How To Get Your Tasks Done

The eternal problem of the human being is how to structure his waking hours

Eric Berne, “Games People Play”.

It’s the age old problem of getting your stuff done everyday, in an orderly manner no less. But there are times that you don’t feel like doing some tasks, no matter how crucial they are to your existence, for some flimsy reason. It may be that you don’t want to do it, or the task annoys you to no end, or you are just too lazy or too tired to do it that you would frame any excuse that would fit your comfortable narrative.

Then one day, those tasks will have grown into a big freaking liability right under your nose and you will definitely be staring back at a big mountain that will smirk at you gleefully, as if knowing that you will very much suffer trying to pull off all those procrastinated tasks in one fell swoop.

I guess, you could call this a different instance of “making a mountain out of a molehill“.

But worry not, dear reader. There are definitely ways to get your shit done. Let me list some that I know of.

Art thou nocturnal or diurnal?

I suggest that you figure out the time that you can complete tasks in a comfortable manner, without having to worry about superficial stuff. Some people are nocturnals that love to work away at the night, their focus unwavering in the dead of night. Then there are people who can get stuff done at the crack of dawn, their spirit becoming more chipper and their will to work getting even more stronger. They’re actually called diurnals.

So figure out if you are a nocturnal or a diurnal first, and execute your most important tasks during that time. During the rest of the time, you can complete other, less important tasks that don’t demand your attention as much. Just don’t dawdle during that time.

And of course, don’t force yourself to be like the other. I’ve heard of people saying that the morning is the best time for any task to be done, which does no favor for any night owl. Just find whatever time works for you and get your stuff done during that time period.

Analyze, Plan and Execute

I’ve mentioned this in my previous blog post on how to build up your confidence, and I’ll mention it again. Any time there is a massive task that would actually require the dexterity of ten instead of one and you have to be the sole executor of that task, break down the task into little chunks.

Break down the task into sub-tasks and set about achieving them at a good pace. A plan well thought out is half the battle won. So, set a good time to analyze the specifics of the task, do some research and collect the necessary requirements for the task to be done in a smooth, polished manner (as much as can be done.). Once that is done, break down the tasks into small sub-tasks so that they don’t overwhelm you and put you off the task.

Go about doing those tasks and achieve those small victories. Chip away at those small rocks day by day and you will find that you have finally finished that mammoth task, without breaking a sweat. For the most part.

If you are one of those IT guys, and even if you are not, you can try a Kanban board. While most of tech guys actively hate that board, (I did hate it with a vengeance whenever my project manager whipped it out, flush with pride.), if you can structure it to your advantage, it works damn well.

Rest isn’t bad

Now, you might plan to plug away at a task for eight straight hours without a rest and call it a day. Reality would smirk and disagree with you on all counts. You sir, are not a robot and there is only so much time that your mind can stay in absolute focus before it starts to unravel and go bonkers on you. If you still plan to push through it, valiant effort, but you won’t get as much work done.

My suggestion? Work for an hour or two or for how much ever time your mind can stay focused. Then take a break for 5 or 10 minutes. When I say break, don’t go about reading your favorite novel or watch the latest episode of whatever is the hotness right now. That would only screw your mind even further. Just close your eyes and catch some shut-eye. A power nap. Meditation. Some relaxing music. A lackadaisical walk. You catch my drift. Anything that doesn’t tax your brain.

Rinse and repeat. You will get your shit done, and your brain won’t be as taxed as you expected it to.

If you are confused on how to do this whole work-rest thing, I advise you to take a look at the Pomodoro technique. I haven’t personally tried it, so I can’t speak of it’s effectiveness, but it’s worked for a lot of people. Try it out and see if it works.

Music. ‘Nuff Said.

Do you feel like your focus is wavering because of too much distraction from the world at large, or from your immediate surroundings? Then, put on some music and try to work. Manners, be damned.

Of course, there are times when music hurts more than it helps. It definitely isn’t wise to play a blaring heavy metal riff or a soulful rap song when you are studying Fourier Transforms, since your mind will automatically lock on to the lyrics and that rad riff more than the formula that can screw you over. If music like that actually helps you, then no harm done.

Otherwise, I suggest some low instrumental music playing in the background if on speakers, or at very low volume if on headphones when you are studying, though I wouldn’t prefer the second option much. For other stuff like coding, just play whatever gets you into the zone. Again, manners be damned.

To-Do List. ON A NOTEPAD.

A To-Do list is one of those obvious answers to maintain your productivity that it would elicit a “Duh” from the world.

Maintain a to-do list. ON A BLOODY NOTEPAD!!!!

The discerning reader that you are, you might wonder, “Why a notepad? I’ve got Google Notes, Evernote and various other productivity apps to keep track of my various tasks. Why should I regress to the middle ages?“. Yeah well, I’ve tried all that. Onenote, Evernote, Google Notes, Notes on iOS, Parchi (It was a Microsoft Garage app on Android that I loved to death.). The works.

They never work. At all.

If it works for you, then more power to you. But, and I assume this is the case for a lot of people, you will definitely get distracted by some cat or dog video on Facebook or Instagram or some breaking news and that list will get buried under a deluge of crap. You can put all the notifications in the world and it wouldn’t help.

Hence, a note-pad. It doesn’t have to be a fancy Moleskine, just a simple notepad will do. No distraction. No fuss. You finish your tasks, you mark them completed. You keep a tab on the tasks to be completed and power through them.

It works. Don’t ask me why. It just does.

Consistency > Intensity

I’ll bluntly admit that I was never one to be consistent when it came to my writing. I’d ramble off a shit ton of blog posts in two weeks and then it would be radio silence for a stretch of months. I still struggle with being consistent to a small extent, but I can say with confidence that I’m doing way better on the consistency front than before.

So trust me when I say, consistency matters a lot more than intensity.

It doesn’t matter if it’s the brightest and most intense fire if it goes kaput in a matter of seconds. You can’t keep yourself warm, you can’t cook food and the wolves would bay for your blood pretty easily. A decent fire that stays longer, on the other hand, helps you out a lot.

In the same way, you can finish your work like a monster one rare day, and it wouldn’t matter if you can’t pull off that intensity day after day. Whereas, even if you start out small, but you manage to do it every day, then it compounds to give you a big result at the end. Not to say that you shouldn’t strive for intensity, but never sacrifice consistency for intensity.

That’s all I have for today.

Be seeing you.