Actions to take
- Write down all the tasks for the day.
- Highlight the important tasks for the day.
- Pick one important task that needs to be done at any cost.
- Start your day with that single most important task.
Every day, at work, you have a long list of things that need to be done. The most obvious differentiation to tasks is planned and unplanned or priority and urgency. While you might be putting in the effort to plan your days, you can never plan the unplanned. It can be a new work request with a tight deadline, a task in which a colleague needs help or the urge to work on a hobby project. Working on these requests drift you off from your focus state and you struggle to focus when you get back to the same task.
While helping others is good, if you are not managing it keeping your priority tasks in mind it can delay your work and decrease your productivity. Setting priorities and working on the most important thing might seem very obvious, but is not always an easy thing to do.
It is difficult to be mindful every day
Everyone goes through the motions each day, usually not being mindful about the importance of the tasks that need work on. There will be a few days in between where you understand that you need to prioritize. You start being more mindful of the work you do, you start being more organized and you are able to get more done. A few days pass by, things were going fine, but then you realize that you are back to struggling with prioritizing.
The human brain is not very good at keeping up with important stuff. The important and priority tasks are the ones which require more focus and most of the times these tasks are not so easy to do. Your brain protects you from uncertain, difficult tasks, and will most often love working on something that is much simpler. This is where you fall for distractions and urgencies. These responses are so natural that you don’t even think about it before switching your focus to something urgent or distracting.
Consciously put in effort
People are quite prone to distractions and when it comes to work, making mindful choices will not come naturally to you. You will have to consciously put in the effort to categorize tasks into important and urgent. Initially, you will have to remember that you need to be mindful about your tasks. Once you start doing that, slowly and slowly it will become a part of your work process.
You can be more mindful by just asking a few questions before starting a task.
- Is this task important or urgent?
- If it is urgent how quickly I need to get it done?
- Can I work on the urgent tasks after I make some progress on the important task?
Your goal here is to filter out your overwhelming list of todos. These questions are just a starting template, you can modify it based on your own requirements. Once you start asking these questions for every task you will be able to organize your time more effectively. When you have followed this template enough, it will become a habit and you will not have to think before asking these questions.
Day will be driven by urgency
More often than not your day will be driven by urgency and you will fall for procrastinating on your own important tasks. Procrastinating and not being able to finish things on time feels fine initially but they result is less satisfaction at work. This could even transfer to your personal life and increase the amount of stress.
Your mind is more comfortable in an environment where things are organized and planned. People enjoy working when they know what to expect and have a sense of awareness about the challenges that might arise. So planning and sticking to your schedule is really important. At times you will miss out on certain things from your schedule but make sure that you are not missing out on the important things.
Balance Priority and urgency
You should be ideally looking to work on a task that is urgent enough, and more particularly, is of importance to you.
A -> This is the ideal area for you when both priority and urgency is high.
D -> This is the next best situation where the priority is high, but urgency is low.
B -> This is where most people are stuck in, the task is urgent but might not be so important.
C -> This is the area you should try to avoid at any cost.
Make sure you are tackling your priority tasks before you jump on to other tasks. This will help you make sure that you are working on the most important tasks before doing a favor. By doing this you will not only be able to finish your tasks on time and stay productive but you will be able to help others more effectively. You will not have to worry about your pending tasks while working with someone on their tasks.
Get into a state of flow
The state of flow makes sure that you ride on the momentum that you have built by focusing on a task for a longer time.
Manage priorities based on when to focus on them. If you are not a calendar person try generally dividing your day instead of accurately dividing it into calendar slots. Have day slots
Set a daily goal that will help you be more focused and drive your work day around it. Read more about goals on the following post.
Start saying NO
To be highly productive at work you will have to filter between priority and urgent tasks and that means saying no at times. You need to set boundaries with your colleagues specially if you work in an open office setup. Don’t shy away from saying no, as it is one of the most important things you can do to start focusing on your priorities. You don’t have to say no to everything unexpected and unimportant, but you need to plan your day in such a way so that you can leave room for these tasks without compromising on your priorities.
- How to Prioritize Tasks and Do Only The Work That Matters – https://www.process.st/how-to-prioritize-tasks/
- Cognitive control in media multitaskers – http://www.pnas.org/content/106/37/15583
- Struggling With Productivity in the Workplace? 12 Tips to Get More Done – https://www.lifehack.org/799815/productivity-in-the-workplace