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When running your business, it’s no surprise that stuff happens when you get things done. Now, these “things” can be approaches like sales or marketing, or administrative clean-up, or actual direct client work. Wherever you focus, though, you want to be as certain as possible that your effort put in will meet, or exceed, the reward you get back.

getting-things-doneWhile not every business task is a high value one, there are tasks that need to get done in order for your business to keep running. While the bulk of your time, energy, and efforts should be on cash flow generating activities, it’s good to have a strategy for tackling all the rest.

One of the things I’m really well known for is turning strategy into action. I take action quickly, decisively, and thoroughly. There are three processes which help me do this, and these are my Three Secrets to Getting More Done:

1) Clarify the desired strategic outcome. This means you begin a task with the end in mind. When I first started my business, I hadn’t developed well the skills of strategic thinking, so I often just did a lot of actions which didn’t feel particularly tied to anything. In other words, I always got a lot done, but never really knew if these were the most important areas to be focusing within. As you can imagine, working this way often felt like my business was running me.

So what I do now, instead? I begin with a clear strategic purpose in mind. When I have a task to complete, I first clarify how this fits within the scope of my bigger business vision and goals. I always try to keep focused first on marketing and sales activities- where can I connect with more potential clients? Reach more people? Let more people know who I am and what I do? When I start with this bigger picture focus, my “to-do” list rearranges itself in natural order of priority and importance.

Today, for instance- writing a blog post ranks higher than checking email- so I am writing my blog post first- it fits my bigger strategic focus of reaching more people and seeking to connect with potential clients. If you are clear on your big picture, you’ll likely find that you naturally focus on the more important things first.

2) Break down the tasks into manageable chunks. This is something that I really, really learned when I was working as a dissertation coach some years ago. In a task as long and arduous as writing the dissertation, the biggest relief is found in tackling the smallest steps, repeatedly. I have found this to be true in business, as well. The smaller the steps you can break down your tasks into, the easier it will be to do them. When you are able to complete many small steps quickly, you are also able to build momentum. Overcoming inertia is the hardest phase of any project, small doable steps help you do that.

The caveat I follow is that if step takes less time to do than write down, I do the step rather than write it down. When I can’t take the action right then, I make a detailed list of steps for each project. Then I focus on completing the first one, then the next, then the next.

This sounds very basic- and it is, in a way. Though it does require a great deal of consistency and discipline- you have to trust that each step you take in a certain direction will eventually get you where you want to go. If you’ve defined your strategic plan (step 1) and then identified the steps to reach it, you can be pretty sure that you’re on the right track.

One analogy I use often in coaching is this: if you know where you’re going, and you take consistent steps to get there, you will reach there. The certainty of this is something my clients can lean into even when they are uncertain. Taking action in the right direction is much easier when you break down tasks into manageable chunks.

3) Reward yourself for completing tasks. Rewards are one of the most underutilized behavioral acknowledgements ever. All high-achieving people love rewards, but few feel they deserve them, and as a result, few people use them. The thing is, we are not meant to work constantly without any kind of acknowledgment or appreciation- either from ourselves or from other people (which is really nice, too!). When you are building a plan of action on something that is important to you, be sure, also, to build in a reward for achieving or accomplishing the goal as you said you would.

Rewards don’t need to be expensive or time-consuming. The only two requirements are that they be meaningful to you, and that they come close in time to the achievement. I’ve successfully used rewards that relate to relaxation: going for a walk, scheduling a massage, taking a nap, as well as rewards related to entertainment: crafting, watching a movie, reading a book, – and sometimes I even use really big rewards for major achievement- these would include taking a big trip or buying myself something really nice.

In order for rewards to be effective, they need to occur close in time to the actual achievement. For all our evolution, we are still motivated by reward- and rewarding our behaviors in a sensible timeframe encourages us to do more of the behavior. So once you set a reward, and earn it, let yourself have it.

Much has been written about the art and skill of project management and time productivity. All of it, essentially, comes down to this: Focus on what’s most important, take action to get it, and keep yourself motivated along the way.

I hope these tips help you get more done. If you have other tips or strategies, please share them in the comments!