THE BLOG
10/16/2014 03:55 pm ET Updated Dec 16, 2014

How to Actually Get Stuff Done

jayfish via Getty Images

If you have 20 sticky note reminders taped to your desk and 12 to-do lists in draft, this post is for you. In a world that never seems to stop moving, how do we actually accomplish what we want to get done?

A perfect solution doesn't exist, but I firmly believe that we can do better. Here are three strategies that I've learned to stay on track, get things done and actually enjoy what I do each day.

Strategy 1: Do one thing at a time. One and only one.

Sounds simple, right? The problem is that we try to multitask and squeeze in extra tasks to be more efficient. The truth is that it just doesn't work.

Darren Hardy teaches a fantastic exercise to demonstrate this point:
  • In your head, count to 10. OK, easy.
  • Then say your ABCs through J. Easy again.
  • Now alternate the sequence of numbers and letters and say it as fast as you can. A1B2C3.... a little slower than before, right?
  • Now do it backwards. J10... I9... H8... you get the point.

Our brains aren't meant to do more than one thing at a time. Focus on the task at hand, do one thing at a time, and you'll see your productivity shoot through the roof. Even better, set a time limit for each task. For example, "I will clean the house for the next 30 minutes then move on with my day." While you're cleaning, just clean. No phones, stopping to prep a meal or any other tasks. Focus your 30 minutes on just cleaning.

Strategy 2: The Secret To An Achievable To-Do List

Another mistake that people run into is not knowing how to master a to-do list.

Here's the secret: each item needs to be a specific, detailed action step. In the example above, "Clean The House" is actually a terrible to-do list item. Breaking it out into "clean kitchen floor, wipe down counters and do one load of laundry" is an achievable list. "Clean The House" is too vague and too hard to cross off the list because when do we actually clean the entire house? Don't add anything to your to-do list that you can't cross off.

I see people do this in business all the time. "Launch Website" is not a to-do list item, it's more of a goal. Find a host company, purchase Wordpress template, schedule photos, etc. are all actionable items that can be organized and crossed off the list. How refreshing!

Strategy 3: Just say no. And say it often.

Remember this: When you say yes to something, you are always saying no to something else. For instance, if you say yes to hosting that party on Friday night, you are saying no to staying in and connecting with your family. One isn't better than the other, just be judicious about what you say yes to and weigh the pros and cons of what you are giving up.

No is such a beautiful word. Learning to say it more often will free you up to get stuff done. Which leads me to my favorite tool.

Bonus Tool: Your "To-Don't List"

Giving yourself permission to say no might just save your sanity. It will make you squeal with delight. I just love my to-don't list and review it often.

You're to-don't list isn't just stuff that you don't want to do, it's stuff that if you know you say yes to you'll be giving something up.

Download & Print: Your To-Don't List.pdf

To actually getting stuff done,

Elizabeth

Elizabeth Rider is a leading nutrition and whole living expert helping women around the world become even more successful by teaching them not just how to live well, but how to become the absolute BEST version of themselves. From personal wellness to career, spirituality to finances--and more--consciously cultivating the ideal lifestyle is her religion.

Find Elizabeth on Facebook for daily inspirations and wellness tips that actually work.