Tips from the Trenches: Getting Things Done

In your quest for better efficiency, you’ve probably read books like “Getting Things Done” and “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” and tried to implement the strategies contained within them. Yet you know you can do better in managing your day and being more efficient.

For this post, instead of quoting yet more theories from books, I asked some experts and fellow Twitter users to share their real life tips for getting things done.

@bradshorr@bradshorr — Brad Shorr

“Always ask WHY am I doing this task, and HOW could I do it more efficiently.”

Sometimes we turn into zombies and forget to pay attention to what we’re doing and its effect on our work. Make a conscious effort to ensure whatever you’re doing has value. Fun counts, of course.

@Dana_Willhoit@Dana_Willhoit — Dana Wilhoit

“Once an hour, take a five minute break and get up and walk around.”

Web workers tend to spend hours in front of the computer. Give your eyes a break, and your body a little reviving.

@JaneFriedman@JaneFriedman — Jane Friedman

Getting things done: Turn off email; check it only one to two times (and if necessary, tell people the times you’ll be checking).

This is one habit I can’t break even though I know it would add more time to my day. As a compromise, I’m organized in other areas to make up for the lost time I spend compulsively checking my email.

@AmberCadabra@AmberCadabra — Amber Naslund

“I’m a ruthless email deleter. And I break up my day so I keep my brain fresh.”

Breaking up your day can involve doing different types of tasks. Writers, for example, can do email, edit, write, read, research and network to shake up their day.

@skydiver@skydiver — Peter Shankman

“I get up a half hour earlier than I have to. Every single day. AMAZING what you can do in that first half hour.”

Some folks accomplish the most in the morning — that extra half hour can make a big difference.

@jonathanfields@jonathanfields — Jonathan Fields

“Slow it down to speed it up. Hair on fire speed leads to mistakes and omissions that take even longer to fix.”

This reminds me of a discussion with my 7th grade teacher. I can’t recall the exact quote, but the gist was to take your time to do the task right the first time because it takes more time to fix it and explain yourself if you don’t.

@shel@shel — Shel Holtz

Best tip for getting things done: Celebrate task completions before moving to the next task. Check Facebook, watch a video. “

Be realistic about the tasks you assign yourself for the day. Trying to get 10 tasks checked off the to-do list puts you at risk of failure, and losing self-confidence. Pick three doable tasks — not projects — and celebrate every check mark.

@philgerb@PhilGerb — Phil Gerbyshak

“I’m old fashioned: I use pen and paper, and write my to-do list out every day when I start my day. Works great and n0 downtime!”

Pen and paper never run out of batteries, or put a strain on your back as you carry them with you all day.

@prsarahevans@PRsarahevans — Sarah Evans

“Mom’s advice, ‘Take one thing at a time and the rest will fall in place.’ Also subscribe (or try to) 7 Habits principles.”

Instead of focusing on the 10 things you need to do all at once and wasting energy, start on one thing. Put one foot in front of the other.

@djwaldow@djwaldow — DJ Waldow

“Best tip for getting things done is to hold ‘power hours’ or contests. Real examples below:  1. Power Hour: ‘In the next 42 minutes I am going to learn how to use widgetware.’ 2. Contests: ‘First to clean out your inbox'”

Nothing like a good clean fun competition to motivate you to get moving. Just be a good sport about it, whether you win or lose.

@conversationage@ConversationAge — Valeria Maltoni
“Best tip: focus on what’s important to advancing your business.”

This goes back to making sure the tasks you do matter to your business.

@iwearyourshirt@iwearyourshirt — Jason Sadler
“Don’t over extend yourself. Schedule time to focus on email, focus on blogging, etc. Don’t do it all at once.

“Just say no” isn’t just a slogan for kids to shoo away drugs. It’s also a phrase we should all use when we just can’t add anything else to our plates. It’s okay to turn things down as long as you do it nicely.

I bet you have some tips of your own. I’d love to hear them in the comments below, or tweet me @merylkevans or @webworkerdaily.