💡 Invincible Tip - Manage Your Tasks Using This Powerful Mental Shift (Issue #458)
It will transform your to-do list
Have you ever noticed that tasks seem to expand to fill the time you give them?
That phenomenon is referred to as Parkinson’s Law. It’s why you can spend an entire day on something and feel like, “Is that all I accomplished today?” It’s also why we’ll waste weeks procrastinating and worrying about a task that eventually ends up only taking a moment of our time to complete.
If you’ve ever worked an entry-level job, I’m sure you’ve noticed people who mess around and do everything they can to distract themselves and look busy until the end of an 8-hour shift. Heck, even with fancy professional jobs, we waste countless hours every week doing things that don’t really help us get the real work done. I bet you’ve sat in many meetings that felt like a complete waste of time.
Parkinson’s Law can also bleed over into the tasks on your to-do list. Couple that with a dash of perfectionism, and you have the perfect recipe for feeling overwhelmed and spending way too much time on things that don’t deserve that much of your energy.
So, I want to share a useful tip that has helped me make my to-do list more manageable:
Give tasks the time they deserve, not the time you think they’ll take to complete.
Sometimes you put this burden on yourself. You incorrectly estimate that some unpleasant and overwhelming task is going to take a ton of time to finish. Other times, someone else creates this time burden by telling you how much time you should spend on a task, even if you could complete it more quickly.
However, there are a couple of ways to more effectively control the time you spend on a task:
The Pomodoro technique
Timeboxing is a great way to move your to-do list items to your calendar and thus ensure you actually schedule the time required to get things done. I don’t know about you, but I often spend more time on a task than is required if I could just focus and crank to finish it.
For example, I could give myself a fuzzy to-do that states, “Clean the shed this weekend.” But if I do that, I’ll waste an entire weekend kind of cleaning the shed and let the task fill the entire time (which it does not deserve). However, if I timebox the task and block off “Clean the shed” from 1 to 3 PM on Saturday, I’m amazed at how much I can scramble and finish the entire task in those two hours.
The Pomodoro technique is a little different, and it works well for tasks that are ongoing or long-term in nature. At the core of it is using a timed work sprint (e.g., 25 minutes) and then taking a short break (e.g., 5 minutes). Then, you repeat the cycle until the work is complete. The timing of your sprints and breaks can vary depending on how you work best and what the task is.
For example, I could easily spend an entire day managing my social media to market my business. It’s an endlessly hungry beast. But it does not deserve that much of my valuable time.
Instead, I set a timer for 25 minutes and quickly post and engage on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc. Once the timer goes off, I stop. No matter how much I want to keep wasting more time on social media, I stop, take a quick break, and move on to the next task (e.g., read and reply to emails for 25 minutes).
Try this the next time you feel overwhelmed by a task or if you tend to waste time and spend too long working on something. Do not let the task dictate the time it steals from your life. Flip things around, and you decide how much time you’ll spend on that task instead.
You’ll probably be surprised by how much you’re able to accomplish when you ruthlessly force a task into a fixed amount of time!
Hi, I’m Larry Cornett, a Personal Coach who can work with you to optimize your career, life, or business. My mission is to help you take complete control of your work and life so you can become a more “Invincible You.” I currently live in Northern California near Lake Tahoe with my wife and our Great Dane.