Some days the to-do list seems bottomless. Just looking at it is exhausting.
We all want to know how to stop being lazy and get more done. Below, Cal Newport talks to The Week, and shares his secrets on how you can better manage your time, stop being lazy, get more done — and be finished by 5:30. Let’s get to work.
1. To-do lists are evil. Schedule everything.
To-do lists by themselves are useless. They’re just the first step. You have to assign them time on your schedule. Why?
It makes you be realistic about what you can get done. It allows you to do tasks when it’s efficient, not just because it’s #4.
Until it’s on your calendar and assigned an hour, it’s just a list of wishful thinking.
Want to stop procrastinating? Schedule. Here’s Cal:
“Assigning work to times reduces the urge to procrastinate. You are no longer deciding whether or not to work during a given period; the decision is already made.”
2. Assume you’re going home at 5:30, then plan your day backwards.
Work will fill the space it’s given. Give it 24/7 and guess what happens?
You need boundaries if you want work/life balance. But this also helps you work better because it forces you to be efficient.
By setting a deadline of 5:30 and then scheduling tasks you can get control over that hurricane of duties.
Cal calls it “fixed schedule productivity”:
“Fix your ideal schedule, then work backwards to make everything fit — ruthlessly culling obligations, turning people down, becoming hard to reach, and shedding marginally useful tasks along the way. My experience in trying to make that fixed schedule a reality forces any number of really smart and useful in-the-moment productivity decisions.”
3. Make a plan for the entire week.
It’s simpler than you think. What’s really necessary?
Just one hour every Monday morning. Here’s Cal:
“Every Monday I lay out a plan for the week. I go through my inbox, I go through my task list, I go through my calendar, and try to come away with the best thing to do with each day this week. I write it in an email and I send it to myself and leave it in my inbox because that’s a place I know I will see it every day and I’ll be reminded of it multiple times throughout the day.”
4. Do very few things, but be awesome at them.
You need to do fewer things. Everything is not essential. You say “yes” to more than you need to.
Ask “What’s creating real value in my life?” And then eliminate as much of the rest as you can.
“You’re judged on what you do best so if you want to have as much success as possible you’re always better off doing fewer things but doing those things better. People say yes to too much. I say no to most things. I’m ruthless about avoiding or purging tasks if I realize they’re just not providing much value.”
5. Do less shallow work — focus on the deep stuff.
All work is not created equal. Cal says knowledge workers deal with two fundamentally different types of work, shallow and deep:
“Shallow work is little stuff like email, meetings, moving information around. Things that are not really using your talents. Deep work pushes your current abilities to their limits. It produces high value results and improves your skills.”
Cal has it right: Shallow work stops you from getting fired — but deep work is what gets you promoted.
Cal’s five big tips:
- To-do lists are evil. Schedule everything.
- Assume you’re going home at 5:30, then plan your day backwards.
- Make a plan for the entire week.
- Do very few things, but be awesome at them.
- Do less shallow work — focus on the deep stuff.
Schedules and plans sound cold and clinical but the end result couldn’t be farther from that. You’ll be less stressed, create more time for friends and family, and make things you can be proud of.
To find out all the ways to get more done in less time, check out the full article here.