast for a few days or weeks until another wave hits them. Again, both styles can be equally effective, as long as you know your rhythm and work with it rather than against it.

If you give yourself the gift of structure in this more spacious way, you’ll be setting yourself up for success *and* getting plenty of things done.

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