How to get work done? Avoid unnecessary tasks.(Read article summary)
Urgent tasks can pop up and take attention away from the genuinely important things, Hamm writes. There are a few ways to avoid the needless distractions.
Having a checklist of things to do each day really keeps me organized and focused on my goals, but it doesnâ€™t solve all my problems. Constantly throughout the day, little things come up that take me away from those important tasks.
Iâ€™ll get a phone call or an email about something that seems urgent, so I end up having to pull up notes on something I didnâ€™t expect and dig into a conversation about it.
Iâ€™ll feel absolutely out of focus and perhaps even a bit tired, so Iâ€™ll spend some time playing a game ofÂ League of LegendsÂ or something similar.
Iâ€™ll go down to the family room with my wife in the evening and get distracted by a television show instead of working on whatever I had planned to finish up.
Iâ€™ll go out to lunch with a friend and then convince myself to run a relatively unimportant errand after lunch, even though it eats up that narrow band of child-free time I have to get other things done.Â
Over and over again,Â urgent tasks pop up and take my attention away from the genuinely important things I need to do, leaving me with a hard choice later in the day between two or three important things that need attention.
For me, a few things help me avoid this.
First,Â I simply turn off most communication devices when I need to work.Â My cell phone goes off. I leave my personal Skype number on because thatâ€™s the contact number for my childrenâ€™s school, but itâ€™s only a number used for emergency purposes. I shut down my email program.
Basically, I save all of this communication for one big batch once Iâ€™ve completed some of the genuinely important things. I usually go through email twice a day at most â€“ once a day on many days. If I let it constantly interrupt and distract me, I end up bleeding a ton of time throughout the day. The same is true for phone calls and texts to my phone â€“ they just serve to interrupt.
Second,Â I keep an â€śerrand listâ€ť for when I go into the nearest large town.Â Once a week, Iâ€™ll go on an â€śerrand runâ€ť and take care of all of those errands at once. Otherwise, I simply avoid doing any errands. If I have to go out for a specific purpose and I donâ€™t have time for a full errand run, I donâ€™t do any of them and make the specific task go as fast as I can.
I usually keep this list of errands on my phone in a note. When I do decide to go out for errands, it turns into a long period that usually involves a library stop, a grocery stop, and usually a few other stops, and it gobbles a lot of hours, but it keeps those errands from interrupting me at other times.
Third,Â I donâ€™t go into the family room if I need to get things done.Â I just simply donâ€™t go in there because there are too many distractions between the electronic devices and the television. In fact, I basically only go in there about once or twice a week, and then itâ€™s specifically so that Sarah and I can watch a program weâ€™ve been planning on watching or itâ€™s for a family movie night.
If you have a location that just distracts you, only go in there when youâ€™re completely fine with being distracted from things.
Fourth,Â if Iâ€™m tired, I focus solely on resting.Â If I do important things when Iâ€™m tired or heavily distracted (which is usually a subtle symptom of being tired), I know that I donâ€™t do them very well. I might do low-focus tasks when Iâ€™m tired (like loading the dishwasher or something), but if Iâ€™m tired and Iâ€™m just facing genuinely important things, I will go meditate or get some exercise or take a nap.
If I force myself to work when Iâ€™m tired, my work output is terrible. I make very slow progress and often that progress is of low quality. Simply put, Iâ€™m wasting my time when I make myself do it. Iâ€™m much better off simply using my time of sharpest focus for the important things and offloading less important and less focus-oriented things to times when Iâ€™m tired.
Finally,Â if I feel like a regular responsibility is eating up too much of my time, I admit it to myself and look for alternatives.Â Iâ€™m on multiple community committees and have several different offices and responsibilities. At various times, I have felt overwhelmed by them and Iâ€™ve felt that theyâ€™re getting in the way of other things that are more important in my life.
When thatâ€™s happened, Iâ€™ve openly admitted it. Iâ€™ve told others that I am actively looking to step down and I seek out a replacement.Â I would rather do a few things well than many things poorly.Â It takes guts to say that you want out of a worthwhile organization or responsibility, but when youâ€™re making choices wheresomethingÂ of importance is going to lose out, you need to be willing to step away.
I try as hard as I can to avoid unnecessary or unimportant tasks, even if they seem really urgent. This leaves time for the things I consider very important â€“ my family, the core hobbies Iâ€™m most passionate about, my close friends, my core work, and so on.
The postÂ Letting Unnecessary Tasks Get in the Way of Your GoalÂ appeared first onÂ The Simple Dollar.