The primary challenge in keeping long lists of tasks is that, on paper, they all seem to have the same importance. The first task on your list needs you to do something to mark it complete and remove it. The second task also makes the same demand on you as the first, as do all of the other tasks on your never-ending list of things you need to do, want to do, and have to do—even if you don’t want to.
The reality is that some tasks, no matter whether you want to do them, need to do them, or have to do them are not equal in their importance—and can be even more disparate when it comes to their impact. Being productive isn’t a matter of completing tasks and being busy. Productivity, or time management, requires that you make values-based decisions.
Productivity is About Values
One way to improve your work and your productivity is to evaluate what you are doing by the impact that it will have over time. The more value over a longer period is a good indication that some task is more valuable than some other work. A longer term view allows for better decisions.
Yesterday I cleared my email inboxes, taking them all down to Inbox Zero, something I do twice a week. At the time of this writing, I have 56 emails in those same inboxes. No doubt, many of the emails in my inboxes are going to include a task I need to complete, and answering email itself is a task. It just isn’t the most important task, and over the long term, almost nothing in my email is going to produce a long-term impact.
One of the tasks on my task list is to create a workflow for one of my projects. Once I establish this workflow, this project will be significantly improved, and it will serve the people in the workflow and me far into the future. That makes this task more important than many others because of its long-term impact.
This is More Important Than That
You have to decide what you do with your time, and one way to determine what to do is to discriminate based on the value of the task or project or activity over a more extended period.
When you start ranking things by their real importance and impact, almost everything on your task list reveals its real value. This doesn’t mean that you don’t have to do what you want to do, need to do, or have to do, just that you need first to make time to do your most important, most impactful work.
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