We all know there are things we must do, but somehow we cannot seem to get them done. From my personal experience, here is what happens to some (not all or most) things I want to do:
- Starting Trouble: Although the task keeps preying on my mind, I just keep postponing the task until the very last moment. This mostly applies to unpleasant or time-consuming tasks. Example: preparing tax returns.
- Not Maintaining Momentum: If it is a repetitive task, I fail to continue it effectively. This is for tasks that are usually fun, but require a constant time allocation which can be difficult to do with pressure from other tasks at work, home or school. Example: going to the gym.
- Not Knowing When to End: Sometimes I keep putting finishing touches on a task for too long. Usually, these are tasks that I like, but doing this wastes a lot of time that I could spend on other things. Also the particular task never gets completed. Example: hobby programming projects.
Here are some tactics I try to use to overcome these.
- Maintain the items on a To-Do list with reminder alerts: This keeps me aware of upcoming deadlines. It also helps me prioritize the items so that I don’t start on something silly when a serious item is pending.
- Block free time on my calendar: This period will not be allocated for any task or meeting for anyone else. I use this time to catch up on pending items. I find that clearing time in the evenings is much better because there are less phone or email interruptions.
- Multi-task during unproductive times: Previously, watching TV and driving used to be very unproductive times. Nowadays, I manage to use driving time to make calls and listen to books, freeing up other time. I use the TV time to pay bills, throw out junk mail and browse the Internet – yes, I still manage to follow the plot 🙂
- Just do something to start the task: I “inaugurate” an unpleasant task by doing something related to the task. This can be jotting down notes or getting the necessary papers together. For me, this makes the clock start ticking and drives me to complete the task.
- Use scorecards: Before December, I found it difficult to blog regularly and totally fell off blogging for long periods. When I restarted earnestly in December, I decided to use Google Analytics and FeedBurner statistics to encourage me. It really worked and I want to thank everyone who is reading this for helping me stay on. I have found that using scorecards (metrics) in other situations (like software projects) also encourages one to meet the necessary goals.
- Plan for the next task: This is an easy way to close out one task because the looming start of the next task or project will force an early end to the current task. In fact, the more tasks one has, the faster each one ends because one is looking to make things work, not make them perfect (which can be an illusion sometimes).