Most people, when they think about productivity think about this last part, “processing you tasks” or just getting things done.
Yet if you don’t do the previous steps effectively, this step is much more difficult to accomplish.
When it works, however, you fall into a zone, almost hypnotic in nature. Some people call it flow and there are a number of books about it…but that’s a topic for another blog post. What’s important is setting yourself up so you have everything you need in order to get your tasks done and have that chance to get into that flow state. That’s what we’re talking about today.
When executing tasks, it is important to keep in mind that while you may have prioritized your tasks from most to least important, you may not have the energy in order to accomplish the task. If your highest priority is making 10 phone calls to people but you can barely keep your eyes open, then maybe the first thing you should do is take a nap and then make those phone calls. If taking a nap is not possible, then take a brisk walk, get the blood flowing, and then come back and tackle those phone calls. Do something that will help increase your energy level so so can take care of that most important task.
However, if it’s the end of the day and you still have 20 items on your list that you need to take care of, don’t.
It’s not going to happen, unless those items are smaller, trivial things like ‘brush teeth’ or some other more ritual-like things you would be doing to prepare for bed. Just recognize you are not going to get everything done and as you prepare for tomorrow, decide if these items need to carry over to the next day or of they are not important enough to do. If they are not, remove them from the list. Do a little mental dance for discovering that and then move on.
One thing people don’t realize is that they are in control. So you have some items on your list that didn’t get done. If they are important, schedule when you will do them and move on. If they are not, then delete them. If you are not sure, put them into a backlog of other tasks that you will get to if you feel like it, but which are not necessary.
The step most people miss
Most people are usually ready to go at this point. However, if you were to take just a few minutes and go through this next step, you would find you don’t have to repeatly go back and execute on tasks and won’t forget essential items.
Every task has the following aspects, even if the task is a minor one. Let’s look at them here.
- A brief description of the task to be accomplished.
- Any details needed in order to accomplish the task
These details include the following:
- People who can help or who need to be kept informed of the status of the task
- Resources for accomplishing the task
- Where the task needs to be delivered when complete (if it has a deliverable)
- Due date and who it goes to (if either apply)
- Where the task can be performed
Using these criteria, let’s look at something most people have to do: shop for groceries. We would then fill out the template as follows:
Description: Grocery shopping
- Buy the following items:
- Bring cash or debit card to pay for it
- Bring reusable grocery bag
Due date: Before Friday (Milk will be gone by then) Where: Local grocery store (Stop-n-shop down the road)
Usually we don’t consider all these details when going shopping at the store. We usually just do it unconsciously. However, when we stop to look at what it takes to get groceries at the store, it also helps us put into place a framework we can use when trying to accomplish other tasks as well. Breaking it down then helps you gain clarity on where you need to go, who you need to talk to, and what you need in order to accomplish the task as well as any details you may forget should you be in a rush. It’s easier to look at your plan, check to see if you have everything you need to accomplish the task, and then go to where you need to in order to execute on the task itself.
The image is ‘Hypnotic’ by 16:9clue. You can find it on flickr