How do you find the right thing to do each day?
I sit at my desk, the to-do list before me. It is a good day, there are only ten things scheduled that need to be done. More importantly, there are only five additional things that are overdue. Okay, I can also see that tomorrow isn’t looking quite so good. There are 31 things that will compete for my attention when the sun rises. I feel overwhelmed. Things could get quite busy, quite quickly.
App and inspiration
I use Omnifocus to keep my projects and to-dos in order. I try, I honestly do, to keep on top of things. The to-do list in front of me isn’t going away. I have almost 50 things vying for my attention. So what do I do first?
I use a mixture of help from David Allen’s Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity and Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change in my decision.
There are some things on the list that can’t be done at this moment. That’s because I am at my desk. Some things on the list require me to be at the shops, or talking to someone else, or can only be done at a certain time. I can leave some things till later. This is what David Allen refers to as the context. Depending on the context we find ourselves, there are some things that can or can’t be done.
Urgent and important
That still leaves plenty on my list to get on with. So now I slip into the Important and Urgent grid. This is something I picked up from Stephen Covey. Everything we ‘can’ do falls into a grid, ranging from Important / Urgent things to Not important / Not urgent tasks. It is obvious that the Not urgent or Not important things shouldn’t be chosen… in fact, we should try to eliminate them from our (productive) lives. The good thing about this grid is that it highlights things that we think we should do, but actually should be left alone. These are the Urgent but Not important things. Quite often these are interruptions, but they can also be things that we think need to be done, but because they are not important we should leave them be. The idea is to try to get all our tasks into the Important / Not urgent box. This gives us time to complete the tasks and lets us focus on the things that really matter.
Unfortunately, I have let things slip and I find a couple of things in my urgent and important quadrant. So, what should I do? The answer is to choose the most important / most urgent thing. Here a little common sense and project management skill come into play. I have two tasks that both need to be done. However, one of them will help the other, albeit indirectly, so that one gets the nod.*
When it comes to completing something, you need to know what you are doing. This can be difficult for creative types, we tend not to think tasks, or actions, and can end up feeling overwhelmed with what needs to be done – yes, I end up that way far too often.
Try and set a goal for each day, a top task, something that you need to finish. The further ahead you can plan these tasks and goals the less you’ll find yourself in the ‘bad’ quadrants. Know what you are going to do every day. You don’t need to plan every moment of your life, what’s the fun in that! Just know what you’re going to try to achieve each day. If you can prepare the night before. Your subconscious won’t be fretting about what you are going to do, it will already know. It will actually be laying down ideas for what to do, while you’re lying down.
May you find yourselves happily living and working in the Zen Zone of Creativity, go forth and create.
- The task that got the nod, was to write this article. Now to clear the rest of that Important / Urgent quadrant.