Is There an Art to the “Get Shit Done” Approach?

get shit done

Getting shit done is a fun (albeit less eloquent) way to say “being productive”. You’ve probably heard a million ways to boost your productivity, and maybe even put a few of them to the test for yourself. But let’s face it: when you’re “trying” to be productive, it can be awkward.

It’s easy to get lost in the mechanics of what you’re doing and forget all about the reasons you’re doing those things. Or sometimes productivity may disguise itself: you’re staying busy and doing things, but you’re not actually getting anything checked off your to-do list or moving any closer to your goals.

I fully believe that there’s an art to the “get shit done” approach, which I covered in an earlier blog post. Those who have mastered this art are the kings and queens of organization, time management, goal setting, and prioritizing, and they can do it all without adding extra hours to their day.

Sounds like magic, right?

You, too, can master the art of the get shit done approach ― let’s dive in.

Capture and Clarify

I’m a huge fan of lists. I have a list for everything, from daily tasks to long-term goals to things I want to teach my kids — the list of lists goes on. I’ve made it a habit to capture every idea that comes to mind because once I do, I can decide whether or not to flesh out that idea or discard it. You can’t really do that when ideas stay in your head, because your brain will do a great job of forgetting those ideas before you’ve had a chance to mull them over.

write down goals
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David Allen’s Getting Things Done productivity method and self-help book designates that “capture” and “clarify” are the first two steps of his methodology. He notes that whatever tools you use to capture ideas should fit naturally within your normal daily flow. For example, if you don’t carry a purse or briefcase, it might not be practical to use a huge notebook to jot down your thoughts. You also never want to use the excuse of “writing it down later” because the brain is prone to human error — you may forget something that could turn out to be a great idea.

Once you’ve written down your ideas, review them to see what you can eliminate and which ones can be broken down into steps (more on this in a moment). This is the “clarify” segment that gives you more insight into a specific idea, such as what you need to do to complete a certain task.

Learn to Identify (and Eliminate) Busy Work

Now that you have clarified your ideas, look closely at the ideas and tasks you’re considering pursuing and figure out which ones are valuable and which ones are just busywork. These days, staying busy is displayed like a badge of honor, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting shit done.

This is where good prioritization skills come into play. It’s not about choosing tasks you do or don’t like. It’s about selecting the activities that will allow you to make the best use of your time and actually accomplish something in the process.

For example, let’s say you’re looking at your Google Drive and the messy array of files you’ve accumulated over the past few months. Later, you find yourself with an extra 30 minutes after lunch and have time to squeeze in one additional activity. Maybe now might be the perfect time to organize those messy files, but is that really going to be the best use of your time? After all, Google Drive has a search feature so you can pull up any file you’re looking for.

Perhaps a better use of your time would be to reach out to a few people on LinkedIn, go check out their profile and like their posts, and try to make a few new connections. There’s a lot more value to this than having a cleaner Google Drive interface. Granted, it might be nice to have all of your files neatly organized, but when you could be doing other things that drive greater value, you should go with value every time.

difference between busy and productive
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Turn Goals into Actionable and Visible Activities

One of the things that keep us from getting shit done is simply not being specific enough about how we plan to use our time. Sometimes, we have the best of intentions when we start writing a to-do list or making a plan, only to review that plan later and not have a specific direction.

Whatever you mark out as your goals, break those goals down into steps that are actionable and will give you visible results. This helps you avoid being overly vague and helps you see what you actually accomplished.

For example, instead of putting “plan next month’s blog content” on your to-do list, you could break it out into the following steps:

  • Research trending topics
  • Make a list of keywords
  • Set deadlines for each blog post
  • Source images for each blog post
  • Make outlines

This might not be your exact process, but you get the idea. These steps require action, not just thought — and once you do them, you can see the results of your work.

Pick Activities to Match Your Energy Level

Whatever activities you choose, they should reflect how you feel at that time. Maybe you have an overly ambitious day planned, but you wake up feeling under the weather. There’s no way you’re going to be able to accomplish a to-do list meant for a day when you’re feeling at your peak.

It’s okay to be flexible in your plans. In fact, you may find that you can get more things done when you match your energy levels and don’t feel like you’re letting yourself down in the process.

Wrapping It Up

Getting shit done doesn’t necessarily mean that you are frantically moving from activity to activity. Being busy isn’t the same as getting shit done. Time is your most valuable commodity, and you shouldn’t use it haphazardly. Organize your life in a way that helps you be productive and the best version of yourself. Then, you will really start to get shit done.

For more insights on getting shit done, head back to my blog.

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