Handling the never-ending task list

Handling the never-ending task list


There’s always so much to do. I wonder if this is a sign of contemporary work life or if it has always been the case. I suspect it’s a new age thing. There are more books on productivity now than there have ever been before. Deluge of technology at work and home somehow con us into thinking of ourselves as supermen and superwomen capable of doing everything. The reality is we simply can’t – even with the best of smart devices, we will not be able to do all that we think we can.

As business owners and administrators, we often find ourselves with a never-ending task list. I tend open a ‘note’ on Evernote and write lists under several buckets – operations, finance, sales, marketing, HR and so on. I tend to name this note amusingly as “Stuff in my head.” When I look back at my notes and lists over time, I find that I’ve done some and I’ve ignored some. I’ve been able to solve some problems and I painfully continue to leave some open. I find that some tasks become irrelevant. What works for me is the following – to clearly know what’s important to me and the business at this point in time. To rephrase, I ask myself the question: knowing everything I know, what is the most important thing I must do today. And I get around simply doing it. The task list becomes simply a channel to brainstorm and identify everything that needs thoughts and decisions. While at the task at hand, I have the itch to do other tasks to escape from the longer, important one but I ignore that craving. I remind myself that nothing else might matter if this is not addressed – because it’s important to me today.

But the small, seemingly unimportant items do add up. I tend to spread these out and complete them when I need a distraction or a change or a pause. However, when I give these tasks attention and focus, somehow they become interesting too. So may be it’s all in my mind.

The biggest thing I’ve learnt while completing anything to my satisfaction has been to do only one thing at a time. Not multi-tasking but single-tasking. It causes less stress because I’m not really worried about getting to the next task or handling 2-3 things at a time. Somehow the quality of my work improves because it gets the attention it deserves. I don’t worry about time – sometimes I give myself less time but I don’t particularly clock time around a task. I simply do it until it feels complete.

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