Here is a practice that is very simple, but very powerful.
Whenever you have a new project (either created/identified by you or assigned to you), one of the first things you should do is define the deliverables for the project.
The deliverables on a project are the specific work products that you have to produce in order to complete the project.
For example, if the project is to create a new policy on this or that, the deliverables might be (1) collected research of the various policy options and then (2) a completed policy document. If the project is to set up a new room in your house, the deliverables might be (1) furniture (2) stuff for the walls and (3) a room that is arranged and put together.
Defining the deliverables is really just a component of asking “what’s the intended outcome?” It helps to clarify what the project means and, therefore, how to complete it.
Now, here’s the most important thing about this: Defining the deliverables directs your attention to outcomes rather than activities.
Activities are not necessarily productive. Many of the activities we do are not necessary. When you think about your projects, if you think first in terms of “doing activities” to get them done, your mind will probably create a lot of unnecessary work. This is only natural — if you think that doing a project means doing activities, that’s where your focus will go and your mind will have no shortage of ideas.
On the other hand, if you think first of deliverables, your mind is directed right away to outcomes instead. This will immediately filter out a whole bunch of activities and cause you to identify and focus in on only the activities that are actually essential to the project.
This will save you time and provide you with better results.