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What Does Your Task List Say About You

What Does Your Task List Say About You

Hello there! I am your task list. I am one of the biggest contributors to your overall productivity, and I have something to tell you. Now hear my voice!

1. But I don’t have a task list!

Do you actually like being reactive and constantly in fire-fighter mode? Not having a task list probably causes you to have problems seeing the big picture and setting priorities in your life. When was the last time when you felt truly proud of your accomplishments?

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2. But I have problems accessing it!

Think about any moment of the day. Home. Work. Shopping. How long does it take you to access your task list? Does it take five seconds, or maybe a minute or two? “I need to go upstairs, open my laptop, log in, open a browser, log into this great portal and then I have it”. Face it, you are rarely using it, and you don’t really believe it is helping you. It helps you to avoid forgetting things, but it has never actually made you productive.

3. But there isn’t any fun!

Scan through your list of tasks. Be honest: are you experiencing any positive emotions? Do you feel any excitement about any of these? If not, let’s face it–you are just living a boring life. Your face is probably sad for most of the day, and you probably read a lot about this “procrastination” stuff. Think of ways you could add some fun to your tasks, and you will immediately notice the difference!

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4. But I do not know what to do!

Look at every task on your list. If you were supposed to complete any of these tasks right now, would you know exactly what to do? If not, it means you are too quick. You can catch a glimpse of an idea, but you never get down to structure, and thus, the tasks lack clarity and precision. They are just floating on the surface. If you just slowed down a little bit and worked on details, your tasks would call for an action. Otherwise, your list just becomes a home for old tasks.

5. But there are so many old tasks!

Now think about the moment when you added each of the tasks to the list. What is the average age of each task? If it is weeks or months rather than days, you are probably a great planner, but you’re not being realistic. Your favorite word may be “tomorrow” or “later”. The thing you desperately need is to be clear and precise, to add more fun or to simply SIT DOWN AND DO IT RIGHT NOW!

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6. But I don’t know what is most important!

Open your task list and explain to others what the difference between “urgent” and “important” is? If you can’t, you probably have never sat down and established priorities in your life and in your work. When picking the next task to execute, you simply take the most urgent first. The truth is, without priorities you can be good, but you will never be great.

7. But I don’t have any “Done” category!

When you finish your task, it immediately disappears from the list. You probably like to run fast, but you do not stop or slow down to do any kind of retrospection on the last week, month or year. Are you sometimes doing the same mistakes over and over again? What if you spent just five minutes going over the list of tasks you accomplished last week and delete them just after? This is a great way to be proud of yourself and actually learn something.

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8. But I do not track delegated tasks!

Do you simply delete tasks that were delegated to others? Then you are probably a “not my problem” type of person and people rarely trust your accountability. Or maybe you keep track of the tasks forever and ask about updates every day. Now you know why people are so annoyed with you. Ideally, you should keep track of the delegated tasks and react only when necessary.

Now spend one more minute looking at your task list, is there anything more that it is trying to tell you?

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Piotr Nabielec

Author, CEO, Consultant

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Last Updated on July 13, 2020

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed and exhausted.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm; leaving you calmer, in control and a lot less stressed.

1. Write Everything down to Offload Your Mind

The first thing you can do when you begin to feel overwhelmed is to write everything down that is on your mind.

Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s on your mind.

For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind”.

The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will begin the process of removing your feeling of overwhelm. Writing things down can really change your life.

2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos

Once you have ‘emptied your head,’ go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.

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As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.

Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. Here’s How to Cultivate a More Meaningful To Do List.

3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law

Now here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and us humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take:((Odhable: Genesis of Parkinson’s Law))

    This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad but they stick to the belief it will only take thirty minutes. It’s more wishful thinking than good judgment.

    We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage. If you have estimated that to write five emails that desperately need a reply to be ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.

    Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is you put yourself under a little time pressure and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.

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    When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time and so it plays tricks on us and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our colleagues to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.

    Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening and we get more focused and more work done.

    4. Use the Power of Your Calendar

    Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos. Go through your to-dos and schedule time on your calendar for doing those tasks. Group tasks up into similar tasks.

    For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.

    Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.

    5. Make Decisions

    For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.

    If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.

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    If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss, a colleague and get advice.

    Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. You need to make a decision to deal with it and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved. (You can take a look at this guide on How To Make Good Decisions All The Time.)

    I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend of mine of the problem. He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I paid a smaller amount for a couple of months.

    This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:

    The first, don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second, there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.

    6. Take Some Form of Action

    Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we feel overwhelmed (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.

    The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.

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    It also means rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible and you can make decisions easier about what to do about them. Often it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be you see you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.

    Overwhelm is not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work, it can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.

    The Bottom Line

    Make a decision, even if it is to just talk to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something on its own will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution one way or another.

    When you follow these strategies to can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.

    More Tips for Reducing Work Stress

    Featured photo credit: Andrei Lazarev via unsplash.com

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