Low-Hanging Fruit: Your Productivity Sweet Spot
So recently, I was having one of those days. You know, the ones where nothing—and I mean nothing—gets done.
I had it all planned out that I was going to be super productive and make huge strides with my business. I mapped out my to-do list the night before, got to bed early, and figured I’d just wake up and be Mrs. Productivity in the morning.
But that’s not how it went at all.
It seemed like the world was spinning a little bit faster, and the minutes were slipping through my fingers. After the gym, doing laundry, attending to Skyla’s every whim, driving around town, and sorting through my email, I was shocked to look up at clock and realize my day was almost over.
What the heck happened? I didn’t get anything done!
In the past, I’d probably mope around and feel like a failure. But I’ve come to realize that even the smallest bit of progress is still a “win.”
Have you ever felt busy all day, but nothing related to your big goals got done? When you feel overwhelmed and stuck, it’s time to pick some low-hanging fruit.
Low-hanging fruit are your tasks and goals that are the easiest to accomplish. Just like an apple on the lowest branch, these tasks can be picked, consumed, and discarded with minimal effort.
When you’re not making progress, it’s time to stop looking at the whole orchard (your big picture) and start picking your low-hanging fruit!
Your To-Do List Is Sabotaging You
If you’re anything like me, you have a to-do list that’s at least 3 pages long, single-spaced. There’s nothing wrong with having a massive to-do list, but the problem is in the wording of the tasks on the list.
Let’s say you’re writing a novel (which a couple of my clients are actually doing). If your to-do list says “write novel,” you’re doing it wrong. There are hundreds of baby steps leading up the finished product of your book sitting on the front table at Barnes and Noble.
What other vague, humungous tasks are on your list?
For example, you might have “clean the house,” “finish that work project,” “start a business,” or “learn Spanish.” Take those too-big goals and break them down into as many baby steps as you can.
When you have your goals broken down, you can figure out which tasks are your low-hanging fruit.
Small Win, Big Results
Low-hanging fruit are the simplest action steps on your to-do list. Why do the easiest ones? Because most of us (including yours truly) can get stuck when we’re faced with a task that’s large and menacing.
And when we’re backing away from a too-big task, we end up not doing much of anything. We procrastinate (hello, laundry!), check email, play Candy Crush, or a million other things.
When I rewrote my to-do list, I realized that I had a huge crop of low-hanging fruit. For me, my low-hanging fruit are the tasks that I can complete in fewer than 2 minutes. This usually includes responding to an important email, making a phone call, or jotting down a quick blog post outline.
Since each item only took only a few minutes to do, I was able to feel the energy of completion that motivated me to continue on to the next one.
And although I might not have reached any of my big goals that day, all those little wins added up to a lot of progress. It’s not unusual for me to have entire work days devoted to nothing but low-hanging fruit.
Pick Your Own Low-Hanging Fruit
Pull out your to-do list right now (I’ll wait). Where are your low-hanging fruits?
What’s the smallest task you could do right now? When you finish that one, choose the next easiest one.
Every time you complete a task, cross it off your list or add it to your Weekly Progress Journal. When you see all those completed tasks, you’ll be energized to keep going.
You’re human, and you’re going to have unproductive days. When that happens, cut yourself some slack and just do the bare minimum.
This post focuses on Step 3 of the Life Editing Process, Add Good Habits and Routines. For more about life editing and what it can do for you, click here.
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Hi Sage, I just found a link to this article on Facebook. First it was the gorgeous image that caught my eye. But I am so glad it did, because the content is priceless. So many days I have three big projects or more that I want to do. I end up feeling overwhelmed and procrastinating, knowing I will not be able to complete any of them. I will take your advice and break them down into smaller to dos on those days. This is going to be a game changer for me. Thank you.
Yay! Loved this post, Sage! I’ve definitely had those days where I thought I worked hard, but honestly, accomplished nothing.
The next low hanging fruit I’ll nibble on are:
1 – Create a relationship building plan
2 – Schedule 30 minutes of social media and blog promotion!
Yes! Those sound like perfect low-hanging fruit, Jennifer. 🙂
This was a really good post! I have felt like this quite often, and sometimes we need a little perspective!
Thanks, Sarah! Sometimes you gotta think smaller and just get the bare minimum done.
Another great post! Since my to do list has doubled I feel like all I do is attend to the low hanging fruit because it seems to be the most time sensitive tasks. Every day I feel like all I do is get through the numerous small tasks that I acquired but my own work that I was responsible for before is getting neglected. I think that my challenge is finding the balance between the two.
You’re right, you can’t focus on low-hanging fruit all the time or else the big stuff never gets done! For me, I try to judge my energy levels during the first hour or so of my work day. If I got a good night’s sleep, it’s a sunny day, and I’m feeling good, then I focus on my big projects.
But if I’m feeling sick or got up on the wrong side of the bed (you know those days), then I focus on the easiest wins that take only a few minutes to complete. About once a week I have a grumpy low-hanging fruit kind of day. 🙂
Love this post!
I am the queen of mile long to do lists (comes with having a problem with your short term memory). I try to keep things specific but admittedly a few more vague huge tasks end up on there. At some point I must have made a concious desicion to do this cause looking back on my lists, things like clean the house used to be broken down into all the little pieces but then just seeing the increased length of my list overwhlemed me and sometimes caused me to give up before I started cause there was no way I could get it all done.
Yesterday was a low hanging fruit kind of day. I’ve been feeling in my day job like I’m falling behind and can’t keep up with what I want to accomplish and what others are asking of me. I was barely treading water and occasionally slipping under. I HATE that feeling. So I went through the massive to do list and started picking off things I could do in 10 mins or less. By the end of the day my feeling about my day, my productivity, and even my outlook on my job had improved.
Thanks for reminded me again how important this is! I would love to hear your thoughts on a prioritize short list of items pulled from your overall list. Do you think going into the office each day and only allowing yourself a list of a few must dos (3-5) helps productivity and your view of the day?
Thanks for commenting, Rebecca! I totally relate to the “treading water” feeling. Sometimes it feels like there’s just not enough time for everything. Good for you for stopping yourself and finding your easiest wins, the stuff that only takes a few minutes to complete. At least then you’re moving forward!
For me, I choose 3 main tasks for my work day. Any more than that and I’ll get overwhelmed. I prioritize them by what’s closest to money (ie, client calls and emails), what’s building relationships (ie, blog posts and social media), and my next project (an upcoming home study program). Only having 3 to-dos keeps me happy and feeling in control.
You have no idea how good it is to hear that!
Sometimes I know I need to take the easy wins and celebrate a little but other times I find that hard and need someone to be a little cheerleader for me getting me up, positive and then giving me a kick in the rear to get going again.
I love the idea of 3 to-do’s but may I ask, how specific do you get in your to do’s? my work time is so broken up at the moment that I think I need a better way to keep track of to dos, things accomplished, and ideas. Maybe just a log book next to my computer where I can jot down all the important stuff so it’s easier to pick up where I left off.
I love what you were saying to Sarah of Long Island Nerd above too – sometimes I allow myself to just stay focused on those easy wins instead of pushing forward on the big projects because it’s just safer. I need to find the power to push through!
Oh man, I can’t wait to get on the phone or skype with you! I have a feeling I have a bit of a butt kicking (of the best kind) coming my way.
Rebecca, I use my Ultimate To-Do List to keep track of my master list, my 3 goals for the week, and my 3 mini tasks per day. https://sagegrayson.com/the-ultimate-to-do-list/
I can’t wait to talk with you tomorrow! 🙂