While I often suggest that you shouldn’t start your new year as of January 1st (in fact, I’ve written a book that suggests that you should start it anytime you want), I do think that January is a month where reflection and recharging is in order.
With that in mind, here are 3 things a productivityist should do over the next 3 days in order to get set for the month – or months – ahead.
Organize the hidden stuff
We focus a lot on the physical things we can see when it comes to removing clutter from our lives. But it’s the digital clutter that is becoming more and more of an impediment to productivity. That’s because digital clutter is far less apparent than the physical clutter, meaning it can get in your way a lot more. Even with the ability to search for these files being at our fingertips there’s often going to be duplicate files, revisions of documents, and other naming discrepancies that can get in your way despite all of your efforts to avoid that. And now is the time to fix that.
This is going to take the longest for most folks. It’s time to get tagging, creating sub-folders, and deleting dead files. If you use Evernote or another app that employs tagging (like Asana or Flow, for example), it’s time to make those items in there to have more meaning behind them with proper and consistent tagging. If you’re using a Mac and you don’t have Hazel, now is a great time to get it with some of that extra holiday cash so that you can get your digital house in order. David Sparks has put together some excellent Hazel rules here and if you simply search for “Hazel” on his blog, you’ll get a lot more on this stellar app. Even just going through the various folders you’ve got on your drive and either deleting files or moving them an external drive can remove some of the clutter that you just can’t see.
If you don’t do any of the other things I’m about to mention, then at least take the time to organize the hidden stuff.
Tie up small loose ends
Take a look at what you’ve got going on and start to tie up any of the smaller loose ends you’ve got available. Much like David Allen talks about “closing open loops”, this is a time when you can focus on completing what you can complete before the calendar shifts to the next year.
The key here is to really look at what you’ve got going on and connect with it all. That’s the only way you can really know what can be tied up and what needs to carry over. You may be able to tie up tasks, but not projects. You may be able to tie up small projects but can’t touch small tasks of bigger projects. But only you will know that – and you’ll only know that if you’re really in the mindset of understanding what you’ve got on the go. Just looking at it isn’t enough. You’ve got to spend time with it.
Tying up loose ends allows you to really get a better look at the rest of what you’ve got on your plate. Leaving too many things untied gives you so much to look at that you give them just a passing glance than much of a chance of getting done right.
Now that you’ve tidied things up, you can start to set things up.
The best thing you can do is start to map out the big stuff for the next few months (or year) so that you’ve got some benchmarks to look forward to as time goes by. I make anywhere from 6–8 major projects happen over the course of a 12 month period because I don’t just plan ahead – I plan big. That’s the key. Make the things you plan now the big stuff. It’s those things that will get you excited, which will motivate you to make them happen.
These three things essentially mean the following: Remove the clutter first, then move ahead with a burst.
So if you want to do 3 things before we bid farewell to this year that will serve you best for what is to come, then give yourself ample time and space to do the above. They are the most freeing things you can do – and doing them will let you do so much more of the stuff that you really want to do.