Monday, August 10, 2015

The Last Leap in the Productivity Challenge - Are you Ready?

Here's the last jump for you in my ongoing productivity challenge on how to get more done: bump yourself up to five items a day on your list. Wow, this is groundbreaking. I know you are thinking to yourself that you can't believe the concept of just doing more. Well, there's a little more to it than just bumping up to five items a day. So keep reading, unless you think you have it figured out, and I will explain exactly which five items make your list today (and every other day from here on). There may be something in it for you in the end as well if you keep on reading.

Quick Recap

So I recognize we have a few new readers here who haven't been playing along with the challenge the entire time. So, here's the gist: I've been walking folks through a method to boost productivity, based primarily on the idea that written committed lists and daily review of those lists has an underlying psychological effect. We all know scratching something off the to do list has a positive effect. The other two elements at play here are knowing your limitations and what you can actually accomplish as well as building habits over time. If you are looking to be more productive, chances are that you have already tried several things and your life is cluttered with the idea that you must do everything. So this plan hopefully helps weed some of that out and give a better structure and sense of accomplishment to what you are getting done. I'll review the steps as if you've been playing along the whole time, but if you are new, just walk your way through it.

First, outlined way back in March, you pick one thing a day to get done. Just one. One item a day that you can consider complete and that you are not coming back to tomorrow. There will be several unfinished items, but this one you can call done. Do this for two straight weeks. You will have accomplished fourteen items.

Then, you bump yourself to two things each day (that I talk about here). This is simple math scaling. You were doing one thing a day, now you are doing two. Identify those two things every single day for a month (or thirty days, your choice). That's sixty more items off your to do list.

Then the next bump came in May, when I asked you to jump to three things a day and to continue that for three months (through last Friday). Those three things a day add up to about two hundred seventy six items off the old to do list. That totaled three hundred and fifty so far as of Friday. Are you feeling good about it yet? Now it's time to bump it up, and I'll show you how.

Get Your Pen and Paper

You might have been tracking this some other way up until now, but I highly recommend you get a pen and paper and kick this exercise out every morning (or evening for tomorrow). Jot down the list for the day in the priority order that you are going to work them. That does not necessarily follow the aging priority I will describe below. Rather it is the priority to you of accomplishing those tasks that you need to sort them.

So why waste the paper? I'll give you two reasons. First, you have a mental trigger that fires when you write something down. No matter your preferred learning style, writing it down is a physical activity that tricks your brain into committing itself to accomplishing those tasks. Second, crossing tasks off of lists is fun. It it cathartic to see that line go through that item, or perhaps scratch violently through that one item that had been annoying you for some time. The physical and tangible aspect of writing down your goals creates freedom.

The First Item

You should first write a "catch up" item on your list. This may be something that you did not accomplish yesterday,or it may be something farther back. You should strive here to clean up something off of your backlog of work that you did not get to complete in the past and knock it out. If it is too old, it might not be worth pursuing. It's also important to limit your catch up items to one or two items on today's list. Otherwise, you'll just be cranking through all the things you didn't get done and won't be making progress on anything new.

The Middle Three

This could end up being the middle two if you have an extra catch up item today, or if you are doing better than expected. The middle three here are probably the same type of items you have been doing daily for the past three months. Fill them up with three priority items to accomplish today. Then get them done.

Your Get Ahead Item

Number five on your list should be something that you can accomplish before it is due. Pick something that you need to get done tomorrow or the next day and put that right in there on the list. You might be able to persuade yourself that this is a bonus item but that would be a mistake. The get ahead item is the key to the entire strategy. By completing this item today, you fight procrastination and you start to appear hyper-productive, as you start to accomplish more and more tasks before deadline.


As you start this five-a-day routine, you may likely end up with two catch ups, two dailies, and one get ahead item that you are getting done. There will also be days where you don't complete all five. You can make your leftovers the catch up items for the next day, but you won't begin to really progress until you are getting five items knocked off the list a day. Once those are consistently dropping, you can begin to start pushing out the catch up items in favor of get ahead items. Over time, your list should move towards one catch up, three dailies, and a get ahead item, and then eventually you can move to two dailies and three get ahead items. The more you get ahead, the less overwhelmed you will become.

Seems Simple

This may sound super simple, but the methodology is never the problem. The challenges always hide in the execution. The goal is consistency, and as you look at the progress, you are seeking a continual improvement on that list even beyond just accomplishing five things every day. Can you work towards that?


To help you along the journey, I'm putting together a templated workbook that will help you track this overall plan and timeline. I should have it ready to go in the next couple of days, but I am only making it available to my email subscribers. It's an easy sign-up, just enter your email address in the top right of the page and sign up. You'll get my blog content, and I'll send out the link to the bonus content in the next couple of days. What's better, you won't miss out on anything additional that I have in the pipeline as we continue to develop. If you're already signed up on the email list, I will shoot you a link in the next several days and you can take download the free ebook as well. Thanks!

I hope all of this is helpful and you are moving towards your best version of yourself. Let me know how it is working out for you. I'd love to hear!

Image credit: Pixabay