How to effectively manage your projects
Being productive doesn’t mean you have to be neat, everything should work out perfectly, or you need to have all your ideas in order. Instead, productivity is the art of getting closer to your goals. However, in order to get there, you need to have a plan of action. Furthermore, you need to have concrete ideas that will help you achieve your goals successfully and with the most ease. Ironically, what you need first is a brain dump. Yes, it is as messy as it sounds. Simply put, a brain dump is where you lay it all out there. By doing so, you become aware of all the tasks you need to do, as well as those you think you need to do.
The goal of a brain dump is simple— to get all your ideas, tasks, and action steps needed to reach your goal or complete a specific project. However, it is not about just writing everything down and then leaving it as is. Unfortunately, if you do this, you will not be able to reap the benefits. Instead, you need to take a couple of steps to assure you use this tool effectively.
THE TROUBLES OF A NON- BRAIN DUMPER
I’ll be the first to admit my struggles with brain dumps. When I first started trying to practice the art of brain dumping, I didn’t know what to include. Were my thoughts really all over the place? I have always tried to continuously organize my thoughts immediately. So, why would I need to do a brain dump if I am organized already? Because, truthfully I am not as much as I think I am. I have tasks I want to complete everywhere. In my phone, in my bujo, and in my work planner. It's not the least bit as organized as I need to be.
Once I have taken the time to actually learn what a brain dump is, and how it can be a game changer, I have started to take more of an interest in them. For a lot of us, our minds run a hundred miles a minute. Unplanned for tasks pop up, we have ideas for new projects, and new hobbies or the like that we want to try. By taking ten minutes a month, or more effectively— every week— we can get a better sense of what is necessary, what is possible, and what is too much for our plates.
MAKING A BRAIN DUMP WORK FOR YOU
I have recently discovered the Eisenhower Principle where you break your tasks into four categories for each type of tasks. So, for all your work related tasks, you will break down the specific tasks into four categories: important and urgent, important but not urgent, not important, but urgent, and not urgent or important. By dividing up your tasks into these four categories you can gain more clarity on what you need to focus on first (urgent and important), what you need to do to further reach your goals (important but not urgent); and what tasks that you can do when you have the time (urgent but not important), as well as what items you can cross off because they are ultimately irrelevant.
As you get into the nitty gritty of your brain dump, you can start to see two things: where your time should be spent and where your time is being spent. Ultimately, there will be a bunch of tasks you think you should spend your time on, when in reality they are just fillers. These are the first that need to go. Cross off each task you feel will not help you achieve your goals. Now, you have a more clear picture on what your main focuses should be.
DOING MORE WITH LESS
President Eisenhower talked about being effective with your time as well as being efficient. As he put this principle to the test during his presidency, if we can mimic how he managed his time and tasks, we can reach our goals faster by being more focused and intentional with our time. Unlike President Eisenhower, our projects and goals won't necessarily make such an impact; but can make a big difference where it matters most.
There are only 24 hours in a day. For a lot of people, eight hours are claimed for work, another eight for sleep (on a good night). This leaves you only eight hours a day to work on our side hustles, projects, and hobbies. Now, if you are like me and have an hour plus commute to and from work every day, you have even less than eight hours. Taking into account daily routines, family and personal time, our time becomes very limited. We need to be intentional with our time so we can live, ultimately, more fulfilled lives.
MAKING IT WORK FOR YOU
Because our time is limited, when we spend just ten minutes writing our tasks down with no censor, we are one step closer to our end goal. You can start at any time; be it the middle of the week, during the month, or when it is necessary. If the word brain dump is unappealing; deterring you from doing one, rename it. Brain dumping can be inefficient if you don’t follow through with both organization and taking action. In order to make a brain dump work for you, it might take time and adjustments. It’s well and easy to spill everything out. It’s the after that gets tricky. As you start to make a plan, it’s time to pull out your planner and set to work. By assigning due dates to tasks, you are more likely to accomplish them. Why? Because who doesn’t like crossing off tasks you completed? I know I do. If calendar blocking doesn’t work for you when you do it in advance, keep a running list of tasks that you can refer back to as you set up each week. You can either add them to certain dates, or just keep a list on your weekly that reminds you of filler tasks you can accomplish in your free time.
The goal is to get everything you need to finished; so you can get closer to reaching your specifics goals and finish projects. Although planning for the future is great, it’s how you take action that will determine the results. If creating a detailed schedule will help you, then I suggest time blocking. Time blocking allows for you to set time aside for big projects, as well as allows you to see where you time is spent and how.
PLANNING FOR HICCUPS
It has been suggested that, when you time block your day, to not leave any time open. However, I disagree with that. Sometimes specific tasks, especially important ones, can take longer than planned for. Because these tasks often are the ones that definitely need to get done that day, you will most likely have to shift things around. I believe in overestimating how long each task will take. If you overestimate how much time you need, when you finish early you can easily fill in tasks that are not pressing, but should get done.
Getting used to time blocking can be tricky; I know I personally am still fiddling with it. However, like with brain dumping, the more you do it the more useful it will be. The purpose of a brain dump is to get a sense of what needs to get done. Once you do that, you need a system to get your tasks accomplished. So, if it is time blocking your day every day, or keeping a running to do list you can reference every day, just make sure it’s a system that is actually working for you.
As you start getting used to brain dumping, you will start to notice you can move on to tasks more efficiently. Because the tasks are already organized into four categories (or should be) then it's easier to stay on track. You can start to get better ideas on how you need to manage your time, what system works for you, and what items on your list are irrelevant. Start making a brain dump part of your weekly routine. You will start to see progress like never before; as well as free up some much needed time for friends and family because you will be more intentional with where and how your time is spent.
Happy brain dumping! Remember, it's all about planning one night at a time.