20 Ways To Get Shit Done!
As creative and multi-passionate women, it’s fair to say that we all struggle with getting shit done. Now, before you start judging yourself, and beating yourself up, know that you’re not alone: we all struggle. Why do you think there are so many books on productivity, focus and life hacks?
It can be so hard to sit down and work. It can be hard to find the focus, know where to start, have the discipline to keep going, fight through the creative resistance and and have the courage to start when you have gremlins of self doubt sitting in your shoulder.
Now, if that isn’t one big messy mix, I don’t know what it is. But it’s not just a messy mix. It’s a toxic recipe for keeping you small, keeping you blocked and keeping you from doing the things only you can do.
I heard a sobering quote by Les Brown this morning that sums up a lot of my thinking on this subject lately:
“The graveyard is the richest place on earth, because it is here that you will find all the hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled, the books that were never written, the songs that were never sung, the inventions that were never shared, the cures that were never discovered, all because someone was too afraid to take that first step, keep with the problem, or determined to carry out their dream.”
I don’t know about you, but that just hits me.
And I want to fight for a world where women believe they matter, that their ideas matter, and they find the courage to bring the things only they can do to the world. I want to try to make a drop in the ocean so that we collectively have the courage to work on our ideas, put them out into the world and bring them TO LIFE instead of taking them to the grave.
As much as I like talking about creative resistance, self doubt, courage, creative processes, sometimes we need to take a big gulp of courage and just take action. So today I’m sharing with you 20 things you can do right now to start getting shit done so you can start bringing your ideas to life. Some are deceptively simple and some seem counterintuitive but they all work.
If you’re feeling stuck, just pick one and do it. Sometimes we can get so caught up in our heads, over analyzing why we’re not taking action that we inadvertently keep ourselves stuck. We end up getting in our own way.
So, if you’re feeling stuck, just pick the one you feel most called to do, and just do it. I’ve created a killer printable poster to go along with this episode for you to stick on your wall and pick one whenever you get stuck. And because I know there’s a LOT of information packed into this episode, I’ve also published it as a blog post so you can go back to it whenever you need to. I’ve put the link in the show notes!
Now, we’ll get onto that list. They’re in no particular order - although in hindsight it would have been fun to do a reverse countdown Top 20 like I’m some radio DJ, but that right there is an example of overcomplicating!
So, Couragemakers! Are you ready to get shit done?
1.Set a timer
Okay, so you’re thinking, Meg this is bloody obvious. Yes! But, when did you last do it? Sometimes when we’re tackling a huge to-do list or something we just can’t be bothered to do, the only thing to do it set a timer and make yourself do it in a timed environment. I find it helpful going to YouTube and finding some kind of epic motivational video can help as well. There are a couple of ways of using this method. One of the most popular methods is the Pomodoro method devised by Francesco Cirillo in the 80s. The idea is you break a task down into 25 minute chunks with a small break in between. Another way of thinking about this, is really asking yourself how long you can get deep work done. Deep work is the idea of really focusing on one thing, and giving yourself an hour or more to really focus without any distractions. Figure out your optimal time, and set a timer. There are literally no excuses for not setting a timer - you’ll be amazed at what you can do even if you’ve only got five minutes, and we’ve all now got timers built into our phones, you can google set a timer for five minutes, and it does it for you. If you find yourself endlessly procrastinating, just set a timer.
2.Eat the frog
This one definitely wins for the best title! It’s a way of getting shit done devised by Brian Tracy and it’s all about tackling the thing you least want to do first. You know those niggly things that sit at the back of your brain that you try to drown out but deep down you know need doing? The thing you endlessly procrastinate on but is pretty important? Yep, those things. While yes, they are it’s worth thinking about the fact that it takes quite a bit of mental energy to keep pushing them down. Think of what you could do when you’ve got that out of your life and you’ve got some brain space back.. I know it’s not fun, but it’s necessary, so eat the frog, friends! Eat the frog!
3. Blast music
Sometimes we need silence and to really think. Other times we need to blast Macklemore (what can I say, I’m biased), up as loud as we can and use the energy to push through. Choose music that makes you feel good, has a good bass or a good beat, and anything that encourages a bit of chair dancing is definitely a bonus! Spotify has some great playlists, so does YouTube. The secret is to find something that works for you and just let it play instead of wasting time changing the song every five minutes. When you have time where you have less shit to get done, schedule in some time to make your own Get Shit Done Playlist and set yourself up for a fun and productive working session! Alternatively, if you find music too distracting, white noise can really help. Apparently it distracts the part of our brain that is most likely to wander, so we can really focus and get what we need to done.
4. Make a plan
Again, this one sounds all too simple, but have you ever sat down to do something, got really stuck, and find yourself watching baby goat videos because you don’t know where to start? Yep, me too. Work out what you need to do and work backwards to see what you need to make happen to complete your goal. Write out every mini step and go through it in an order that makes most sense to you (sometimes I sort things by my enthusiasm, deadline, the most boring thing first etc). Trello is a great and simple online tool for getting your plans out of your head, so if you haven’t used it before, I recommend trying it out. And a bonus tip on this one, I’ve found that adding how much time it will take to do something to the list helpful. That way you keep things realistic and don’t end up setting yourself up for failure
5. Recruit a friend
You won’t always be working on the same thing as a friend, but that doesn’t mean you can’t tackle things together. Whenever you have something to get done, I can guarantee that someone you know if also trying to get shit done. Post on Facebook, reach out to your nearest and dearest and see if they’re struggling to get something done too, and cheer each other on. Bounce ideas to make both of your things easier to get done, and create a deadline. If you work for yourself, I’ve found co-working sessions really helpful. The idea is that you find someone else who’s in a pretty similar circumstance to you and set a time together when you will both work on something. I tend to do this in two hour slots; we check in with each other and set a goal at the beginning of our session, then turn off all notifications and really focus for a couple of hours, then check in to see how we did after. There’s something about knowing that someone else is working really hard too that keeps you accountable, makes it easier, and makes you less likely to procrastinate or cheat! If you don’t know anyone you could do a co-working session with, someone recommended Focus Mate to me where you essentially do this virtually with someone you don’t know!Alternatively, you can ask a friend to cheer you on, and you don’t necessarily have to do it together. Tell your friend why it’s so important you do it, ask her to remind you regularly why it’s important to you, and check in every couple of days to see how you’re doing. It’s not selfish - cheerleading is a huge part of any good friendship and I know you’d only be too happy to return the offer.
6. Make it fun
I’ve got a bit of a motto this year to stop overthinking things and just get things done and that’s to try and make things fun and easy. We’ll dive into the easy bit when we get to the simplifying section. So, how can you make something fun? Maybe that looks like taking yourself out for a hot chocolate when you have to tackle something ridiculously boring. Maybe it’s about adding a one person dance party to a hectic day. Maybe it’s buying yourself a really fun fluffy pen that reminds you to not take things so seriously. Maybe it’s getting really dressed up to go to work. Maybe it’s changing up your routine and going for a walk before you do your best work. What do you find fun? How can you add that to whatever you need to get done?
7. Get an accountability buddy
Accountability can make you seriously get shit done. There’s something about knowing that you’re going to have to explain why you didn’t get it done, that can really kick us int action. Accountability works like nothing else when you have a buddy that’s willing to kick you up the bum a little bit, you set clear boundaries and very specific goals. You can do this with a friend, or you can post in a group online to see if someone else wants to join you. I recommend only getting an accountability buddy if you actually intend to cheer someone else on as well. Accountability buddies are a two way thing, and can be absolute magic if you’ve both got clear expectations and you’re both committed to your check in days!
8. Break it down
I remember when I used to revise for exams, there was a TV show called Bitesize which addressed each of the topics and broke them down into really manageable chunks. As we adult, we forget how important that is. Sometimes it’s just too overwhelm to look at the whole project - we wonder how on earth we’ll ever get it done and end up talking ourselves out of it. Remember that graveyard we were talking about earlier? A way of getting rid of the overwhelm is to really break things down into small tasks you can do and use them as a checklist. If they seem too big, break then down even further. Break them into the tiniest things you can do, and give yourself the grace and patience you need to get through them!
Now, I know I’m not the only worrier and over-complicator here. I love getting new ideas, but I’m the first to admit that I can end up getting completely overtaken by a wave of excitement that before I know it, my knickers are in a right twist. Then the excitement starts to fade and overwhelm takes its place, and if you have been in the same situation, you know it’s not fun. Now, I’m not arguing for keeping your ideas small or reducing your excitement and I’m never going to. Seriously, take your idea as far as you can, get lost in the process, really claim and own your excitement and enthusiasm and THEN, before you start to take an action or write a plan, pause and ask yourself these three questions:
What is the simplest way I can do this? What is the easiest way I can do this that sounds like fun? What makes the most logical sense that is still me?
Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest. Don’t rob yourself of the opportunity to bebrilliant by thinking that every idea you have has to be the most original, complicated and complex thing ever. It really, really doesn’t.
10. Ask for help
Over the years I’ve come to learn that asking for help is a bit of an art form, in that it takes a lot of practice to start becoming comfortable with it. Tad Hargrave from Marketing for Hippies has exercise which is a five minute support asking blitz. The idea is that for five minutes, you do nothing but ask for support and for help - to the point that it becomes almost embarrassing. His point is that it’s only when we reach that point of feeling embarrassed that we even begin to touch on how much support we actually need in life.As strong, brilliant women, sometimes it can feel like asking for help is a sign of weakness, but I’ve come to learn that it’s actually an act of courage. If asking for help or leaning on someone feels like a huge step, consider this: none of us can live as humans without some help. We all rely on oxygen, food which we largely don’t grow or produce ourselves, fuel, gas etc you name it. We are all already dependent to some extent whether you like it or not, so while we’re debunking this myth of independence, you might as well ask directly for the help you need. There are people who want to help you and would be delighted to offer you some support - how can you start to take that support? And if you feel stuck in knowing what you’d even ask for help you, ask a friend to sit down with you and help you out with that. Like my Mum and countless others I would imagine say, if you never ask, you never get, and my Mum? She’s pretty much always right.
11. Reward first
This one seems pretty counterintuitive, but the more you think about it, the more sense it makes. We usually come to getting shit done from a place of scarcity, or a place of procrastination or a place of sometimes even desperation. What if we could change that? If we started getting shit done from a place of feeling better rested, having more energy and with a whole lot more enthusiasm and inspiration, it’s going to be a whole lot easier. Ever pushed through and pushed through and then realised nothing’s got done and you should have stopped three hours ago and instead started again tomorrow? It’s a bit like that. Rest first, reward yourself first and then get really disciplined, choose something else on this list then start. You might well be amazed what a difference it makes!
12. 2:1 work to fun ratio
This one’s also pretty simple. So much of the time, we approach getting shit done as working with blinkers on, not stopping to eat, drink or do much of anything else. We just barge on through, determined that if only we work harder, we’ll get it done. Wellllll! That’s not always the case. You need to give yourself time to pause, do something else for a while, have some fun and make it all worth it. Write a list of things you can do to treat yourself during a break, and tick them off as you go. Of course, work can be hugely fun, especially if we get into a flow state where we just get lost in it, but sometimes it doesn’t always feel that way. Intentionally add more fun into your schedule and factor it in as part of a process. Because it really is - it’s not wasting time, it’s about working sustainably and not driving yourself to exhaustion and depletion at the same time like we so often do!
If your thoughts are spinning, you don’t know what to start on and overwhelm has truly got you wrapped up in your own head, just breathe. Pause, take a minute, and breathe. Not many things in life are actually life threatening, so breathe, take a moment for yourself and you’ll return with a clearer mind and a route forward. You can take this a step further and go for a walk if you’re able to. Fresh air can do wonders for our creativity, inspiration and our thought processes.If you find it hard to stop and breathe, I really recommend checking out the Calm App or Insight Timer.
14. Stop multitasking
Okay, so here’s the truth about multi-tasking: it makes us feel good. Look how busy I am! Look how capable I am! I have all of these things to do and they’re getting done and how brilliant am I?Well, maybe not so brilliant when you’re multitasking after all. There’s A LOT of research out there about multi-tasking, but I’ll just go into these: multitasking slows you down, changing your focus so often means you never really get into the flow state or your zone of genius and while it feels productive, it’s usually anything but. Instead of making you actually productive, it makes you feel really busy, is usually exhausted and usually ends up with disappointment of not actually having been able to do everything you needed to.I hold my hands up. It feels like my natural mode is to multi-task. I forever have about twenty tabs open, and I often get distracted mid-task and end up thinking of something else to do. But what doesn’t usually tend to get done when I work like this? The important main thing I intended to do when I sat down!While I haven’t found anything to cure the tab problem apart from some old fashioned discipline, there are a bunch of great apps out there to stop you from picking up your phone or getting distracted by Facebook (which I know is the tip of the iceberg). I recommend the chrome extension Kill News Feed which stops your news feed from showing whenever you get on Facebook, the Bashful App for stopping you from using your phone for a select period of time (Selected calls can still come through if you’re worried about that) and I know there are so many more out there. RescuTime is a brilliant way of tracking how you actually spend your time, and it might be the wake up call you need to really start getting focused.
15. Celebrate the shit out of your small wins
If you’ve been around here a while, you’ll know that I’m all about the small wins. In life we tend to focus on the big things and I remember a sign from back when me and Mr. Meg were travelling across the US in one of the places we stayed in that said, ‘Enjoy the little things in life for someday you will realise they are the big things’. Our lives are built of many tiny moments, and our huge accomplishments are built of many small steps along the way. You’ll always feel overwhelmed if the celebrating only comes after the big things, so celebrate the shit out of each small win along the way. Here's an epic guide to doing just this and a printable of 26 ways you can celebrate your wins!
16. Set intentions not goals
Sometimes it’s not about the actual goal, it’s about the reason why you’re doing it in the first place. When you’re feeling stuck, you’re not sure how to progress or those gremlins of self doubt are sitting on your shoulder, take a moment to focus on your intentions. Why did you start in the first place? Or if you haven’t started already, what made you want to do it in the first place? Set your intention next to any plan you make, and you’ll have a reminder why you started to pick you up along the way. Focusing on your intentions also makes you less likely to set yourself up for disappointment, because instead of a rigid set of unmovable expectations, you’re setting how you would like to feel, why you’re doing it and those things can’t help but be much bigger than a rigid goal.
17. Surround yourself with Couragemakers
This is a huge one, and one I have borrowed from the fantastic work of Scott Dinsmore and Live Your Legend. One of Scott’s biggest rules was to surround yourself with people who inspire you. It’s amazing what happens when you start spending time with people who align with your values, who just get you and they’re going after their own dreams as well. Instead of feeling like an anomaly, you start feeling like you’re part of a movement, part of something bigger and the courage of the people around you is always infectious.This might start by examining the people you have in your life and looking out for the people who inspire you and spending more time with them. It might be starting to watch TED talks, listen to more podcasts or finding ways to virtually surround yourself if you haven’t found your tribe yet, or it might be going to meetup.com and seeing the things around you that you never knew existed.I guarantee that being intentional about who you spend your time with, and cutting out the energy vampires will make a huge difference to the enthusiasm you approach your work with!
18. Turn off notifications
I made the decision to turn notifications off on my phone a while ago, and I’ve never looked back. Seriously, you don’t need something pinging every five minutes, you know this. But it can be hard to break away from the habit, and sometimes the energy surge that comes with the notifications.The only notifications I receive now are phone calls, texts and sometimes Facebook messages depending if I’m doing a coworking session. Go into your settings and just turn them off. It doesn’t mean people will forget you, or you’ll miss anything important - if nothing else, it means that you’ll start to be more intentional about how you spend your time online, and I think that’s something we’re all striving for. Make space for the things you genuinely want in your life, not the endless noise that takes you away from the things that matter.
19. Take a break
Now, I can hear you saying “But, Meg! I haven’t got enough time to get shit done, let
alone breathe or take a break.” I know. And that’s part of the problem. One of the biggest
times you need to take a break is exactly when you feel like you can’t. It’s exactly then
that we end up in burnout territory, which often takes the element of choice away from us
as our bodies force us to stop. So, take a break often, and really pay attention to those
times where you feel you can’t. You come first, and that’s not a negotiable, my friends
20. Start somewhere
If you don’t know where to start, just start somewhere! If you’re feeling overwhelmed, overcome by fear or self doubt or it just feels too scary, fuck logic and pick somewhere that excites you. The biggest risk is never starting in the first place, so get over that hurdle and just challenge yourself to start ANYWHERE. Things often fall into place, but you’re not giving yourself any way of knowing that if you never start.Think of your favourite books, your favourite films, your favourite artists and musicians. All of them have tread this path you’re walking on. All of them had to start somewhere. While it can feel unique, lonely and like you’re the only one to have ever experienced it, you’re not alone. Think of how happy you are that they started. Imagine that there is someone somewhere waiting for you to start.
BONUS 21. Join the brigade!
The Get Shit Done! Brigade: 30 days of community, accountability, action and coaching to get your ideas of our your all-be-it beautiful notebooks into tangible things that exist in the world. We’re starting on 15th February and it’s going to be a group of like-minded couragemakers who want to see you shine bright, getting shit done together, with accountability, coaching with me and encouragement parades on a Wednesday! For four weeks, we’re going to work together and prove that it is possible to get a lot of shit done and have a life at the same time, while really put some sustainable strategies into place for the long term as well.
I hope you’ve found this post helpful. You have so much to give the world, you have a story that the world needs to hear, and you can do things only you can do. I want to live in a world where your work, your creations and the things that make you uniquely you exist.
Please don’t deprive all of us and the world of that.