How many decisions do you make a day? 10? 100? 1000?  If you count the tiny, subconscious decisions you make such as hitting the brakes when you see a red light or turning right instead of turning left when walking the dog, the daily decisions mount into the thousands.

Beyond the subconscious or instinctive are the decisions we make that require more effort to execute and demand that you be more consciously present in order to successfully complete. Each decision you make is usually followed by an action. This manifests itself in the form of the ‘to do list’. You’ve decided you want to do something, and now you are listing that as a priority for you to move forward. What comes next?

This is where a lot of people get stuck. Distractions or other more interesting things take our attention away from the task that we have decided to do. In that case, we’ve made a new and overriding decision to set aside what we had initially deemed to be important in favour of something that is new, shiny or distracting (e.g. email and social alerts). How does that impact you? It is unlikely to propel you toward your goal. Perhaps the decision was arbitrary in the first place and not necessarily attached to a specific, measurable goal. How do you ensure that your decisions and ‘to do’s actually get accomplished?

I’m as easily distracted as the next guy, but I do like to live by the philosophy of ‘Decide and Do’. So here are a couple of tips for trying to get back to the task at hand:

  • Small bites – if a job seems too overwhelming, break it down into the smallest, bite-sized pieces and get to work on one at a time
  • Start – honestly, I’d never make it to the gym if I didn’t just decide to get myself off the couch and out the door. It’s so much easier after that.
  • Reward yourself – decide to do the task for at least 10 minutes then allow yourself a brief break before getting back to it. That could be allowing yourself to check email, make a cup of tea, whatever you can do in 5 minutes.
  • Shorten the list – if you have 40 items on your to-do list you are setting yourself up for failure. Keep that as a ‘master list’ and pull from it the top 6-10 items that need attention first. There are priorities to everything. After completing those items, then you can go back to the master list and select the next 6-10 highest priority items.
  • Write the list the night before – nothing says ‘hit the ground running’ like waking up to a plan. If you go to sleep knowing what you expect to accomplish the next day, your mind will find a way to organize those items subconsciously and you’ll be more productive while doing the tasks. I have no formal training as a psychologist or neuro-scientist. All I know is that every time I have the list ready the night before, I fly through it faster and more efficiently the next day.

I recently enjoyed a conversation with fellow writer, Andy White, on the idea of getting things done. The chat was mostly about turning your dreams into reality, but the underlying message was ‘Decide and Do’. Go here and have a listen.