How to get things done fast: practical tips

Getting important stuff done quickly is the key to success. Whether you are a busy manager, business owner, entrepreneur or working towards other goals, getting the right things done on time is vital for you in order to succeed.

After reading this article, you will never say to yourself again: “I don’t have the time to do that. ” instead you will say “I give priority to that because …”

“Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.”

Clear your schedule

Being busy is not the same as being productive. Being busy and working yourself to exhaustion will not bring you success. To reach your goal, you need to identify the necessary steps that will bring you closer to the end result.

Prioritizing and avoiding doing unimportant tasks will help you succeed. A good way to prioritize tasks is to look at how important it is to complete the task, and what the urgency of completion is.

The method we use to do this is called “The Eisenhower box”, sometimes referred to as the “2×2 prioritizing matrix”. This matrix will help us decide how to prioritize tasks.

Let’s take a look at how we use this box.


1. Urgent and important

These are the things that are important and need to be done immediately.  If you are not sure whether or not a task is urgent, try to think in matters of benefit & effort. You already determined the task is important, so you could say it is a task that will bring many benefits. Now let’s look at the effort it demands to complete the task. If it’s something you can do quickly and immediately in a matter of minutes, don’t schedule it but just do it now.

2. Not urgent but important

Things that are important but not urgent must definitely be done, but they can be scheduled. These things can be; visiting family, working out, meetings, etc…

3.Urgent but not important

These are the kind of tasks you want to avoid investing your time in. However, these remain tasks that need to be dealt with immediately. Some examples of tasks like these include: scheduling, responding to emails, payments, etc… When possible, try to delegate these tasks as much as possible. If you don’t have anyone working for you, try to automate some of these tasks or to implement them in a way you can finish them with the least effort as possible.

4. Not urgent and not important

These are the unproductive things that most definitely will not bring us anywhere closer to our goals. These are the things we want to avoid doing, especially during our working hours. Doing things like checking social media during your working hours will not only rob you of time but also of concentration, which will ruin your productivity and effectiveness.

” Nobody is too busy, it’s just a matter of priorities. “

Avoid procrastinating

Procrastinating is avoiding tasks that need to be done. As the definition is quite clear, one would think it is fairly easy to avoid doing so. Yet many people fall victim to it. The main reason for doing so is that we tend to delay tasks we don’t really like doing, like confronting an employee with bad behavior, or other things that are out of our comfort zone.

Luckily there are simple steps we can take to avoid procrastinating.

The 2-minute rule

This is one of the most simple yet very effective principles I have come across. The 2-minute rule indicates that tasks that can be done in less than 2 minutes should be done immediately. Nevertheless, don’t forget that we are looking to do effective things, so don’t use this rule for unimportant tasks.

This rule can be applied to your life immediately and easily. You will notice an immediate boost in productivity. Depending on your schedule or the type of work you do, feel free to adjust this rule to make it better suit your needs.

I, for example, have made it the 5-minute rule, things that are important and can be done within 5 minutes, I do immediately. The reason I changed it is that I have many short meetings and obligations during the day, which means I have many 5 – minute gaps that usually would go to waste because they are too short to do anything meaningful.

Simplify projects

When you have a big project to do that demands a lot of time and effort to complete, it can be tempting to postpone that project. The problem with big projects is that the end result and the benefits of completing the project are too far away.

To stay motivated, when working on big projects, it would be better to divide the project up into smaller pieces and to set shorter deadlines. These shorter deadlines will help you in determining whether or not you are on track. Also, the good feeling of a successful accomplishment will motivate you to start working on the next part of the project.

” Procrastinating makes easy things hard, hard things harder. ” ~ Mason Cooley

Photo by Jo Szczepanska on Unsplash

Automate tasks

Yet another way to leverage your time is by automating certain tasks. This might sound difficult and tech-intensive, however, there are many simple ways to take advantage of automation. Implementing automation into your tasks will be time-consuming at first, but if done right, it will pay for itself.

” Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

Auto-sorting email

Many email-clients like “Outlook” offer you a function to automate the sorting of your emails. You can set specific rules for sorting your emails.

I, for example, let my email sort based on the division that sends them to me. I know that mail from “the planning division” is always urgent and important, so those emails I have to look at immediately. E-mails from other divisions can be postponed and some even deleted automatically.

Managing data

By using excel you can gather and manage data easily and automatically.

For my job, I used to make graphs with data before I can discuss them during meetings. I found myself wasting a lot of time gathering data and turning them into graphs. The way I got around that task was by using an excel file that automatically receives data from other files and turns it into graphs by using pivot tables. Now when I have to attend a meeting, the only thing I need to do is pushing the update button and the information I need comes in automatically.

If you want to do this as well, but are unsure how to do so, on the internet, you can find zillion pages explaining how to do so.

Automate payments

Paying bills is never fun, neither is it productive. Yet many people don’t automate their payments. Making use of “direct debit” however, can free up a lot of time to spend on more useful tasks.

One argument people use to avoid using “direct debit” is because they want to know where their money goes and why. This is, of course, understandable, nevertheless, would it be more effective to automate your payments and schedule a fixed moment each month to quickly look-over your transfers and check if they are correct.
These are only a few examples of how you can use automation to avoid doing certain tasks. Although these are not suited for everyone, it might also be a good practice for you to look at your daily tasks and trying to find a way to automate them.

Photo by Luke Chesser on Unsplash

Avoid micromanagement

If you have to manage a team or look-over a project, it can sometimes be tempting to wanting to control every aspect of it. You want to know if every member of your team is doing the right thing and if every detail is according to plan.

Micromanagement, however, can be a trap and will avoid you from reaching success. It will exhaust you because you will be busy trying to monitor every detail of the project. Therefore you are risking losing control over the project, exhausting your team members and losing sight of the big picture.

Remember, “The Eisenhower Box”. We want to spend as much time as possible in the upper half. Therefore it’s important to trust your team and learn how to delegate tasks. As a manager, try to find the balance between macro- and micromanagement.

Also, people who don’t have to manage a team should avoid the pitfalls of spending to much time on details and trying to control every single aspect of their project.

Create habits

Creating good habits can help you achieve success in the long run. Your chances of reaching your goals could go up significantly if you were able to turn the steps towards your goal into a habit.

If, for example, you have set a goal to publish your own book within a year from now, you could make it a habit to wake up an hour earlier and write one page, every morning.

The result would be that it has become second nature to you to wake up earlier and write a page, just like you brush your teeth every morning and evening. But in this case, you would have reached your goal and end up with a book containing +300 pages.
If habits are something you want to learn more about, consider reading this, or picking up this book: The Power of Habit ~ Charles Duhigg

I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I did writing it. If you have tips on how to get things done fast, I would love to hear!



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Recommended: 8 tips to achieve your goals; 5 effective ways to boost your productivity; 5 great books to become more productive

Author: Bjorn Callewaert

"I am an investor, content creator and Front Line Manager. Here I share the things I learned about Investing, productivity, minimalism, and personal finance."

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