Last week we talked about shifting your thinking. It’s one of the steps I think is most important and also the hardest. This week we are going to look at something a little more tangible, task management.
I realized that it was taking me too long to put away laundry because my kid’s clothes are often inside out. I was spending too much time turning everything right side out. So I stopped. My daughter recently wore a pair of pants wrong side out because that’s how they came out of the drawer. I’m not taking the time to fix that and apparently, my kids don’t care! And next time they’ll be correct because they turned right side out again when she took them off! It seems to only bother the adults when kids wear something wrong-side out or backward. Let’s let it go!
I’m sharing this story because your task list is long. And it could likely be shorter. But you’ve said yes to too many things. And you’re doing too much.
Do you know where your time goes? Not just guessing, but truly knowing?
Do you have a sense of all your tasks? Including activities, commitments, and upcoming projects?
Do you spend your days with tasks running through your head?
And have you ever timed your tasks so that you know how long a recurring task takes?
Track your time
Even if you think you know where your time goes, it’s helpful to track your time. Over the course of a week, document each task, in 30-minute increments. This doesn’t mean that you sit down at the end of the day and write down what you think you did. You stop what you’re doing every 30 minutes and write it down. Use these resources to help with this.
Then go back and review your week. How much time was spent on social media? What time was wasted on activities that were unnecessary? How much time are you spending on work tasks? Were there any surprises or did it make sense to you?
Use this information to change your future scheduling. Identify what’s working and what’s not.
Complete a Brain Dump
Your brain was designed to have ideas, not hold them. Take 10 minutes and write down everything that’s on your mind. All the tasks, big or small.
Use a piece of paper. Use a Google doc. Try a task manager. Make it easy.
Then, gather all your flagged emails. All your post-its. All your other lists.
And in front of you is likely something overwhelming. It’s everything you’ve committed to.
Take a breath. We’re going to work through this.
Often, the act of getting these thoughts out of your head and documented in front of you helps you prioritize what’s next. You can see what you can delete or delegate. And you can see what needs to be done today or this week.
One of the best things to do here is to make sure all your projects are broken down into the smallest next step. It’s easier to take the next step than look at a task that says monthly report. What does that mean? But when it says call Tom in sales for June’s numbers your brain knows what to do next.
This topic is bigger than what I’m going to get into here. Start with the brain dump and initial triage. Then write out each step of a project, no matter how small.
Time Your Tasks
This is a great idea for all of your recurring tasks. Laundry, meal planning, monthly reports. Anything you do on a regular basis.
Time them. Don’t guess. Humans are terrible at estimating their time.
Once you know (roughly) how long they take, you can schedule them.