Get Things Done!

God has put each person on earth to do something great for His glory. The simple purpose of this podcast is to help you get things done every day so that you can accomplish something worthwhile with your life.
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Now displaying: February, 2015
Feb 24, 2015

As we begin, let me give you this reminder from the Word of God. Proverbs 13:4 says: "The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat."

Our quote for today is from Jaachynma Agu. She said: "Satisfaction in life doesn't jump on you. You work for it, you earn it. You will not sit in a place, fold your hands and expect to be satisfied with life.”

Today, we are continuing with Part 6 of our section titled, "Developing a Game Plan to Overcome Procrastination".

In our last episode, we talked about the option of keeping a journal as a way to motivate yourself to accomplish the things you have been postponing. In this episode, Edwin Bliss shares with us the option of talking to yourself as a way to motivate yourself to get things done.

When you find yourself repeatedly postponing something you know you should do, go to a private room and talk to yourself out loud as if you were the proverbial Dutch uncle. Be blunt, direct, honest. Ask yourself what is going on, and why you have failed to do things that you know should be done. But don't just make it an exercise in self-flagellation: your message is not "I am a slob," or "I am a no-good procrastinator." Instead, it should be along the lines of, "This continuing procrastination is unacceptable, and it's going to end immediately. Here is what I am going to do to get started..."

Tell yourself what you are going to do, not what you should do. Commit yourself to a specific action at a specific time. Make it a pep talk: assure yourself that you can do it. End on a positive note.

Feb 16, 2015

As we begin, let me give you this reminder from the Word of God. Proverbs 13:4 says: "The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat."

Our quote for today is from Booker T. Washington. He said: "You measure the size of the accomplishment by the obstacles you have to overcome to reach your goals."

Today, we are continuing with Part 5 of our section titled, "Developing a Game Plan to Overcome Procrastination".

"Another thing that helps break the procrastination habit is keeping a journal. I’m not talking about making a daily record of your experiences. Most of us have little need to know what we did on Tuesday, April 7th. The kind of journal I'm speaking of is primarily a record of thoughts and feelings, rather than just activities. It's a great way of getting your act together -- clarifying goals, analyzing motives, planning corrective action, reinforcing desired behavior, getting to know and like yourself better, and thereby changing your attitudes."

Feb 9, 2015

Proverbs 22:29 says: "Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men."

Our quote for today is from Scott Belsky. He said: "It's not about ideas. It's about making ideas happen."

Today, we are continuing with Part 4 of our section titled, "Developing a Game Plan to Overcome Procrastination". 

In order to get momentum, is it always a good idea to "ease in" to a task, doing the simplest and most pleasant part first?

Usually it is, but sometimes the exact opposite works. Sometimes it pays to identify the most difficult part and take care of it first. I call this the Worst First approach.

That doesn't make sense. You can't have it both ways. If one way works, the other one shouldn't.

Actually, there are three ways of reacting when you are confronted with a complex task. One way is to get your foot in the door by doing the easiest part first and building some momentum. The second is to tackle the hardest part first and get the smug feeling that comes from getting something unpleasant out of the way as soon as possible (the old idea of eating your spinach first and your strawberry shortcake second). The third way -- the way of the procrastinator -- is to do neither, just leaving the task in limbo because it is unpleasant and because instead of choosing either of those plans of action you've chosen a plan of avoidance.

Suppose you have a group of volunteers, each of whom is supposed to call a list of people for donations to a political campaign. This is the kind of task most people find distasteful.

Some in the group will find it easiest to begin by contacting the most likely contributors -- the good friends of the candidate -- first. Then, warmed by the positive reception they are likely to get, they will feel less reluctant about calling those prospects on the list who are more likely to be grumpy, tightfisted, and obnoxious.

Others in the group (and many experienced salespeople will choose this approach) will find it preferable to select the grumpiest person on the list and make that call first. When it is completed they can say, "I've got that out of the way; from here on it will be a breeze!"

Either system will work; it's a matter of individual style and, of course, the nature of the task. In either case, you have made a commitment and you have adopted a definite game plan. What will not work is the third alternative, which is to postpone the chore until tomorrow in the hope that by some inexplicable miracle it will then become easier.

We're building up quite an armory of techniques: so far we have Pigeonholing, the Salami Technique, the Leading Task, and the Five-Minute Plan. Are there others?

Yes, indeed. One is the Balance Sheet Method.

Select some task you've been putting off. Now take a sheet of paper, and on the left side of the page list the reasons you are procrastinating. On the right side of the page list the benefits of getting the job done. Now compare the two lists. Generally, you'll find the reasons for procrastinating so insipid, and the reasons for action so compelling, that you become disgusted with your indolence and swing into action.

But doing it on paper is the secret. Excuses that seem quite adequate when they have not been clearly enunciated are exposed for the frauds they really are when reduced to writing.

Of course, sometimes the reasons for postponement may, on examination, be found to be quite valid, in which case you won't need to feel guilty about procrastination. The Balance Sheet Method, in other words, can be an excellent tool in reaching sound decisions about whether or not to take a certain course of action.

Benjamin Franklin often prepared a Balance Sheet when faced with a difficult decision. He wrote: "...all the reasons pro and con are not present to the mind at the same time; but sometimes one set present themselves and at other times another, the first being out of sight. To get over this, my way is to divide half a sheet of paper by a line into two columns; writing over the one 'Pro' and over the other 'Con.' Then during three or four days' consideration I put down under the different heads short hints of the different motives that at different times occur to me for and against the measure. When I have thus got them all together in one view I endeavor to estimate their respective weights; and where I find two, one on each side, that seem equal I strike them both out. If I find a reason pro equal to some two reasons con, I strike out the three. If I judge some two reasons con equal to some three reasons pro I strike out the five; and thus proceeding I find at length where the balance lies... and come to a determination accordingly. And, though the weight of reasons cannot be taken with the precision of algebraic quantities, yet when each is thus considered separately and comparatively and the whole lies before me, I think I can judge better and am less liable to make a rash step; and in fact I have found great advantage from this kind of equation in what may be called moral or prudential algebra."

The weighing of alternatives is what we will do every time we approach a decision; the only "new" element is doing it on paper. And if Benjamin Franklin, one of the great achievers of all time, found it worth his time to reduce the pros and cons to writing, perhaps we all could benefit from such a practice.

There is an alternative to the Balance Sheet Method that works even better for many people. Instead of making a pro and con list, you simply sit down and write out your feelings about the thing you are postponing. Talk to yourself on paper. Since you are writing only for yourself, don't worry about syntax and don't pull any punches. How do you really feel about the task? How do you feel about yourself for postponing it? What constructive steps might you take to get the show on the road? What, exactly, do you intend to do? When?

This may be done as an isolated exercise, or it can be one aspect of keeping a journal. Many psychiatrists and psychologists are taking renewed interest in the power of a journal to cause behavior change.

Feb 3, 2015

Ecclesiastes 9:10 says: "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest."

Our quote for today is from Richard Bach. She said: "You are never given a dream without also being given the power to make it true. You may have to work for it, however."

Today, we are continuing with Part 3 of our section titled, "Developing a Game Plan to Overcome Procrastination".

Couldn't the process of making a list turn into a way of avoiding action? If instead of just going ahead and doing the job, one sits down and makes a detailed list of all the steps involved, doesn't that constitute delay? You seem to be encouraging -- of all things -- procrastination!

Not at all. What I am encouraging is an orderly approach. One of the principles of management is that, to be effective, planning must be separated from execution. Failure to do this generally results in poor results in both functions.

A good example of this is in the planning of a day. In the study of time management, we have found that scheduling the day early in the morning is not nearly as effective as doing it the preceding afternoon. In other words, the best time to plan Tuesday's activities is not the first thing Tuesday morning, but the last thing Monday, before leaving work. If you do your planning on Tuesday morning, you are "planning under pressure" the day is under way, the phone is ringing, there are insistent matters clamoring to be taken care of. Your inclination is to roll up your sleeves and start doing things, instead of calmly and objectively analyzing which things you should be doing. And the things you are most inclined to begin doing often are not the top priority ones. You begin spinning your wheels. The important fact that can be postponed tends to be postponed because of our compulsion to skip the planning and get the day started by doing something -- "getting busy" -- instead of acting out of long-term considerations.

If you plan Tuesday's work on Monday afternoon, however, you are in quite a different mood. Knowing that whatever you plan doesn't have to be done now, you are more objective. You assign yourself the tough tasks, knowing that a good night's sleep stands between you and the execution of your chore. You feel almost as if you were planning for someone else, and the tendency to postpone tasks until some vague future time is diminished

This principle applies not just in planning a day, but in any kind of planning. Treat planning and doing as separate and distinct aspects of the job. One way to accomplish this is to plan, on paper, what you intend to do before even getting started -- providing the task is a complex one, or one you are tempted to put off.

But suppose for some reason -- laziness, time, pressure, or simply because it doesn't seem worth the bother -- a person doesn't want to take the trouble to write out a sequential list but is still bothered by the specter of procrastination. Any alternative suggestions?

Yes. Instead of the systematic assault on the task we've been talking about, another approach is just to make yourself to do something -- anything -- in connection with it. I call this the Leading Task. It has also been referred to as the "Swiss Cheese Method," the idea being that you poke holes in the task until it resembles a Swiss cheese. Another writer calls it the "nibbling" approach. Others call it the "bits and pieces approach, the "start-up task," or the "baby step method."

Suppose you are putting off writing a letter. Instead of trying to force yourself to write it (you've already tried that and it didn't work), just make yourself take one small step, with the understanding that after having done so you will decide then whether or not to proceed. That one step might be looking up the address, or rolling a piece of paper into the typewriter, or getting out the file, or writing down the three points you want to mention -- anything, just so it's an overt action, something physical. It's a way of breaking the psychological logjam, and it's based, of course, on the fact that things at rest tend to remain at rest, while things in motion tend to remain in motion. Newton's laws apply in human behavior as well as in physics.

But some undertakings don't lend themselves to being broken down into smaller tasks. For example, suppose you should tackle a big backlog of filing that has accumulated, and it will take about an hour. There isn't any convenient way to break that kind of job down into "instant tasks."

In that case you may want to try the Five-Minute Plan. Make a deal with yourself, as in the preceding example, only this time instead of promising to do one segment, promise yourself that you will work on the task for five minutes. At the end of that time, you are free to turn to something else, if desired, or you may decide to spend another five minutes. No matter how distasteful the task, you can usually talk yourself into committing a mere five minutes to it.

Some people find this method works best with a timer. Set your timer for five minutes and resolve to see how much you can accomplish before it sounds.

At the end of the five minutes, if you don't feel like continuing, don't. A deal is a deal. But before setting the task aside, jot down a time when you will invest another five minutes.

This procedure is similar to the one followed by Alcoholics Anonymous. They have found that most alcoholics are discouraged when they think of promising never to take another drink; they can't commit themselves to such a seemingly unattainable goal. So they are encouraged instead to make a commitment to stay on the wagon for just a short period. Anybody can resist temptation for just five minutes. When they've done so, they try for another five, and this time it's a little easier, because they've demonstrated to themselves that they can set a modest goal and successfully meet it. Gradually they begin thinking in increments of a day or a week, and then they're well on their way to sobriety.

It works. Try it right now. Select one of the tasks you've been putting off, and at the end of this episode, set the timer for five minutes, and commit yourself to work on that task intensively to see what you can do in that time. Try racing against the clock by going all out during that period, the way a sprinter does in a race. 

You will find that it won’t be so hard. And you will feel good about yourself. On top of that, you will feel an urge to continue while you have some momentum.