How to Teach Others to Get Things Done

Have you ever worked with a person who never remembers what they need to do? Some things get done, but some never do. They don’t follow through on what they’ve promised to you or to others on the team. So as the leader, you are left managing their responsibilities, as well as your own.

This behavior is unacceptable. In reality we can all fall into this bad habit if we’re not careful. And while in some cases it may be necessary to remove such a person from the team, most of the time we can teach them to improve their skills. Here are five steps to train yourself and others to get things done.

to-do lists

STEP ONE: Record it.

When someone promises me that they are going to take care of something, but I don’t see them write it down, I know there is a 50/50 chance, at best, that they will do it. Why? Because our minds are not computers. Without recording tasks, it is likely they will forget.

The first habit in making sure things get done when they are promised is to record them. I realize this is incredibly simple. But I am frequently surprised how many people don’t take this easy action.

When someone is counting on me to do something for them, I will have them pause until I can write it down. Whether I am talking with a patient or a business partner, when I promise I will do something, I write it down right then. No exceptions.

STEP TWO: Keep it somewhere safe.

Many of us will write tasks we need to do on anything we can get our hands on—a napkin, a sticky note, or a random slip of paper. Some write things on their bare hand. Invariably these notes are lost.

So while recording tasks is important, it is equally important to have a system for safekeeping and recall. Some people I work with insist on writing their tasks on loose sticky notes and posting them all over their desks. While this is better than not writing them down at all, I always encourage them to have a more efficient system.

There are two general methods I use. One, I email myself from my phone. This is convenient, because like most people, my phone is always by my side. Or two, I add it to Nozbe, a project management app that efficiently allows me to organize projects and tasks for myself and in coordination with others on my team.

I resist the urge to write tasks in books or notebooks. This may work for some. But for me, chances are, I will not look at them again later. I review my emails and my Nozbe app daily though. Whatever your method of recording tasks, you must then have a daily habit to review what you have written.

STEP THREE: Review it, and organize it.

How many times have we recorded our tasks in a safe place, but we failed to go back and look at them? I am guilty. If you record everything, but do not have a system for review, then the time you spent to write them down was wasted.

I love making lists. I am most definitely a great list maker. But sometimes, my lists become so long and elaborate that I become discouraged. Then I don’t even want to look at them. I fight this tendency by dedicating about ten minutes a day to review, add to, and organize my to-do lists. For example, this morning I spent twenty minutes reviewing my emails. I extracted one or two items to add to my projects in Nozbe that were important for me to tackle today. When I neglect this discipline, my lists become unmanageable.

STEP FOUR: Assign time for each task.

Often we think if we capture every task and perfectly place them on our project list, the work will be done. Let me break it to you. This was a hard lesson for me to learn: We do not accomplish what we do not make time to complete. Twitter_logo_blue

One common error we make is to overestimate what we can do in the time we have allotted for a specific task or project. To remedy this, next to each task, I record the time required to complete it. This way I can predict the exact time required to complete each project. This step keeps us accountable to be more realistic about what we can do.

STEP FIVE: Block time on your calendar.

Many times I think, I will find time to finish this later. But the reality is I never do. My days are full already. So I try to actually block time on my calendar to finish what needs to be done on my list.

Some days, I don’t have the luxury of blocking time to knock out several items. But I’ve come to accept on those days, I will not be able to get through as many items on my list. And that’s okay.

Actionable Step: Decide on a system by which you will capture tasks as soon as they come to you. Then dedicate about ten minutes daily to organize your responsibilities by priority and assign an estimated time to each task. Schedule your week to include time to tackle these items and get them done!

Your Friend,
Wes Saade MD Signature

About me: I use an app on my iphone called Downcast to listen to podcasts.  Listening to podcasts can be very educational and can serve as an important part of your growth plan.

For Further Reading:

How to Get Things Done: Do It Now, Do It Today
How To Organize Your Life

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