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20 Jun

Don’t just wing it, trust your to-do-list

Datum: 2017-06-20 19:36

When some­thing new you have to do lands on your desk, it can be tempt­ing to get start­ed with it right away, so that we have it done and off our to-do-list. If we have a lot to do, it feels great know­ing at least one thing is out of mind. If we do what was just hand­ed to us, vol­ley” it and get it done right away, we feel on top of our game.

A kind of double-trouble
But, doing so is a trap. I have caught myself spend­ing half a day doing tasks rebound-style, just doing what­ev­er gets hand­ed to me right away, and then smash­ing” or send back the fin­ished task as soon as pos­si­ble. Dur­ing those hours I felt like a champ respond­ing to emails super­fast or doing what­ev­er the emails con­tained immediately.

And after way too long, we final­ly remem­ber: we for­got all about our to-do-list! One look at it and we real­ize that it con­tained a num­ber of tasks we should have spent our time doing instead, which were more impor­tant and had a high­er pri­or­i­ty than all the emails we have been attend­ing to all day. The rest of the day will be any­thing but pleas­ant as we hur­ry to fin­ish all the tasks that need to get done, and to make it home at a decent hour.

Most recent is rarely most urgent
The most recent task we were giv­en could be the most impor­tant or urgent, but often it isn’t. In order to choose what to do next in such a way that we will not regret our choice lat­er, we need to set the new­ly arrived task in rela­tion to all the oth­er things we have to do, and pri­or­i­tize whilst con­sid­er­ing every­thing we have to do, not only what­ev­er is right in front of us. Even a task added to the list three weeks ago could be the most pri­or­i­tized today — more impor­tant and urgent than the email that just arrived in your inbox.

What­ev­er we do, we still get to tick some­thing off our list. And isn’t it just as great get­ting rid of a task that has been wait­ing to get done for a while, as some­thing that just got in?

Do this
If get­ting sucked into” doing the new and most recent­ly added tasks more than you should instead of doing what you actu­al­ly need to get done sounds famil­iar, then do this:

  1. For the next week, prac­tice han­dling incom­ing tasks in a more sys­tem­at­ic way; mean­ing, think twice before delv­ing into that lat­est email and ask your­self if it real­ly has the high­est pri­or­i­ty and needs to be processed imme­di­ate­ly (if it takes more than two min­utes). Do you actu­al­ly have oth­er tasks that are more impor­tant to get done right now?
  2. You can and should answer the short, under-2-minutes”-emails right away, but for the ones that take longer to deal with and which are not obvi­ous­ly pri­or­i­tized right now — for­mu­late to-do-tasks describ­ing what you need to do. You will also get through your inbox faster than if you would do all the tasks every mail entails as you read them.
  3. When you pri­or­i­tize, mean­ing choose what the right task to do right now is, do so by con­sult­ing the to-do-list instead of your email inbox.
  4. When the week is draw­ing to a close, look back and make an assess­ment if this made a dif­fer­ence for you. If it did, con­tin­ue with this approach. If you did not real­ly get a hang of it, think about what you can adjust or email me, and I will give you some feed­back to get you back on track.

You will enjoy it just as much
If you pri­or­i­tize using the com­plete col­lec­tion of every­thing you have to do that is your to-do-list, you will do things in the right order to a greater extent. You will have few­er unpleas­ant sur­pris­es from real­iz­ing that you should have spent the morn­ing doing some­thing com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent, and you get things done with greater foresight.

And, you still get to enjoy fin­ish­ing tasks since all tasks you com­plete (both new and old) means one less task on your to-do-list!

What is your way?
How do you ensure that you do not get stuck with doing the most recent tasks and emails? Your tip could help oth­er read­ers too — share it in a comment.