coaching How to

The Key to Getting Stuff Done

The Key to Getting Stuff Done

Productivity | Time Management | Prioritizing | Life Coaching

Ever wonder how people manage to get stuff done? Read about two skills that will help you learn what others know about time management and action. Photo by Pixabay, no attribution required for use. 

Do you ever wonder how people manage to get stuff done? They have the same 24 hours to work with. Do they just forego sleep? Do they hire people to take care of tasks they don’t have time to do?  Do they know something you don’t?

After working as a counselor for nearly 18 years, I can tell you by observation that the people I’ve worked with who successfully got things done didn’t forego sleep, except in rare occasions where it was unavoidable. They also didn’t have a personal assistant working for them. Some were the unpaid assistants to a busy or physically-challenged partner. Most would not describe their lives as charmed nor ideal.

But they did experientially know something that maybe you do not know. They all had at least two things in common. And if you  want to know the key to getting stuff done in your life, to accomplishing tasks and staying on top of “life stuff” before the avoidance of those things comes back to bite you, read on.

The Key To Getting Stuff Done

People who manage to get many tasks accomplished in their daily lives have at least two things in common:

1. They prioritize well. That is, they are able to select and determine goals and associated tasks based on priorities versus  putting out fires, time wasting activity, and plain forgetful behavior.

Prioritizing can look like a multi-tiered approach to all the things you want to do, all the things you need to do, and all the things that must be done immediately in order to avoid dire and/or unpleasant consequences.

For example, a busy morning can produce a sink filled with dirty dishes and a greasy pan. That same busy morning can be undisturbed by dirty dishes by prioritizing a batch cooking session on the weekend, packing and storing pre-made breakfasts and lunches, and training everyone who can in the household to put away dishes into the dishwasher (or if you don’t have a dishwasher, a quick rinse in soapy water will make for clean up later less smelly and much faster cleaning).

A second example is repeating activities, such as paying bills, buying groceries, and restocking household supplies. Taking a moment to create a digital checklist, placing reminders in a calendar, and systematizing everything from  weekly rotating cleaning schedules to taking out the garbage on garbage day makes sure these tasks get done before you find yourself doing them in a more inconvenient  moment.

You must learn when the dirty dishes and kitchen need to be left overnight because it will save you twenty minutes of precious sleep, or when that extra few seconds of writing something down before sleep will save you a half hour (or more!) the next day trying to remember what that important thought you were working on actually was.

Prioritizing gets tricky when it comes to relational issues. Someone’s emotional needs will always feel more important to deal with than other actionable items, yet it is always appropriate to evaluate the priority of when to handle them. Other than your house burning down, a crime being committed, a medical crisis requiring immediate attention, or someone bleeding out, it may be perfectly appropriate to attend to someone else’s emotional needs when you have some structure and boundary to bring to the moment, not when you are frazzled, pulled in too many directions, or in the middle of a conference call at work. Doing some emotional triage may help you prioritize how urgent the situation really is for you to get involved.  And people who tend to get things done are very good at prioritizing and attending to their family’s emotional needs — in the right timing.

The right time is not always now.

2. They create systems for remembering, tracking, and action points.  I’m not saying that each of these people have the best systems in place, or hire a personal assistant in order to get things done. But each one of them picked something and made it serve a purpose.

People who get things done take to regular and systematic journaling, using calendars and reminders effectively, place Post-It notes in important locations (i.e. on the toothbrush, on the car steering wheel to be seen the next day, on their laptop before the work day begins), and leverage smart tablets and smart phones to keep them on track with apps and messages.

One system might work well for one person, while another would be a minor disaster. People who get things done do not all use the same system. They just have one that works.

In an age where some are debating whether handwriting will even be a necessary skill, I find that today’s go-getters still use some combination of digital recording by text, electronic calendar,  Excel document, and digital journaling,  as well as  physical notebook, Post-It’s, and physical task lists.

On a personal note: to this day, I take a picture of a grocery shopping list from the week on a white board on the refrigerator, and I still like to have a paper menu of a specialty dinner I’m creating, in case I come upon specials and features in the store.  If I have a systematic way of shopping the aisles so I don’t waste time, I can take advantage of sale items that weren’t featured in their online adverts, saving time and money, while still buying what I want and need.

Your Turn

If you want to get more things done without sacrificing sleep or sanity, it is your turn to take an action. Don’t think too long about it. Simply commit to doing something specific fairly quickly after you have made a decision.

If you like pen and paper (hey, I have a fountain pen with a diamond in it, so pen and paper suits me well), take a look at Bullet Journaling in this Buzzfeed article.

If you waste a lot of time watching TV and engaging in time-wasting activities by yourself that do not energize you or add much joy to your life, take a moment to understand the principles of prioritizing, particularly if you have a large amount of tasks you’ve been putting off for awhile.


If you find yourself nodding your head and thinking, “Well, this sounds all well and good, but I know that I won’t do anything about it,” welcome to Resistance. If you breathe in and out and consider yourself to have average intelligence, you already know what Resistance is. Anytime there is something difficult or painful to do, Resistance holds you in place from taking an action. It puts off action not just to tomorrow, but more likely to Never, or Too Late.

My tip to overcoming Resistance is to call bullocks on it — that is, name it! “This is Resistance, and I’m sick of it!” Then, take at least one action to do something about the thing you are resisting. Don’t put it off. Just take one action, right now. Don’t think too long about it. Just do. It’s a little bit like Jedi Master Yoda telling the young Luke Skywalker, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” Don’t worry about results or outcomes. Just take one action, so you can press through Resistance with one action.

Once you do, the next action comes more easily. Really.

And if you’re thinking you could use some extra help with this, I’m available for coaching sessions by the hour, half hour, and quarter-hour “check in’s” to keep you on task after establishing a full hour strategy session around your life coaching needs.

Use my Contact Us form and request a complimentary consult.


By Imei Hsu

Imei Hsu is a mental health counselor, active retired RN, AIP Coach and PN1-NC, writer, triathlete and arts promoter in the Seattle area and through online services. With 30+ years in healthcare (22+ years in mental health), Imei has a commitment to helping people discover insight into their health, relationships, and connecting. She is the owner of Seattle Direct Counseling and the blog, a presenter and speaker on a variety of psychological topics, and a positive force on the Internet. She launched her personal project, My Allergy Advocate, in 2018. Imei is a two-time Ironman Finisher (Mont-Tremblant 2016, Ironman Canada 2018); she also finished her first ultramarathon in 2017 and has gone on to race the 100K distance while preparing for 100 Mile trail races and a backyard ultra. You can find her running everywhere and eating all the thingz, watching movies, camping under the stars, and cooking real food.

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