I’ve been an avid enthusiast (not to say follower) of GTD and productivity blogs in general. (This one has long been chief on that list; keep up the good material without diluting it.) Currently I just started a new role at work where I have a bit more responsibility.To keep track, I’ve been using tasks–via Outlook 2007 and Remember the Milk. Both are great ways to quickly catalog things to be done.
However, the other side of my job is that I can get “interrupted” with urgent things that legitimately take precedence over my (usually) non-urgent tasks. So days can go by without me getting any tasks completed. This feels pretty crummy.
What do I do with that? Any mentality tips you can offer to help me go home at night feeling a little more satisfied with my progress?
I would suggest that you divide your todo list into two types of tasks each day. One group of tasks are the ones that you home to accomplish for the day. The other group is much shorter and contains the three things that you are committing to get done for that day. These three tasks shouldn’t be a full 8 hours of work. In fact they may only take 1 or 2 hours of uninterrupted focus to complete.
The idea is to give yourself a certain number of things that you are promising yourself to complete that represent the most important things you need to accomplish for the day. If possible arrange your day so you can work on these items first. That might starting work a bit earlier, or simply closing your office door from 8 to 10. You also might consider doing these tasks before answering emails or checking voicemail.
Personally I am on a constant mission to do less. I don’t think I’m made to handle 20 or 30 tasks in a day. Even if I have a bunch of stuff to do, I’d rather give myself 2 or 3 tasks that will have the biggest impact and focus on whether or not I get those items done. With the other stuff I look for ways to delegate, automate, do less frequently, or stop doing all together. I’m not saying you can get rid of all the other tasks, but by clearly defining what is most important you can end your day knowing that you did the vital stuff–even if you were interrupted for the rest of the day.
One of the problems with GTD (in my opinion) is that it encourages people to try to do more. The people I know who are most effective are usually the ones that are only doing a few things. They have figured out where they add the most value and concentrate on that.
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