Is it easier to carry one 10kg medicine ball or one hundred ping pong balls?
Prioritisation teaches us to look at the importance and urgency of tasks and tackle them first. The problem is all tasks on a to do list generate the same level of cognitive clutter (whilst they are on the list, not in terms of what is needed to complete them). Having one big task to do, like applying for a job, is less stressful than having ten small easy tasks on the list. Worse still, whilst you are trying to complete that priority task, part of your mind is thinking about all those other things that need doing even though they are relatively minor.
To help me feel more organised, which supports my mental health and wellbeing, I try to stay on top of all the small things. These are the tasks that probably don’t have a deadline and are not that important, but nevertheless stay in the back of your mind and unconsciously niggle at you.
Put all tasks into your ‘to do’ system – David Allen (Getting Things Done) recommends an ‘inbox’ list where you can park any incoming task that you haven’t yet made a decision on. The decision is whether or not it can go into your ‘next actions’, ‘scheduled’, ‘someday’ or ‘maybe’ list. Personally, I make the decision right away (and regularly review lists to check if the decision needs changing) so I don’t use an inbox, but I always put tasks straight into my system as soon as they occur to me. This removes them from the subconscious clutter if my mind.
Be intentional with tasks on your ‘next actions’ list – This list is top of my mind and contains everything I know I need to do. I’m very intentional with what goes on here, however. I always question what value it will bring me, is it something I want to do or us it something that society is telling me I ought to do? Is it an actual commitment or something I just think is a commitment? If I’m unsure it goes on the ‘someday’ or ‘maybe’ list.
Anything that can be done right away never even makes it onto the list – My general rule is if it can be done in less than two minutes I do it right away and it never goes on the list in the first place.
Tidy up – Tidy desk, tidy mind. I find clutter distracting and like to take the time to put things away and throw rubbish out. Not a deep declutter that requires too much thought, you can easily do this whilst on a call. If I’m working from home, this includes doing the laundry and putting the dishwasher on.
What are the little things you make sure are done to help you focus on the bigger things? Let me know in the comments.