It is very easy to get sucked into a never ending cycle of unimportant busy-work tasks that make you feel exhausted and leave you with a feeling of overwhelm and dissatisfaction. This can be more so if you use a task management system where you have a lot of busy-work tasks to complete each day and very few important tasks.
Because our brains like the dopamine hit we get every time we check a task off our todo lists, we add more and more tasks to this list without much thought. Very quickly we find ourselves with thirty or forty tasks on our list, ninety percent of which are non-important tasks such as “clean out the paper coffee cups from the car” or “check to see if my toothbrush needs replacing”. These tasks do not need to be on your todo list. The trigger for these tasks is when you try to get in your car and find you cannot because of the mountain of empty Starbucks coffee cups, or when you brush your teeth and find the bristles on your brush are standing like they’ve been out on a night of copious beer drinking.
I do use my todo list manager as a reminder of the tasks that, while not important, do need doing. But I do not put any pressure on myself to get them done every single day. As an example, I have a task “update FES admin sheets”. This task comes up every day and means I should update the income report and class cancellations sheet. It’s a five minute job if done every day, it’s an hour of work if done weekly. However, some days I have other, much more important tasks to do, so I simply push off the admin work to the next day. While this task is important, from an administration point of view, it is not important from a personal growth and life goals perspective. Those tasks always take priority.
What you need to do is make sure you are focused on the important tasks. The tasks that really drive you forward, moves you closer towards completing an important project or take you closer towards your long-term goals. These are the tasks you need to be focused on. You should be looking at your routine non-essential tasks as tasks you do only if you have time to do them.
Real Life Example
Last Friday, I scheduled the recording and editing of my new course, Time and Life Mastery. This was my only focus for the day. I still had all my, busy-work, recurring routine tasks to do, but these were secondary to the recording and editing of the course. I was in the studio at 8:00am and did not finish recording until 3pm. Once the recording was finished, I returned home, took a little rest for an hour or so and then began the editing. I never once looked at my todo list manager during that time, because the single, most important task for the day was the recording and editing of the course. It was only when I was half-way through editing the videos did I finally open up my todo list manager to check if there were any tasks that needed to be done. There were a couple of emails that needed sending, so I did those and returned to my editing. I finished the editing around 11pm and only then did I look at my routine tasks for the day. I spent thirty minutes doing what I could and pushed off the rest. In all, I managed to complete around ten of my routine tasks and pushed off another ten.
By the time I shut off everything for the day, I felt incredibly fulfilled. I had managed to do the most important task for the day — the recording and editing of the course — and had completed some of my regular, routine tasks. Of course I could have completed twenty or so routine tasks and only done around fifty percent of the editing. But had I done that, I would have felt disappointed, having spent a large portion of the evening completing busy-work tasks and not the important, life improving tasks.
And this is where you need to be looking. Of course you might feel you are getting a lot done if you spend all day doing your routine tasks, but the truth is you are not doing very much to move forward in your career or your life. You need to be spending your time on the big things, the things that will improve your life and help you to achieve your goals. Schedule days where all you do is focus on the big things and ignore the little, routine things. You can always schedule a catch up admin day for another day.
This is why your daily, mini review is such an important part of your day. It allows you to see where you are spending the majority of your time and it allows you to make sure you are spending the majority of your time on things that really matter to your future. Those, little daily routine, busy-work tasks do not do that.
You will never achieve very much if all you do is spend your time on the mundane, routine tasks in life. Yes, they need doing, but if you want to achieve your goals, make a difference in the world and feel fulfilled and happy, then you should be spending more of your time on the big projects and your goals. Your todo list manager tells you want should to be done, your brain needs to be making decisions on what you will do. That is how you make sure you are getting your life-improving, life-changing stuff done.
Just a quick heads up — My Time And Life Mastery course is live. You can get yourself an early bird discount of 25% if you enrol now. This offer is limited in number (the first 1,000 students) and in time — offer ends 17th September 2017. To enrol at the 25% off price use this link
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Twitter: Carl Pullein
I am a personal development and productivity specialist, presenter and author of Working With Todoist: The Book as well as Your Digital Life, a book about using your technology to achieve greater productivity. I work with clients all over the world to help them focus on the things that are important to them and to become more successful, productive and creative.