How I Get Shit Done…(or not)

How I Get Shit Done…(or not)

As is usual for this time of year, I’ve noticed a fair bit of discussion rattling around on the subjects of goals, planning and productivity. As this is a subject close to my heart, I thought for interest I’d share what I currently do in terms of ‘getting organised’…

A couple of people have made comments to me in the last month about how I manage to do this redwood stuff alongside a full-time day job. My usual answers are ‘With great difficulty’ or ‘I have a very understanding wife’. While both these things are true, it also does take a bit of organisation and time management on my part. Over the years I’ve probably tried, abandoned and then re-tried most of the methods and apps in this space. What I’m about to write is how I’m currently approaching the challenge of time management….

This is, however, a constant work in progress for me and in no way do I have this cracked. Not everything I plan to get done actually gets done! In twelve months time I may well be doing something different again. However, I’ve been using my current system for about three years now and it’s probably the best I’ve had to date…

There are basically three parts to what I’m currently doing:

Goals

There’s a tonne of stuff already available online about the science of goal-setting so I won’t regurgitate all that. I’ve been setting annual goals for the last ten years or so and there is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that it’s made a massive difference to what I’ve been able achieve year on year. Redwood, including this website and all the photography and video work I’ve done over the last few years, originated from a sentence written on piece of paper. It’s been tweaked every year as I’ve gone along and reset goals, but this came from having an idea and writing it down…

The most important thing about goal-setting is that it forces you to think; what do I actually want? Anyone who’s tried it will know how difficult that question can be to answer, but I’ve found the more specifically I’ve been able to write the answer to that question, the more progress I’ve made. It kind of makes sense; if you have no idea of where you’re trying to get to then the chances of you just arriving there by accident are pretty slim!

The most important two things I’ve found to make a difference in relation to goals are as follows:

  1. You have to write them down. It’s no good just thinking about it, you have to commit words to paper. And I mean paper, literally. Typing them into an app, for me, has been nowhere near as effective as physically writing them with a pen. Seeing it written in your own handwriting is somehow subconsciously stronger.
  2. You have to read them over and over again, ideally at least once a week. This is really important! I found that creating a habitual, scheduled activity that includes re-reading my goals once a week has made a massive difference in terms of staying focused on what I’m trying to do. It’s not been easy to create the discipline to do it, but it’s definitely made a difference for me.

I happen to use the Michael Hyatt Full-Focus Planner (see below), but there are a stack of different types of books and journals available to help with this process.

Trello

If you’ve never used it, Trello is a Kanban app. It allows you to create lists of cards, and then move cards around between the lists. You can organise all your lists into boards based on different aspects of your work/life that you need to manage.

It’s pretty simple to use and is the best thing I’ve found for organising and working through tasks. I’ve tried todoist, wunderlist, etc. etc. Trello is the only thing I’ve stuck with. I have two Trello boards; one for working ‘in’ the business and one for working ‘on’ the business.

The working ‘in’ board basically tracks all the jobs I’m working on. I have a list for each stage in the job cycle, from initial enquiries through to jobs that are completed and due a follow-up (see picture below). As I complete an aspect of a job, its corresponding card gets moved into the next list along. Work hence moves from right to left across the board (I could have done it left to right…for some reason I did it the other way!) This allows me at a glance I can see what I’ve got on and where everything is.

The board working ‘on’ the business contains a separate set of to-do lists…lists of people I should be staying in contact with, gear I need to update or replace, admin I need to do, videos I want to watch, blog posts that I need to write etc. etc. I find it very easy to spend every available minute I’ve got working ‘in’ the business (i.e. getting jobs completed) rather than working ‘on’ the business (i.e. working to maintain and improve it). To fix this I set aside one evening a week just for doing stuff from my working ‘on’ board.

I access trello on my PC as well as my phone, so it’s really easy to add things as and when they occur to me. I also set reminders/notifications on cards for deadlines when things need to be done. All in all, very cool app which I wouldn’t be without right now.

Evernote

If you haven’t used Evernote before, it’s basically an online notebook where you can dump all your notes and ideas…written notes, photos, web pages (you can clip all or part of a web page and store it in your notebook really easily). The thing that makes it great is the ease with which you can subsequently search for stuff.

It is possible to organise things by separate notebooks, but I’ve stopped doing that now in favour of just tagging. When you store a note you can add as many tags to it as you want which makes subsequent searching and retrieval easier.

All my notes related to redwood go into evernote; shoot plans, packing lists, location searches, interview notes. In seconds I can find the shoot plan I did for a job five years ago just by searching on one or two keywords. I can also share my notes with other people..

So that’s about it; I hand write goals, I track all my tasks in Trello and I dump all my notes in Evernote so that I can find them in future. It’s pretty simple but one thing I’ve found (at least for me) is that simple is good. The less time I have to spend thinking about what my time management process is, the more time I can spend actually doing stuff!

I hope that’s been of use and interest to at least one person in the world…If not, it was kind of an interesting process to write it down!

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