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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