You arrive at work and write a ‘To Do’ list for the day ahead. It’s jammed with about 20 things that are all screaming for your attention but first you ease into the day with a coffee, a glance over Instagram and scan through a couple of your favourite websites. Next up, you start replying to the tidal wave of emails that comes your way. In fact, you never really stop replying to emails. All. Day. Long.
As the hours tick by you seem to be putting out everyone else’s fires. You’re marching to the beat of everyone else’s urgent deadlines. At the end of the day you’re spent and your To Do list has little to show for the 10 hours you’ve just put in. At best, you’ve probably ticked off four things, but most days your probably only get through two.
Urgent vs Important
Most things which are urgent are not important, and most things which are important are not urgent – Dwight Eisenhower
Most of us spend our days confusing what’s important with what’s urgent. In fact, even Julia Gillard recently said that the one thing she would have done differently during her time as Prime Minister is make more time for the ‘important’ not just the ‘urgent’.
So what’s the difference?
Urgent tasks are the ones that demand your immediate attention and are usually associated with achieving someone else’s goals. They’re the things we concentrate on and that demand our attention because the consequences of not dealing with them are immediate. For example, answering emails, preparing a presentation for the boss.
Important tasks are the ones that contribute to your long term goals. They can be personal or professional and require us to be self-starters.
So, what can you do?
Here are three little hacks that I practice every day, that will help you keep the difference between urgent vs important in perspective and become more productive:
- First things First. Go through your To Do list and and separate it into two columns. In one column place the things that are urgent and in the other write down the tasks that are important. When you start work each day, begin with the ‘important’ column. That way, you’ll ensure the big ticket items are completed before you even open you inbox and the urgent tasks start coming your way.
- Do less. Being busy seems to be a badge of honour, but recently I’ve been only putting a couple of things on my to do list for each day. Ask yourself, ‘Do I really need to be doing this.’ Your time is limited, so don’t just think about the things you have to do – also think about what you won’t do. What can you delegate? What really doesn’t matter?
- Build in buffers. Include blocks of meeting-free time in your day that allow you to refocus on what’s important and act like a buffer between urgent demands.
What are your productivity tips for getting more sh!t done?