We are all bombarded with demands on a daily, almost hourly, basis. Deciding how to prioritize and complete tasks can profoundly impact our productivity and our well-being. It is no surprise then that everyone is looking for better and faster ways to get things done.
- Visual Cues – Define your goals and keep them in sight, literally. As a student my walls were covered with post-it notes that defined my goals – the grades I was going to get and the jobs that I wanted. As a management consultant the medium changed from post-it notes to software and strategic plansbut the approach remained the same. As a parent, I need only look at my children to be reminded of my life goals and priorities. With my goals clearly in front of me, I can more easily prioritize and align taskswith goals.
- Emergent Prioritization – There are only two types of tasks that matter.There are only two task categories that I focus on. Those that are important and urgent; and those that are important but not urgent. Everything else is simply not a priority and does not get done. After all, if something is not important, why do it? This one realization is my basis for prioritization – as each new task emerges, I first decide if it is important and then, if it is urgent, it becomes an immediate priority.
- Just do it – The Nike approach really works. If a task is important and urgent, it really is about just doing it. We often waste time overanalyzing a task or putting it off because we don’t know how to tackle it. I have found that just diving in and starting to work on something is the best way to get it done. Once you have started, it is often easier and faster to complete the work than you thought. And if it really is a complex task, at least you have made some progress and can then decide whether to break it down into more manageable bits, to seek help or even to delegate.
- “Incrementalism”–The path to Zen like productivity. It is easy to prioritize the important and urgent tasks because there is usually an immediate deadline or consequence. But the truly Zen like people I know are those who think ahead to those important tasks that will come due in a week, a month or even six months. I find that working incrementally on those big important items allows me to do a little bit each day or each week to move that task to completion. And it leaves me less panicked when the inevitable deadline looms. Incrementalism applies equally well to the small, daily tasks that we do to keep our work and our lives moving smoothly. Doing these little things dailyeliminates unmanageable backlogs.
- Artificial Deadlines: Deciding when something is done. I have always tried to pretend that things are due sooner than they really are. This forces me to get things done in advance but still leaves me a few days of breathing room before the real deadline. I also find that many of us have a bad habit of spending too much time perfecting our work fordiminishing returns. To avoid this trap I try to estimate how many hours I want to spend on a task on a given day and then stick to it. So that when my self-imposed deadline arrives, that task is done – and generally it is good enough. The marginal value of working on perfecting that task is not worth the impact it has on the rest of your day and on the other things that you need to get done.
Kalindi Jog is the founder of write.think.do.She works independently and with anetwork of associatesto provide transformation planning and business writing services. Kalindi has over 13 years of management consulting experiencewith IBM Global Services, Deloitte Consulting and as an independent consultant. She has worked with clients in Canada, the United States and the Middle East in both the public and private sectors. Kalindi has a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) from the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto and a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering Physics from McMaster University. Kalindi is a Professional Engineer (P. Eng) and a Certified Management Consultant (CMC).