how to get things done

The top 5 ways to get work done NOW

how to get things doneGuest post by Kathy McDonald

Theresa* was feeling overwhelmed, and unsure where to begin. The various client projects she juggled were a smelly soup in her head.

“Get it out of your head and on to paper,” I urged. “Then you can prioritize.”

Seeing her projects and tasks listed out started to make her feel more in control.

“Which unfinished project bugs you the most?” I asked.

“The white paper,” she responded without hesitation.

Teresa kept putting off getting the white paper done for a client. It didn’t have a deadline. That was part of the problem. Deadline-oriented client work always came first. The white paper continued to slide until two months of inaction was making Teresa squirm. It was getting embarrassing.

What are you avoiding?

Let’s face it. We all have work we avoid for various reasons – we don’t like that part of our work, we don’t understand what we’re suppose to do but are afraid to ask for help, or we haven’t bought into whether this work is really necessary.

Still, sometimes you have to push through and get work done. Here are my sure fire ways to get into action that I used with Teresa:

1) Get it down, get it done

When we feel overwhelmed, it’s usually because we are carrying too much in our heads. All those jumbled thoughts start to feel like a dank swamp. When you put your thoughts down on paper it’s much easier to think through the steps to take and how to prioritize.

2) Time box

Some work doesn’t have natural milestones or stopping points making it difficult to chunk it down into manageable steps. That’s when it’s helpful to time box.

How long can you work on a dreaded task before that ants-in-your-pants feeling sets in? Ten minutes? Twenty? Commit to doing a chunk of the project for this minimum amount of time each day until it’s done.

You can do anything, even the most unpleasant task, for ten minutes. Set a time and get to work. When the timer goes off, if you want to stop then stop, and congratulate yourself on the progress you’ve made. Block out the next time box on your calendar. If, however, you’re on a role and want to keep going, great! That’s often the case. Getting started is the hardest part.

3) Chop liver strategy

What’s the work you dread? Do this chop liver task first, even before checking email. That’s right, I said it. Get it over with. I guarantee you will be flying the rest of the day from the energy you free up getting your chopped liver done. Energy you can use to blow through the rest of your to-do list.

4) Make it public

Commit to someone else when you’re going to get the work done. Deadlines are your friend. When we commit to one, especially to a boss or client, we are more apt to get it done. We don’t want to look bad in front of them or feel like we let them down. Use that social pressure to your advantage.

5) Know your own rhythm

When are you most productive? First thing, mid-day, or are you a night owl? Stop scheduling meetings during this time. Protect it for when you need to get challenging work done.

Avoiding work occasionally isn’t a character flaw. It’s human. But when it’s time to get into action, these strategies will help you push through.

What’s your favorite get-into-action strategy?

Kathy McDonald is a recovering Type-A, work/life author, blogger and coach, who specializes in helping people make time for life. If you’re looking for help getting more productive so you can work on your business not just in it.

* We can learn from each other, but names are changed to protect confidentiality.

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Hi Kathy, thanks for your tips. Time box is very good tool for small tasks.
I can add one more tip – for shceduled tasks plan also time free of distractions – it really works 🙂


Hi Chris – thanks for your input. Kathy responded but you may not see the reply. I agree with you – less (or no) distractions for as long as I can engineer it is one of the best ways for me to make progress. I have to combine that with a specific set of tasks to get done for maximum progress..

Denise Wakeman

Love these productivity tips. Thanks for sharing Kathy’s article. I like the Time Box method and use it the most to get my work done. I also have started using the Focus Booster App to have a small timer on my monitor and then force myself to take a short break when my time is up. Makes me walk around or do something entirely different for a few minutes and clears my head.

Kathy McDonald

Thanks for chiming in with additional suggestions Chris and Denise. Distraction-free time is key – I find I have to get away from my computer sometimes to accomplish this, though some turn the email dinger off and find that’s enough. Chris, how do you eliminate distractions? Denise, I had not heard of the Focus Booster App. I’ll have to check it out! I love the idea of the timer prompting you to step away from your monitor. There is another one I use called Mindfulness Bell and can be found here: It was designed to remind people to take… Read more »

Denise Wakeman

Kathy, thanks for the link to the Mindfulness Bell. I like it! Remembering to breathe deeply is important for relaxing and staying focused.

Kathy McDonald

Too true, Denise. I find when my head starts buzzing I know I need a break!

Louise Myers Graphic Design

Wow – I’m going to bookmark this on Pinterest AND check into your Mindfulness bell! I do need to push thru some unattractive chores (but hey – I do like chopped liver ;)). Thanks for the nudge!

Kathy McDonald

Glad to hear you found it useful Louise. We all have the occasional unattractive chores. I hope these tips help you get them out of the way so you can focus on more fun stuff!

Be well,

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