Follow Through: Proven Practices for Actually Getting Things Done

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Here you are again; standing in front of the mirror, giving yourself a pep talk. They’re great for your self-esteem and terrible for results. Pep talks make you feel safe and inspire you temporarily. It’s also a great way to feel OKAY with giving mediocre effort. Most people who give their all, day in and day out don’t get into the habit of giving themselves pep talks. They follow through.

Following through with your plans is easier said than done. We frequently talk ourselves out of our tasks, procrastinate, and neglect our responsibilities.

Their habits involve optimization, strategies, planning, testing, and acting.

You’re coming up with “reasons” for why things don’t get done. You attach every single one of your failures to events that were out of your control.

“I couldn’t launch my business the way I wanted to because my house got caught on fire.”

“I wasn’t fully committed because my grandmother needs me around.”

“I never followed up on that collaboration because my car broke down.”

Two little words for you: LIFE HAPPENS.

Emergencies come up all the time, and if you can’t function every time something unexpected happens in life, you will be exactly where you are right now for the next 5 years. It’s amazing and inspiring when we hear tales of rags to riches.

Knowing that someone out there went from being homeless to owning a million dollar company gives us hope.

Those people must be extraordinary.

I spent years studying people like that; watching from the sidelines as they continued to hit seemingly impossible goals. Interview after interview, soaking up their content, reading stories about them from people who met them, spending hundreds so I can meet them myself… until I realized something that changed my entire perspective.

There was nothing special about them.

Don’t get me wrong, they were incredible people who did amazing things, but they all learned along the way. When they told their story, the beginning almost always resembled my life. The difference is they didn’t spend their days waiting, watching, wondering when something would fall into their life.

Never say, “I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

People are a virus. You let them in, tell them your problems and they validate that the situation is hopeless.

“That’s terrible, I hope you figure it out.”
“I’m sorry you’re going through that.”
“Just give it time, things will work out.”

Change the way you discuss your issues. Take a pause, and come up with a few solutions.

It’s natural to want to vent, but venting usually makes you feel either more stressed out about your problems or it will give you a false sense of security that things will be fine. Ultimately, you lose your sense of urgency and you stop looking for solutions.

When I approach my friends with a problem I’m having, it’s a three-step process:

Step one: State the problem and possible consequences
Step two: Give two or three solutions I’ve already come up with
Step three: Ask for their thoughts on my solutions, not my problem

I find that using this method gives my friends something to go off of.

They get a sense of what I most want to do and expand on that. Additionally, they can ask questions about what I’ve come up with, poke a few holes, and patch a few holes. In essence, they are helping me to develop my solutions and make them easier to follow through with.

So, when I leave these conversations, I feel energized NOT content. There’s no feeling of peace, but rather an increase of urgency to get to work on solving my issue.

Sometimes, the answer we’re looking for is unbelievably simple. So simple in fact that when we say, “I don’t know what to do,” our friends never mention it because they’ve assumed you thought of it already.

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Account for Murphy’s Law

Murphy’s law: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

This usually happens during the most important moments of our entrepreneurial journey. We can practically see everything we worked so hard for going up in flames.

I remember I was giving a presentation for one of my wealthiest prospective clients.

That morning, I was fired by one of my clients (so, the pressure was on!), I’d forgotten to get gas the night before and the three closest gas stations were closed for one reason or the other (what are the odds?), I ran out the house and had forgotten the worksheets to accommodate my presentation, AND I forgot to put on deodorant so I had to make another stop to pick up a travel pack.

The universe is against me today. This must be a sign!

But, was it?

Most of those things that went wrong could have been avoided with more intentional planning.

I was fired by my client because of a huge error I made as a direct result of not following up with a graphic designer.

I could have easily put gas in the car the night before on the way home. My excuse: I’m tired. I need my bed. I’ll do it in the morning.

I should have put the worksheets in the bag the night before. Same excuse as above.

I forgot to put on deodorant because I spent a huge chunk of the morning searching for the perfect outfit. I could have picked out my entire outfit and had it waiting for the next morning.

Reasons? Excuses? They’re one and the same.

Murphy’s Law happens because we lead a chaotic life. Chaos is dangerous. Going from one task to the next is dangerous. You start but never follow through. Eliminate the chaos.

Eliminate the chaos.
Eliminate the chaos.
Eliminate the chaos.

We have a linear way of thinking. Do this, do that, then this comes next. We create a vague plan outline of what needs to be done and the rest is pretty much winging it. You have to take the time to expand on your immediate game plan and your long-term strategy because they work hand in hand.

So, how do you avoid Murphy’s Law?

You plan and you prioritize, simultaneously. The things that are most important: interviews, meetings, tasks, or anything else that must go through smoothly should be planned into your immediate strategy and long-term goals. You have to force your brain to think both now and later.

Once you’ve decided what’s truly important, you delve deeper into that task or event.

Ask yourself: what results do I expect to see from this in the near future?

Then, ask yourself: how does this fit into the big picture? What steps do I need to take after this to make sure it works out for me in the long run?

You’re going into each action with intentional planning and understanding. By rule, Murphy’s Law cannot happen because your life is no longer in a state of chaos and frenzy.

Do one thing right.

By nature, design, and environment, we’ve learned that multi-tasking is a valuable skill to have. As an employee, sure. But, as a business owner multi-tasking should not be a goal.

Here’s why… everything we do matters.

Whether it’s replying to customers, designing our website, creating a new product, or creating our business cards.

Everything we do leads back to the success of our business. There’s so much that has to be done. I’m willing to bet your to-do list is longer than your grocery list.

My to-do list never has more than three items on it at any given time.

When you have too many items on your to-do list, nothing gets the attention it deserves. A month later, that same exact task ends up on your list again.

What is most important for your business right now?

Well, that’s what you need to focus your time and attention on.

The goal isn’t to “get it done.” Instead, you want to get it up and running to the point where it gets itself done.

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Last year, my inbox was in shambles. I had so many emails to respond to and I swear it felt like just yesterday I was digging through my mound of emails. I decided I never wanted to deal with that many emails again.

For three days, I focused on solving that problem.

I took the questions I received over and over again and put them into a FAQ sheet. Then, I setup an automated email that directed people to the FAQ with their questions. They had to manually click, “I still have a question,” to get their email pushed through. Which means, they truly needed some one-on-one help.

However, I didn’t stop there. I also created a canned response in Gmail in case someone DIDN’T read the FAQ. If I knew their question could be found in the FAQ, I could simply send them the canned response that redirected them to the FAQ.

For a year, I haven’t dealt with a buildup of emails again. And it didn’t show up on my to-do list again either.

I could have spent a few hours answering emails and crossing that task off. But, in a couple of weeks like magic, it would have been right there on my list again. Don’t do a million things halfway, instead, follow through with one task all the way to the end.

If you find that you’re constantly creating newsletters then create a batch of newsletters at one time for a day. Leave spaces for anything new that you’d like to include and that way you’re only spending a few minutes on newsletters instead of hours creating new ones over and over again.

What are your thoughts right now? Man, if I did one task at a time it will take me an entire year to get through this to-do list and everything else will suffer while I’m focusing on this one thing.

Doing one thing at a time does more than save you time. It gives you clarity about your business. It gives you a chance to pinpoint weaknesses and it helps to develop your long-term strategy.

These are systems that will work for you over and over again. When it’s time to hire more people, it gives them a blueprint for how you like things done and makes training easier. This is a marathon baby, not a sprint.

Just be honest.

I fell in love with #theimperfectboss challenge on Instagram. Ashley Beaudin of Fire + Wind started a challenge for entrepreneurs to highlight their major challenges and secrets.

It was literally one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever witnessed on Instagram.

People who had a larger business than me faced some of the same struggles that I did! And some startup entrepreneurs had bigger goals than I had at that time. It was amazing to see people being so honest about their entrepreneurial journey.

follow through laura

Laura Ehlers, Natural living expert

follow through maya

Maya Elious, Speaker and coach

follow through megan martin

Megan Martin, Lifestyle and branding expert for creatives

follow through regina

Regina, Infopreneur

Social media gives us a chance to create the perfect life and pretend we live it. People lie, lie, lie. And it froths out into real life. You start lying to your friends and family members. The lies become so great and entangled that you start to forget what’s real.

The issue isn’t you being a liar. The problem is that you don’t truly believe in what you’re doing.

If you know that you’ll be successful, then there’s no shame in the struggle that comes before it. If you trusted yourself to follow through with your goals, then you would never want to taint your story. If you have to lie about your product or services, then you’re overcompensating for all the corners you cut.

The moment you get real about yourself, your business, and your life is the moment you feel the burning desire to change the story.

If your current situation is embarrassing to talk about, then it’s time to buckle down and follow through with a fail-proof way to change your situation. Give people something to remember.

“Wow, I remember when she was evicted, had to sleep in her car and now she’s a 6 figure entrepreneur!” sounds much better than, “I don’t know, I think she’s always been doing this.”

Give yourself some credibility and be the person that people want to root for.

Follow-Through is Key

All of these strategies stop at one very important intersection: Give Up Street and Follow Through Avenue.

Making the commitment to change means genuine acceptance that there is a ton of hard work ahead of you. There’s no such thing as “not enough hours in the day.” You have all the time you need, it’s simply a matter of making it work.

Stop being a slave to the day and view the sunrise as an abundance of opportunity.

Here’s a quick recap, (let’s call it the highlights of this article):

  • Always have a plan. Be ready with possible solutions for your problems.
  • Think both long-term and short-term at the same time. Frankly, every short term goal is also a long term goal. Nothing happens in isolation.
  • Eliminate the chaos.
  • Work on one task at a time with the goal of permanently eliminating that task.
  • Be honest about your journey.

Psst, if following through is still a major problem, you might need the Done For You™ Starter Branding Kit. No excuses, because the hard part is done for you.

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About the author

Nia

NiaSweetz is the founder of SipBlack- the new digital destination for innovative souls to monetize their vision. She's a diversified entrepreneur with a soft spot for ambitious individuals who desire to create a lane of their own. With extensive experience in several industries, she's committed to creating a sustainable reality out of your passion.

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  • Stephy Southwell

    I won’t link my own blog post, since that’d be rude, yet I find it amusing that we both posted about “getting things done” today. Mine is less of a help-guide, but more of a reflection of unfinished projects and things.

    Hopefully after I eat lunch and wake-up a bit more I’ll thoroughly read this post. 😀

    • It’s August! I think everyone is feeling that end-of-the-year rush and trying to make sure they stay on track. I’m sure there’s a study somewhere that says August is the month people feel the most off-kilter (It is for me!). Thanks for coming by, Stephy. You should pin the article so you don’t forget to return.

      • Stephy Southwell

        Time to make a “get ‘er” done pin board, lol.

  • Love this. I will (try) to start using the tip for three things on my to do list. They may just have to be large tasks!

    Also, I love the recape at the end. I may just have to screenshot it. Thanks!