I highly recommend checking out the Cult of Done Manifesto. (if that link is broken it is here). When I discovered it a few months back I printed a copy and posted it above my desk, as well as the cool rubix cube graphic. The manifesto (like all good ones I guess) is oddly inspiring, and it has really helped me to be more productive, as well as toss and turn less at night thinking about everything I didn’t get done that day. Here are some reflections as to why it works:
- Don’t wait for all inputs to start: I’ve always kept a to-do list of one form or another. I think the tendency is to skip the harder tasks with rationalizations like “I’m waiting for an email from Sally with a spreadsheet that she said will be useful for this task”. Per the Manifesto item #6 (Banish Procrastination) you have to get started now. Maybe you need the spreadsheet to finish, but most times you don’t.
- Don’t wait for it to be perfect for it to be done: Most of us are working in collaborative settings that are pretty fast-paced. A 75% complete item that is “done” is much more valuable to the network of people you work with than a 75% complete item that is waiting for a few finishing touches on your hard drive. If that last 25% turns out to be important either you or someone else will do a revision later.
- Keep score: When you are adhering to the Cult of Done you derive pleasure from the long list of completed tasks you rack up every week. Whatever list making system you are using (see Workflowy below), make sure you can see the completed tasks pile up each week. Getting stuff done is the point.
- What am I going to get done today?: Mark Suster’s productivity hacks post a while back mentioned the 3×5 note card approach to daily planning. If you are going to worship at the Altar of Done you are going to need a similar system. Review your todo’s each day and ask the question, “what am I going to get done?”, and find a way to work till they everything is done. (Aside: This really helps me with work life balance. Every once in a while a meeting gets canceled etc. you get your daily list done by 4PM. Sure you can grab another item from the list, but sometimes just shut down the computer and take your wife and kids out to dinner – secure in the knowledge that you had a productive day).
- Send it, the network effect: A slightly different take on #2 above. The great thing about encouraging a Cult of Done culture on your team is that a lot more information starts getting shared. Because lets face it, our to-do’s are mainly information posts of one form or another, to someone in our network. If you are getting more docs to the shared drive, more emails to the team, more code checked in, more blog posts written, etc, then your team and your partners are getting more raw materials to get more stuff done too. Once they get stuff done, you can start and finish more projects. Snowball. Perhaps a corollary to manifesto item #6 (The point of being done is not finish but to get other things done) is the point of being done is not to finish but to provide a starting point for getting multiple other things done.
- Complete or Delete: I’m really enamored of a new minimal web tool called Workflowy, and I can’t really articulate why exactly. Maybe they read the Cult of Done Manifesto. One of the features that I like is that you can either mark an item “Complete” or “Delete”. Per Cult of Done Manifesto item #5 (Banish procrastination), if something lingers on your todo list, you need to delete it. This is really empowering. (Aside – sometimes instead of deleting I just move it from a to-do list to an archived list, which qualifies under item #11 Destruction is a variant of Done)
UPDATE: 6/25/11 I still love Workflowy and use it every day. They just added a killer sharing feature.