Unambiguous To-dos: A Tip for Better Progress

post-it-actionDo you ever wonder what is keeping you from making progress toward your goals? Perhaps you’ve set up a schedule for yourself, outlining the things you need to do each day so that you focus on the most important tasks related to your business, but somehow, you still seem to be falling short. Maybe the solution is not in the lack of planning and foresight on your part, but rather the lack of clarity around the things that need to be done.
In trying to fine-tune my own productivity and lead generation efforts, I find myself needing to be increasingly clear and concise with my planning. For example, until today, you would have found the phrase “Social Networking” on my calendar. At some point in the past, I selected the handful of lead generation and marketing tactics that I would use for growing my business. Social networking was one of those tactics.  I blocked out time within my schedule on a daily basis for “Social Networking,” but when I got to that time slot, I found myself floundering over what to do with the time.
More important than having “social networking” on my radar is having clear-cut action steps that will move me closer to my goals. For instance, part of my social networking involves finding people to interview for my podcast and blog. Last week, I contacted several people with proposals for podcast episodes and blog articles. I settled on specific topics, contacted experts in the respective fields, and coordinated times to meet with them to discuss the topics. These were clear and concise steps. I was still networking with a group of online contacts, but I was taking specific actions to generate tangible results (in this case, podcast episodes and blog articles, plus the added benefit of promoting the two media in the process).
On my calendar now, you won’t find a slot for “Social Networking.” Instead, you’ll find two slots, “Blog Work” and “Podcast Work.” For simplicity’s sake, I’m still keeping my descriptions to one or two words for my calendar, but when I go to a given task, I’ll see a set of next actions that require my attention. For example, when I go to “Podcast Work,” I’ll see that I have several episodes in progress, along with specific tasks that need to be completed to move each episode along.
The intention for the time slot has not changed, but the outcome has. I know now exactly how to use the time. I’m not contemplating what needs to be done; I already know that part. Instead, I focus on actually getting the work done, and at the end of the day, I can say that I’ve completed real steps that move me a little further in the direction I want to go.
How do you make real progress toward your goals? What systems, tools and tactics do you use to make sure that you’re taking specific actions instead of floundering over ambiguous to-dos?
Flickr Post-It image by J_O_I_D