We all have tasks that we have to do on a regular basis, for example every week, the last working day of each month, or every other Tuesday.
Some of my recurring tasks are to fill out the milage allowance form (each month), write a structure tip (every week), clean out one of my hanging file folders (every Monday) and submit guest-blog posts (the first week of every month).
Schedule the time you will need
One way to avoid having to remember that we are to do this task on next Tuesday as well, is to schedule a recurring meeting in the calendar and decide that ”this is the hour we will do it.” A somewhat more flexible alternative is to create a recurring task in our digital to-do-list-tool so that the task pops up whenever it is time to do it again. We complete the task, check it off the list and let it go mentally, feeling safe and certain that it will reappear automatically next time.
Less set-up time and fewer starts gives us more time
But if we want to, we can make working on these tasks even more efficient and pleasant for ourselves if we do more than one part of the task when we are at it anyway. Every time we have to do a recurring task, it takes a certain amount of time before we are up and running, and then we need time to put material or information aside that we have used while working with the task. So, set-up time is required both before and after the execution of the task.
If we complete more parts or versions of the task before us at the same time, we will need less set-up time. What we lose is flexibility since more time than normally is devoted to a single task that day, and we hence we have less time for other things at that moment. On the other hand, we do not need to complete the recurring task as often.
- Consider what recurring tasks of this character you have got and which could be donein advance.
- Choose one of them and decide to do two instead of one of the next time you work with it. If you want to make sure that you have got time to do both at this occasion; reserve extra time in the calendar the day during which you do the task.
- After you have completed the task and its duplicate, create a task due the day you were originally supposed to do what you have done extra now, and phrase the task something like ” Today you were supposed to have done X, but now you do not have to since it is already done.”. Just imagine how great you will feel to check that task off your list.
- If you want to, you can take a minute the next time you complete some other recurring task and think about if there is something that you will do the next time you complete the task which you could do right now instead. For example, my travel schedule is always set for the next month ahead, which means that I can fill out next month’s milage allowance form now. Even if you can not complete the task completely now, most of it will be done and you will not have to do it all later.
What is done today need not be done tomorrow
If you merge or bundle up multiple parts of the same repetitive and recurring task and thus do several instances of it at the same time, you spend less time in total on the task than you otherwise would. You will also enjoy being ahead of schedule, which gives you more time to take care of urgent tasks on the day when you were originally supposed have done the recurring task next time.
Since you are not doing it last-minute, you will probably be able to perform the task with higher quality, which saves you the trouble of correcting errors that easily occur when we are stressed. Besides, it is such a nice feeling to already have completed the task that is supposed to be finished now long before it was due.
How do you do this?
How do you ensure that you need to make as little effort as possible when it comes to your recurring tasks? Do you have a method or a tool you want to share with me?
(Some recurring tasks you can get rid of entirely. I wrote a short piece about how to more easily delegate tasks some time ago.)
By the way, if you want more tips on how to create good structure at work — here are many ways to get just that.