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Why Doing More Doesn’t Always Mean Getting More Done

And how to break that cycle so you can finish what you start.

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Photo by SharkBite from Pexels
Photo by SharkBite from Pexels

How many balls do you have in the air at any given moment? And how long will you need to keep juggling?

I work with ambitious people who have a lot of goals. Who want to make things happen. Who do make things happen. But often not as quickly as they’d like.

One thing I see over and over is that they’re trying to do too much at once. And when you try to do too much at once, your progress on everything is slower overall.

Think of it like this. You have 5 books you want to read. (I know, I know, if you’re like me, your list is probably more like 105.) Let’s say you can devote time to reading approx. 25 pages per day, and for the sake of simplicity, let’s say every book is 300 pages.

If you try to read them all at once, 5 pages each, every day, you won’t finish any of them for 2 months. If you read one at a time, you’ll finish the first within 2 weeks, and then can move onto the next, and so on.

What method do you think will be more satisfying?

Will help you to feel productive?

Which method is more likely to ensure you don’t throw up your hands and say “why is it taking me forever to finish even one book?!?”?

I wrote a whole post awhile ago about why multitasking is a total myth, and how to single task instead. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. That article was more granular, about what to do on a moment to moment basis. Right now, I’m talking about the bigger things. Your projects and goals.

So, here’s are a few tips for getting more done, without doing more:

Focus your efforts

And what I find, time after time, is that if you want to make true progress, it’s better to focus on just one or maybe 2 goals or major projects at a time.

And doing this is HARD. You have so many good ideas. So many things you want to make progress on. Getting started is so fun.

But what about finishing?

Finish what you start

You might be thinking: “But if I don’t start now, I might lose these great ideas!” or “What if I never start?”

And trust me, I used to feel like that too. Until I had a system. A system I’m happy to share with you.

Reduce the number of active goals and revisit regularly

First, accept that you can’t do it all at once. Then pick one of the following methods to ensure you can keep track of everything you want to do, and give yourself the time and space to do these things over time.

Method 1: Next Action/Next Action Date

Add your great ideas to your task system and give each item a next action date (for sometime in the future) and a next action of “Decide if I want to do this in the next month/year”.

When an item pops up in your system on the specified date, then you get to decide whether you want to push it out future, or whether you’re ready to take it on right now.

Method 2: Create a “To Be Prioritized” list, and review it regularly

If you just have too many things you want to do at some point, this option may be better. You can create a “to be prioritized” section of your task system and just add all your ideas, projects, goals, etc. there.

Now the key to making this work is that you also need a recurring task (or process or calendar appointment with yourself) to regularly look through the list, and decide what you want to make into an active goal or project.

In my home life, I use method 1. However, in my work life, I use method 2.

As I sit here right now, my “to be prioritized” list of great ideas for my business sits at 405 (yes, you read that right, 405 projects I’d like to do at some point). But I’m certainly not going to do all of them at once. I would never finish any of them.

Instead, I have a quarterly planning process. (One that I’m doing today, in fact). And part of that process is that I review my “to be prioritized” list and decide on just a couple of projects that I’m going to take on the following quarter. And I mean that literally. I will pick 1 or 2 — out of 405.

Ask yourself, of all of the projects you have going one, what’s just one that you’d like to focus on until it’s complete?

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