Rules for Getting Things Done

These are my mottos / rules / slogans / mantras to help myself get things done:

If not now, when?

This is for those times when you have something that has to be done at some point, but you just don’t feel like doing it right now. The problem is that if you don’t feel like doing it now, chances are you won’t feel like doing it later either. Importantly, it’s not just a rhetorical device. If you have a good answer to the “when” part, then go right ahead and defer the task until that later time.

Spend the extra 30 seconds

You’ve moved something from the living room to the bedroom because that’s where it belongs. You dump it on the bed with the intention of putting it away later. Don’t do that. Spend the extra 30 seconds now and get it completely done, to get it off your mind and to save your future self the work.

Floss one tooth

This one is for when you have a big task in front of you that feels too daunting to start. Maybe a huge pile of dirty dishes to wash, or a whole closet to clear out. If the whole thing is too much, tell yourself you don’t have to do it all. Just do the one smallest possible amount of the work. Clean one bowl, read and archive one email, write one sentence of a blog post. Once you’ve started you may feel like doing a bit more, but you can stop at any time.

In the literal sense, once you’ve flossed one tooth you’re likely to floss them all. In the figurative sense, you won’t always get through the whole task, but you’ll have improved the situation and made it much more likely you’ll get through the remainder next time.