How to NEVER Get Anything Done

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Total reading time: 8 – 10 minutes (1,449 words)

Do you find that there are too many distractions online? Perhaps you start projects and never finish them, or feel overwhelmed?

In this article I am going to share with you a secret that I recently implemented that has helped move me away from recovering procrastinator to hyper-focused.

Step 1: Don’t enable “Parkinson’s Law”

Parkinson law dictates that a a task will swell in (perceived) importance and complexity in relation to the time allocated for its completion.

Which is a fancy way of saying that if you have no deadline, then you are in trouble, and what’s more, it is better to set as short a deadline as is realistically possible.

Planning to spend 6 months creating your info product? Guess what, it may end up taking 9 months. But if you schedule 10 days, then in most cases, you will find a way to get it done… and even if it takes 20 days, you still saved a crap-ton of time.

So set a deadline that is demanding.

Which leads me to my second tip:

Step 2: Create an unmovable deadline

I first experienced this when I made my public speaking debut… I had no choice but to prepare properly, as there was no way I could back out, or get an entire multi-million dollar event to bend to accommodate my schedule.

I also recently experienced this when I was preparing some kickass creative marketing strategies for a workshop in Australia… the workshop and the hundreds of people at the event are not going to change their schedules if I don’t get it done in time… so that creates my unmovable deadline.

Note: Saying you will do something, or even promising it, doesn’t mean your deadline is immovable. How else can you make yourself accountable, so that the pain of NOT doing it, would be so high that you don’t have a choice?

Step 3: Create Micro Action Plans…. on paper.

This has been my big revelation this past week… here is how it works:

1) BEFORE you go onto the computer, grab a piece of paper and pen, and start to plan and prepare EXACTLY what you aim to actually do in the up’coming time slot.

So here are the things I wrote down for a project I did this morning:

“Goal: Create slides in Keynote for my product.”

Tip: Notice how I chunked the goal into a specific, more bite-size task? Instead of saying, “create entire product”, I specifically set out to just create the basic slides.

“Time allocation: 90 minutes”

Tip: Be specific, have a countdown timer, and remember Parkinson’s Law, be as ruthless as possible with your deadline.

Next, I did a rough outline of what I wanted to say in the product…. this is key, as what normally would happen is I have a rough idea, I open up Keynote or Powerpoint, and then an idea pops into my head, so I google it for more info, then I see a cool article, so I read that, then I check something else, and before I know it, I have lost focus, forget what I was supposed to be doing, and now I feel overwhelmed.

By planning it on paper, you don’t have the distractions and bad habits that a computer and the Internet provide.

So, I planned out the main bullets and points for the presentation, if there were areas that need further research, I made a note of those separately, and I class those as separate, individual, smaller projects.

By planning it out on paper first, I now have a clearer picture of the product, it is laid out in a rough order, the main topics are all listed… so I can then go into Keynote and actually DO IT, with a clear, step-by-step understanding of what needs to be done.

The way I see it, you can do only one of three things:

1) Consume
2) Think/Plan/Research
3) Do

A friend of mine James Schramko, once told me “You are either consuming or creating“… so when he has a big task, he turns off all email, doesn’t read blog posts, doesn’t go on Facebook etc… you can do one or the other, but you cannot do both effectively. James also told me that there are loads of deadly spiders in his garden, so I don’t know what to believe!!

So, if you want to come up with ideas, learn a new skill, or consume information or entertainment, that is great, but allocate time to do that, and don’t mix it with the other areas.

If you want to research, plan or prepare for something, that also rocks, but don’t be doing that when you should be creating.

For example, if I went into Keynote with the goal of product creation, and then I get stuck on what name to give it, so I start checking online dictionaries, and Amazon and blogs for ideas… I have now moved away from the DO stage, and into the research stage, if I then read a blog post to get ideas, I am now researching and consuming.

Those are big and common mistakes.

It is like trying to play the drums as a beginner, you have both arms and both legs moving independently of each other, and it just freezes you up and is extremely tricky… why not just bang one drum with both arms and legs at the same time?

Er, hopefully that made sense.

Here is the way I see it.. for every minute you spend with a pad and pen preparing the task you are about to begin, away from distractions, you save at least 10 minutes for every minute you prepare.

In other words, if I spend 10 minutes preparing this task, then I can save over an hour and a half in time spent thinking, confused, lost, researching, reading blog posts, getting distracted, losing momentum etc…

Step 4: Planning your breaks and downtime are just as important.

Have you ever been doing a task and said to yourself “I am just gonna grab a quick coffee” or “I will just watch this video, or I will just quickly check my email” only to find an hour goes by and you still haven’t returned to the task?

These things can spiral, and in most cases, when we start playing a video game, or go grab a relaxing drink etc… we never want to return to the boring task… I mean, who would?!?

So 5 mins spirals into 60 minutes, or more.

I once was half way through a task and a friend emailed me to say I should check out a Bill Hicks comedy clip on Youtube… it was just 3 minutes long, so I thought “why not, it is only 3 minutes”…

Well guess what happened next… Youtube’s darn related videos feature showed another 20 clips from the same live show, so 63 minutes later I am still distracted.

Bad Dean!!

Anyway, my point is this… it is perfectly fine to take 15 minutes to play Xbox, watch some tv, grab a drink, watch a video… but schedule those breaks as ruthlessly.

e.g “ok, I will take 10 minutes to check my email, but, no matter what, I can only reply to one of the emails right now, the rest will have to wait”

OR

“Ok, I am going to watch this episode of Lost during lunch, but at 2pm, whether it has finished or not, I have to get back to my project”.

It might sound a bit micro-manage-esque, but it is vital.

Step 5: Have a reward system

There is a web tv show that I am a huge fan of called “The Totally Rad Show” there is a new 45 minute episode out, and I wanna watch it… so, once my slides are completed for the product, I will allocate 45 mins during lunch to watch it.

Again, it sounds a bit child-like, but it works.

Summary: There have never been more distractions in society, and on the Internet especially, we have access to immediate information and entertainment on demand… what’s more, we have things like Twitter and Google Buzz popping up to distract us further…

With all this in mind, it is now more important than ever to to have a vision, focus and prepare for tasks.

One of the most productive guys I know is my good friend Matt Wadsworth… his output rate is phenomenal, and the level of vision and clarity he has on what needs to be done, how to do it, what steps are required etc… is a different league to anything I have ever seen.

The most shocking part of this, is that Matt is completely blind.

If you understand why being blind has forced Matt to have such clarity, you will know why the above is so important.

So stop consuming this article, and go and do, do like you have never done before.

Dean – The recovering procrastinator and Lost fan.

PS: A reader has kindly created a Mindmap for this technique… you can download it for free here: Get it Done free Mindmap

  • http://deanhunt.com Dean Hunt

    Wow, that was one of my longer blog posts… probably should have been a paid product in itself.

    I just completed a 50 minute important project, so now my reward is to watch LOST. woohoo.

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  • http://.brandonellis.tv Brandon

    Hey Dean, I know it was long but a great post and very relevant. The internet is built in part as an information powerhouse. If you were to go in the world’s largest library everyday and read the books, check out the magazines,etc.. You would never get anything accomplished really and certainly would not make an income. Yet that is what most people do ecah time they get online, the world’s largest library. Their heavy in the consuming mode as you said.

    I have started doing the same thing as far as every before I get online, I write down what I want to accomplish and get done. I actually know of a few marketers that make million dollar fortunes online and they don’t have computers! Yes they have an offline presence as well, and yes their weird, but that takes focus. And focus and clarity is what we could all use a little more of.

    p.s. I was just about to watch last nights episode of Lost as well. Excited! One of us should do a post about the Black Smoke. “7 Black Smoke Tactics That are Keeping You Lost In Your Business.”
    p.p.s Maybe I’ll do a guest post!”
    .-= Brandon´s last blog ..Social Media Domination Test #1 =-.

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  • Trish Terry

    Dean, thanks, fantastic blog and so,so relevant…..getting and keeping ones focus….. Really appreciated the guidelines…. a hands on read. Well written:)

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  • http://www.davidwalker.tv David Walker

    Hey Dean,

    I am as guilty as anybody of wasting time but you are so right – if I set myself a deadline I am completely different person.

    For example, I gave myself a target of 1 hour to write a blog post a few days back and managed it in 45 minutes – usually I could stretch that out to 2-3 hours no problem.

    I’ll need to be extra strict with deadlines to finish my ebook, as I am slipping back into my old time-wasting, non productive ways again!

    Great post!

    David
    .-= David Walker´s last blog ..Why I Dumped 51,963 Twitter Users Overnight =-.

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  • http://www.freeinternetmarketingwebinars.com Zed

    Im fairly new to IM and quickly fell into the trap you were talking about. I also then implemented the ruthless guidelines to set yourself you mentioned, and guess what, my productivity shot through the roof.

    Its hard work to maintain it but you’re right about distractions, especially online

    p.s. im a student of JS ..lol!!

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  • http://internetmarketingstreetsmarts.com Alex Gilberg

    I’ve been procrastinating creating a PPC campaign for a client all day.

    thanks to this post I’m going to begin doing it FIRST thing in the morning!

    …haha nah I’ll do it NOW :)
    .-= Alex Gilberg´s last blog ..Sam Niccolls Talks BIG Business Strategies Of Multi-Million Dollar Companies =-.

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  • http://deanhunt.com Dean Hunt

    haha, nice one Alex.

    Will I be seeing you in Sydney at James’ event?

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  • http://www.mindstyle.co.uk Don

    Great article,

    I have mapped a quick pdf that can be used as a reminder here; http://www.mindstyle.co.uk/downloads/Get%20It%20Done.pdf

    Trust that’s ok

    D

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  • http://deanhunt.com Dean Hunt

    Don,

    That is superb.

    I will edit it into the main blog post also.

    Many thanks,

    Dean

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  • http://internetmarketingstreetsmarts.com Alex Gilberg

    @Dean: Just ordered a ticket 10 minutes ago! :)

    @Don: thanks for putting it into a mindmap mate I’ve printed it out and stuck it on the wall in front of me
    .-= Alex Gilberg´s last blog ..Sam Niccolls Talks BIG Business Strategies Of Multi-Million Dollar Companies =-.

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  • http://deanhunt.com Dean Hunt

    Sweet,

    See you there mate.

    I like your website BTW, very cool.

    Dean

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  • http://www.mindstyle.co.uk Don

    You’re welcome Alex,

    Glad you liked it Dean,

    I’m printing mine out now…

    also saved it as http://www.mindstyle.co.uk/downloads/get_it_done.pdf in case the %20 stuff causes problems.

    Don

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  • http://www.interactone.com/category/latest-news/ Thomas

    Great tips! Setting deadlines and meeting them is a great rule. I have to agree working online can prove to be pretty distracting!
    .-= Thomas´s last blog ..Good Content = Great SEO =-.

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  • http://cloudyandsocial.com Martin Rabl

    Dean, this is such a great post. In fact, you really caught me red handed there. The postings was one of those visits I just happened to do while I was supposed to do something else.

    However, it was so worth the time reading and commenting on it now. The sad thing is that I believe many people (including me) know these things but don’t follow these guidelines. How many times did I tell myself already that I should not plan things on the computer, tempted by all this information just a few clicks away?

    My excuse? No pen and paper in reach. Such a cheap excuse! I’ll get a stylish notepad and pen making them look sexier than my Macbook in the future.
    .-= Martin Rabl´s last blog ..Google Buzz & High Speed Internet =-.

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  • http://www.heidipassey.com Heidi Passey

    Hi Dean, your graph at the beginning totally made me laugh. It is so true, at least for me. I’m working really hard on this though. I’ll be working on something and then go to research something small and end up surfing all my work time away.

    Same thing with email. Check it way too often. I definately agree with having a plan written down with specific tasks that I want to complete during that work time helps.

    Take Care – Heidi
    .-= Heidi Passey´s last blog ..Building A List Fast Through JV Giveaways =-.

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  • http://agentdeepak.com/ Agent Deepak

    Love the pie chart. It explains your whole post. And explains my condition too.
    .-= Agent Deepak´s last blog ..My 4 Golden Tips for Google Buzz =-.

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  • http://www.success4designers.com Corey Johnson

    Great post Dean

    If you want to get anything done…PROPERLY…Then simply plan ahead. Be ambitious enough to use a personal agenda or a phone app and just plan the things you need to do or have due by a certain date. Trust me if you want it accomplished you WILL get it accomplished.
    .-= Corey Johnson´s last undefined ..Response cached until Fri 26 @ 1:19 GMT (Refreshes in 23.61 Hours) =-.

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  • http://www.dkspeaks.com R Kumar

    It is true that most of the time, we spend so much time procrastinating and fearing our projects that we find ourselves cramped for time when it comes to working on a new project.
    It so often happens that you start a day with so many things in hand and a plan of course, but as the day closes you find that none of your plans have actually been completed. You have spent so much time on brooding over aspects like what will happen, how it will happen and will I be able to do it, that you end up missing on your project deadline.
    This post is a nice and valuable post in order to overcome this problem.
    .-= R Kumar´s last blog ..Here�s a Quick Way to get Guest Posts � My Blog Guest =-.

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  • http://www.yourcrmhero.com Len Kamerman

    This is probably the most useful blog post I’ve read this year. Thanks so much!

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  • http://www.twitter.com/bohemiacademia Scar

    Great article, and so true! Thanks!
    .-= Scar´s last blog ..bohemiacademia: RT @researchdigest I’m bipolar don’t you know … Psychiatrists identify new phenomenon: �I want to be bipolar��: http://bit.ly/aEKUcQ =-.

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  • http://www.yourcrmteam.com Lindsay Garrison

    I agree with Len. I’d just reached the tipping point from somewhat distracted to nearly ineffective when he pointed me to this post. Next step is setting some deadlines and getting it on paper. Woo Hoo, I’m going to actually complete a project!
    .-= Lindsay Garrison´s last blog ..CRM and Contact Management Consulting and Training =-.

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  • http://robburnsbrain.com/ Rob Burns Brain

    Great post Dean,

    One trick I learned that helps me quite a bit is to take the emotions out of the equation. For the longest time I thought I had to “feel” in the zone before a project got started. Now when not motivated I just put one foot in front of the other work my procedures and processes and before you know it voisl� project completed!
    .-= Rob Burns Brain´s last blog ..The Power of Social Media With Fox 5 News =-.

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  • http://friendfeed.com/collin248 fish

    This all reminds me of quitting smoking. The principals are so similar its kind of shocking. Setting a unmovable deadline, rewarding yourself, planning your breaks. Funny how the 2 relate.
    .-= fish´s last blog ..The Office of Instructional and Research Technology Blog …: Students are not likely to come to class naked�they … http://bit.ly/d9DUzf =-.

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  • http://www.3d-tv-reviews.co.uk/ Diane

    I set deadlines for other people that I’d keep but they can’t.
    It’s hard when you’re a workaholic to remember that other people like to relax and chill out and not work constantly.

    Agreeing deadlines doesn’t work as you always end up giving in to someone who wants a weekend off! Weekend’s off are for wimps!
    .-= Diane´s last blog ..3D news =-.

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  • http://www.realtysouth.info/ Realty South

    Superb style! It?s so refreshing to see there are still some genuine blogs these days that are truely worth reading.

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  • http://www.52tube.com/ 52tube

    Great tips! Setting deadlines and meeting them is a great rule. I have to agree working online can prove to be pretty distracting!

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  • http://www.arsizvideo.net/ arsizvideo

    Superb style! It?s so refreshing to see there are still some genuine blogs these days that are truely worth reading.

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