Complete the small things in a few hours
Datum: 2023-05-22 10:00
If we prioritize consciously and deliberately we will get the most important tasks done — some well ahead of when they are due, and others just before deadline. But then there are all those small things that need to get done as well …
One could argue that they are important since were they to get done, they would contribute to the attainment of our goals, but the tasks themselves are rather vague and their deadlines are so ambiguous that they rarely or never qualify into what we perceive as ”urgent”. We might want to do them ”as soon as possible”, but there is no harm done if we wait just a little longer with getting around to doing them.
For you who prefer listening to reading, this post is also available as an episode of the “Done!” podcast:
The straw that broke the camel’s back
However, they are not so unimportant that we would consider removing them from our list entirely. We still want to do them. Soon. Just not right now, because we are currently dealing with something more urgent.
And there they are — they simply remain on the list, week after week. Our eyes pass them by when scanning the to-do-list for what to do next. In spite of choosing to complete other tasks, it irritates us that we somehow cannot seem to get going with these small tasks and finally be done with them. They most likely pile up over time too, and eventually they truly begin to bother us.
If we are prone to be harsh on ourselves, we might just tell ourselves to ”get a grip and just do them”. But before we resort to this strict approach, allow me to suggest that we take a slightly softer tone towards ourselves and opt for an easier way instead.
No point splitting them into pieces
If they would have been more extensive tasks, one strategy would have been to split them into smaller steps which would have been easier to complete, but considering that they are already small, we are better off approaching them with the second universally approved strategy for getting rid of procrastinated tasks: reserve time in the calendar for doing them.
Let us have a little time-out and take a whole morning of ”getting-things-done”, meaning, doing all the little things we keep being reminded of and that obscures our view and focus, ultimately distracting us from concentrating on other things on the to-do-list.
If you now, or at least very soon, want to rid yourself of the small but annoying tasks that you continuously postpone, then
- Skim through your to-do-list and mark the small, postponed tasks. Highlight them with a particular color, a tag, a symbol or something else that sets them apart from the rest.
- Search through your calendar for a morning when, if your assumption is accurate, things will be a little calmer. For me personally, this time occurs a few weeks from now. If it should turn out to be rather far into the future when you take a look at your schedule, so be it. It is more important to make this morning of getting things done happen at all, rather than being too ambitious which might result in us postponing the morning even further.
- When the designated morning arrives, choose to work on the tasks you have marked as ”small”, or if your to-do-list is digital, filter the list so that you only see the smallest tasks and complete as many as you can in the time you have set aside for this very purpose.
- If you should feel inspired by finally doing these annoying and postponed tasks but are not able to finish before the time is up, find a new morning in the calendar sometime soon when you continue this gratifying work.
Tick after tick after tick
If you reserve a morning for doing all the little tasks you never otherwise get around to, you will have a few gratifying hours of completing one procrastinated task after another, and as a bonus, you will get to tick lots of items off your to-do-list. You will feel lighter afterwards and the list will be slimmed down significantly. It will then become easier to see the tasks that are both important and urgent, since little yet numerous tasks that may be important, but not urgent are no longer cluttering the list. It will result in less frustration and you will be able to work more concentrated.
What method do you use?
How do you get all those small tasks done quickly? Do you have some good habit that supports you or a clever trick that you could share? Tell me!
(By the way, did you know that you can make it easier to tick things off?)
If you want more tips on how to create good structure at work, there are many ways to get that from me - in podcasts, videos, books, talks and other formats.