How to Get Things Done

During the shutdown, people are losing their jobs, some have been cut back, and others are in limbo—still being paid but doing very little. Except for medical professionals, delivery drivers and other essential workers, most people are finding a lot of free time on their hands. But that doesn’t mean we keep watching Tiger King episodes (as weirdly fascinating as that series was).

This is the time to sit down, reflect on your goals beyond this shutdown and tweak your schedule so you can achieve those goals. To that end, here’s a few suggestions and resources to consider:

1. Decide what you really want to accomplish with your life. What’s the big picture goal that you’ve always dreamed about but never had time to start? Maybe this is your moment to take the first steps toward achieving that dream. My suggestion is to write it down. What are the top three things you want to finish before you die? Everything else you do in life trickles down from knowing those big targets.

2. Stop being busy. Before the virus, if you asked most people how they were, they’d reply “Busy.” But “busy” doesn’t mean productive and it certainly doesn’t mean successful. Most people were busy because they refused to stop and identify their priorities. As a result, they spent most of the day responding to other people’s priorities.

3. Restructure your typical day. Mason Currey’s wonderful book Daily Rituals: How Great Minds Make Time, Find Inspiration, and Get to Work reveals how more than 200 brilliant artists, writers and thinkers structured their daily routine. It completely changed the way I look at scheduling my day based on my energy levels, creativity and focus.

4. Understand the power of flow. You’ll never accomplish anything if you only work in two- to five-minute spurts. Answering email, checking text messages and updating your social media isn’t the way to accomplish big goals. Use your calendar to schedule blocks of time to concentrate without interruption on one big thing. I suggest you start with 90-minute blocks, because less than that makes it difficult to build a habit, and intense work needs roughly 90-minute breaks.

Start with those suggestions, and I strongly recommend these books to help. Make these resources your “quarantine library”:

1. Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every day
2. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
3. One Big Thing: Discovering What You Were Born to Do
4. The Morning Mind: Use Your Brain to Master Your Day and Supercharge Your Life
5. Unique: The Ultimate Planner for Creative Professionals (created by me)
6. The Answer to How is Yes: Acting on What Matters
7. It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be
8. 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done

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This article originally appeared on and is reposted here by permission.

Phil Cooke
Phil Cooke

Phil Cooke is a filmmaker, media consultant and founder of Cooke Media Group in Los Angeles, California. His latest book is Ideas on a Deadline: How to Be Creative When the Clock is Ticking. Find out more at