I’ve written a lot about how to get results in your career, starting with getting clear on your goals, your purpose, and your assets. I’ve also often said that there’s no such thing as writer’s block- you just need to sit down and work. I’m going to expand on that a bit, and show you a few of my favorite tasking tools that are sure to support you in getting things done… and getting the results you want that will push your career farther. Try one or try them all and let me know how it goes!
1) Get a plan. Sometimes it’s easy to feel like we are working a lot because we are busy, but in reality we are not actually being effective. You don’t need to necessarily know exactly what path you are on (for clarity on that, check out this e-course), but you should have an idea of what you want to accomplish in your career, and what purpose you have. Once you have that clarity, you can get into action and ask yourself if you are taking actions that will actually make a difference in your career? Every time you add something to your to-do list or calendar (see #2), ask: is this going to make a difference and get me from point A to point B in my career? If not, forget about it until it needs to get done, or have your intern hop to it.
2) Schedule. Everything. Like, the second you think of something that you have to do, don’t just put it on a to-do list, put it in your calendar. And then have a love affair with your calendar- the kind where you will do ANYTHING to make it happy. So when you schedule “make phone calls” for Tuesday at 3pm, when Tuesday at 3pm rolls around, guess what you’re doing? It’s a no-excuses, life-or-death kinda of love-hate relationship you’ll develop with your calendar. I use iCal to schedule. I also love OmniFocus as a project manager. It’s a to-do list on steroids that syncs with all of your devices.
3) Time it. I’ve fallen in love with Toggl, a very simple iPhone, desktop and online app that allows you to create projects, tag clients and track the amount of time you spend on specific tasks. It works very similarly to a technique I used with clients when I was a personal trainer in a past lifetime- write down everything you eat before you eat it (writing “five Oreo Cookies” is much harder than writing two). Again, you need to have a certain level of integrity with yourself- no cheating! The idea that the clock is ticking and you already WROTE what you should be doing is a strong factor in staying focused (and away from Facebook). An added bonus is to have a weekly goal of the number of hours you put into working, and, at the end of the week, take a screen shot of your results and post them to Facebook. Nothing like a little accountability (see #5) to keep your nose to the grindstone.
4) Ignore your feelings. Feelings are our careers’ biggest enemies. “I don’t feel like working”. “I feel sad about my breakup/last bad gig/bank account/weather/who the Bachelor chose”. “I feel like talking to my friends/going out for a drink/ going for a run/watching reruns of M*A*S*H.” It’s okay to have these feelings, and to even say so out loud… as long as it’s followed up with “AND I am going to sit down and do the work I need to do instead”. As soon as you acknowledge you have these feelings and are going to act productively in the face of them, I promise you will feel a surge of strength and motivation.
5) Get an accountability buddy. Check in with them once a week. When you chat, make sure you remind each other what you said you’d do in the past week. If you did it, they get to congratulate you. If not, they are there to support you in getting that task done. Then make sure to declare what you will accomplish by your next call. Share with each other how these new actions will make a difference for your career. Articulating this to someone else is a wonderful way to remind yourself of your long term goals and how accomplishing these new tasks will get you closer to it. If you don’t know what to do next, fill in the blank: “If I could have _____________ done by next week, I would be so much closer to my goal and so happy/relieved/psyched/etc.”
Often times, you’ll find yourself avoiding the one thing that you KNOW you should do, and you are less like to tackle it… this is usually because you may actually be facing success, which can be terrifying. I know the feeling. But as we know, feelings don’t get a say when it comes to taking action in our careers!