Thursday, March 13, 2014

Increasing Your Productivity Through Checklists

I admit it, I’m as lazy as a cat on a hot summer’s day. So how exactly could a person that takes two naps a day write, illustrate, and code over thirty children’s books in two years?

We all want to get more work done. We all have major goals in mind and visions of success in the future, so what’s the secret to getting things accomplished? What amazing, groundbreaking thing, could the people at the top use to get and stay ahead?


There, done, that was an awesome blogpost. 

Seriously though, I don’t know if it’s a result of being raised on video games, but something about checking off a task gives me a sense of accomplishment and a drive to do more. Some days I simply cannot stop until I’ve checked off everything on a list. Call it a compulsion.

So here’s what one of my typical day lists looks like:

Yep, I put everything on there. If you look closely at the top you can even see a little time for God is penciled in. I find it helpful to put tasks on your list that you actually want to do. Take time for yourself in the midst of your schedule. That way you will actually want to complete the list.

Most of the other entries are things that I need to get done, want to get done, or really don’t want to do. See the checklist has this innate power to get you to do things that you despise simply by forcing you to come to grips with them. Those unchecked tasks taunt you until you are ready to strangle them and, when you finally slay them with a mighty dash, you feel victory over yourself.

Any uncompleted tasks from the previous day get moved to the next day (to taunt you some more.) Mornings are usually spent filling in the checklist with tasks that need done. I also have it nearby at all times so that I can add something at a moments notice.

Abstract tasks such as “brush your teeth” are trivial and will only make you feel accomplished when you actually did little. Vague tasks such as “write a novel” will have the opposite effect and will demotivate you since you cannot possibly check it off. Instead, take your overall goals and break them down into little bits. For instance, when I’m writing a new book, the list will go something like this:

1. Come up with a new idea.
2. Outline the idea.
3. Write the first draft of the idea.
4. Rewrite
5. Send to editor.
7. Do the concept art.
8. Sketch the layouts.
9. Fight with the editor (or just implement their changes.)
10. Create the final illustrations (can be broken down even further.)
11. Layout the book.
12. Code the book.
13. Publish the book. (including all the little tasks like making a blurb and keywords, etc.)

Phew, that’s a lot of work! However, if you break them down and only give yourself one of those tasks per day you have something manageable. Also note that at thirteen tasks, give or take, you have about two weeks worth of work. You even have a day off in there! 

So there you have it. If you break down your writing projects into simple checklists you can get more done. Simple, no?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have something to check off.

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