By Jenny Chalmers
Are you overwhelmed by your to-do list? How often do you spend time thinking about something you don’t really want to do? Not every task is equally important and it’s essential to distinguish between urgent and important tasks and those that make you feel busy so that you can concentrate on the ones that matter.
Think whether something has to be done right now or whether it could it be left for later. I am not advocating procrastination here – more the idea that some tasks are better done straightaway while others, if left, may disappear without trace.
There is a story about fitting as many big pebbles into a jar as you can; then adding gravel until the jar is full; then adding sand and finally, when it seems as if nothing else could fit in, adding water. Amazingly, at each stage, you think that there is no space for anything else, but there is. The parallel with doing tasks seems clear: do the big ones first and let the smaller ones fit in around the big ones.
Which is the big task?
Some time management systems suggest that the first task you should do is the scariest. There’s a lot of sense in this: you will expend so much mental energy thinking about it and how much you don’t want to do it and you are likely to find all sorts of unimportant things that suddenly need doing – displacement activities.
At some point you will have to do the awful task, in spite of all the energy you have used avoiding it. It is a good idea to do the dreaded task first and get it over with, because you will have accomplished the hardest thing in your day and everything else will be easier, so you will have a lot of time for these other things.
Other important tasks
As well as the number one task, it’s important to choose one or two other things that need to be done and to do these before you do anything else (these are the big pebbles in the jar).
Although looking at emails and keeping up with social media seem pleasant ways of spending time, they can be terrible time wasters. If you want to work more productively, it is probably a good idea to look at your emails first thing in the morning to identify anything urgent and then not look again until lunchtime or early afternoon. Allow yourself say 10 minutes to check social media. Resist the temptation just to have a quick look!
If your ‘big pebbles’ are large projects, it may help to spend an hour, say, on each. You will find that you are moving ahead on each one and may feel less overwhelmed by what you have to do.
The little tasks
Cross off things you know you don’t want to do (or won’t do). How liberating is this! However, take care not to cross off anything that really must be done. You could outsource some things (perhaps book-keeping, cleaning or gardening) to have time to do the things you are really good at.
Having routines may help you to plan tomorrow’s tasks so that everything is manageable. Remember not everything is important or justifies having time spent on it. Your time is finite: be sure to use it well.
Jenny Chalmers writes about various aspects of how to improve your life.
She is the founder of Never Ever Diet Again and believes that emotional issues often stop lasting weight loss. She uncovers these emotional issues and neutralises them so that weight loss is easier and permanent.
Jenny is a coach, speaker, author and mindset mentor as well as a qualified Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) and Matrix Reimprinting practitioner.