If there is one single thing I could recommend that would help you produce better results faster, it would be this: eliminate the cognitive burden of thinking about the work you need to do.
I am writing this immediately after reviewing all my tasks in my task manager, Omnifocus. Right now, I have 160 active tasks. That sounds like a lot, but it isn’t. Many of those tasks are there because I am going to get to them someday soon, but they don’t need my attention right now. Some of them are placeholders for projects, and those are going to take time to complete, and they will have many more tasks attached them when I move on them.
This picture is my task manager. I have 14 tasks still to do today, some of them will take minutes, a few take more time. What these tasks have in common is that I am going to do them today, many of them were scheduled last weekend, and none of them were put here today. And that is one of the major keys to massive productivity, knowing what you are going to do before your day starts, or in my case, before the week starts.
Deciding what to do is not really work. It is the work you should do before you can actually do your real work. Separating the cognitive work, the thinking about the work you need to do, prioritizing it, and deciding when you are going to do it, eliminates spending more time than is necessary when you start your work day. Instead of having to look through all your tasks, rewriting your to-do list, or going straight to your email inbox, you get to work doing what is important.
When you have done the work of deciding what work needs to be done and have scheduled it, you can move from one task to the next, without having to stop to figure out what to do next, and without being distracted. That doesn’t mean that you can’t leave space. You can leave space in your day, and you should. You are not a robot. But neither do you have all the time in the world, and if you ever wished you had a 28-hour day, this is the closest you’re going to come to expanding the hours in your day.
About those 160 tasks . . . you have as many or more than I do. If you don’t know you have that many tasks, you just aren’t keeping a running a list in one place. If that is true, not only are many out of sight and out of mind, you are likely worrying about what you have forgotten.
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Do good work this week, and I’ll see you back here next week!
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