The brain needs ready access to the information, plans, and procedures it will be using to solve complex problems. This collective task knowledge is known as a task set. But the task set is not always immediately available.
Returning to a hard task comes with a 'restart' cost where we first have to spend time and mental effort getting back into our task before making progress. It is then essential to create time and space for hard tasks.
When we multitask, the tasks use shared cognitive resources, such as working memory, It makes the tasks compete for the shared resource and interfere with one another.
It means deciding not to do things you'd really like to do. It also means deciding what's the most important task even when everything on your list feels crucial.
But if you can prioritize until you have only one thing to focus on right now, you can't help but get to work.
To-dos arrive from a variety of sources. Your boss sends you an email, you get a Slack message from IT, a bill arrives in the mail, or a coworker asks for a favor in the hallway.
In order to prioritize your task list efficiently, you need a master to-do list that contains all of the tasks you need to prioritize and complete from all of those sources.
Go through your list, review each task, and decide what you want to do with it. You have 4 options:
Take all of your tasks and assign each a priority.
This tool is particularly helpful for those times when you're drowning under a million things to do, as it helps you visualize what's really important and what can wait.
Whatever you do, avoid the busy work and time wasters that land in the not urgent and not important quadrant as much as you can.
Assign each task a priority number, to weigh each task against the others in order to determine where to start first.
In these cases, it's also helpful to break your tasks down into smaller tasks to better assign relative prioritizations.
Choose a few (usually 3) tasks to get done each day; those become your MITs.
When using MITs, your to-do list would have 1-3 of these, and anything else listed would become bonus, "nice to do if you have the time" tasks. You only work on bonus tasks if all your MITs are done—and if all you get through are your MITs, you've still had a successful day.
When you're really struggling to get anything done, you should try this method, even if temporarily.
When you look at your task list, pick a single thing to focus on that day. It could be one big task you really want to get done, or it could be a theme that relates to several of your tasks. Choosing a single task or idea to focus on can be a good way to remind yourself to stay on track whenever you find yourself getting distracted.
The Pareto principle states: You tend to get 80% of your results from 20% of your work.
What's really tricky is working out what that 20% is that brings in the results. But once you do, you can apply the ultimate ruthless prioritization to your workday: Make that 20% work your priority—and your benchmark for a productive day.
It's where your brain specifically seeks the hit of dopamine you get from crossing off small tasks and ignores working on larger, more complex ones.
Out of all the things that can boost our mood and motivation, the single most important is making progress on meaningful work.
Just like we love crossing small tasks off our to-do list, being able to see that we’re even one step closer to a big goal is a huge motivator. The problem is that these “small wins” are hard to measure.
... but feel like nothing gets done:
It keeps you motivated and productive.
You become more purposeful about the work you do. And that can create the kind of meaning that so many of us search for in our daily work. You also have more insight into the value you’re creating.
... into smaller pieces and visualize them.
When you’re facing a large project, your first step should be to break it out into smaller goals. Then, break those goals down into smaller tasks. The more chances you have to feel like you “finished” part of it, the more motivation you’ll get from your progress.
... and start every day at zero.
Rather than simply looking at your overall progress on a project, set smaller daily quotas.
If your goal is especially complex, a quota can be easier to hit than a goal.
Pick a metric (or two) that makes sense for you and then track how many days you hit it.
Your calendar becomes a large, visual reminder of your progress (and also brings in the power of streaks).
... for 5 minutes a day.
At the end of each day, take a few minutes to write about what you worked on. Make sure to note both your “small wins” and any setbacks.
At the end of the month, flip back through your notes and see how far you’ve come. It’s amazing the clarity you get from seeing the progress you made over a longer period
Reactive people believe the world is happening to them. They focus on things that are in their circle of concern, but not in their circle of influence.
Proactive people recognize that they are able to choose how they will respond to a given situation. They focus on the things they can do something about.
Start with a clear destination to determine your steps. Identify your values and live by them.
Prioritize your day-to-day actions based on what is most important, not what is most urgent.
Be disciplined to follow these actions regardless of how you feel at any given moment. Maintain a primary focus on relationships and results, and a secondary focus on time.
In order to establish effective interdependent relationships, create a win-win situation that is mutually beneficial and satisfying to each party.
To achieve Win-Win, keep the focus on results, not methods; on problems, not people.
... then to be understood.
We need to learn to listen first and try to understand the other person's needs and concerns. When you are able to do that, you increase the credibility of your ideas.
Understanding and valuing the differences in other people will allow you as a group to uncover new possibilities. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
To be effective, we must spend time renewing ourselves spiritually, physically, mentally and socially. This must be done regularly and in balanced ways.
Seek also to inspire others, by listening to them empathically and encouraging them to be proactive.
Most of us like to multitask thinking that it is keeping us working efficiently, however, many studies are believing the contrary.
Context switching is a factor that keeps us from performing at our best. When given multiple projects, staying in the zone is harder than one thinks. If you're always switching you'll always miss a lot of effortless productivity.
Spending too much time on planning and editing is not an ideal way to work. As much as possible we want to be efficient with our time so that we won't lose the momentum of focus.
Procrastinating is frustrating. To lessen this try this method and see if it works out for you:
Time management is about taking control of the time you do have available and using it optimally for productivity while creating balance.
Much advice about time management is about creating a to-do list, reminding you what you want to do. However, it's more important to use a schedule, which tells you when you're going to do it.
To build a better time management system, you need to know what you currently spend your time on. You need to know where you're losing time to the wrong things.
To track your time, spend a few days writing a "time log" to track how you spend your day.
Goals work great to get you motivated to do your work, but they don't tell you how you're going to achieve your goals.
Ask yourself what you can do every day that will help you achieve your ultimate goal. If you need to write a 4,000 word essay by the end of the month, set a daily goal of writing 500 words. If you can make consistent progress, you'll hit your goal sooner.
Decide what the smallest, most doable next step is. Then list all the next steps with a deadline for each.
It's easy to procrastinate when a project feels overwhelming. Part of proper goal-setting is to be able to break larger goals down into daily tasks. Focus on making progress, not just on the end result.
When you start to schedule your tasks, you may be too optimistic about how much you can get done. You may take on too much work or get stressed when tasks take longer than you expected.
To counteract the Planning Fallacy:
This means that you should do your most important work when you have the most energy and scheduling passive activities when you're more naturally low.
We all have moments in the day where we feel naturally more alert and energetic and other times where we lack energy. It is known as the Circadian Rhythm - a 24-hour internal clock that cycles between alertness and sleepiness. Every person's rhythm is slightly different, but the majority follow a similar pattern.
When you start to feel this way, take a break.
The best way to maintain productivity is to take regular breaks. Our minds naturally crave breaks after every 90 minutes of intense work. Your body may signal it needs a break by becoming hungry, sleepy, fidgeting, or losing focus.
To get over those initial feelings related to procrastination:
When you have a crammed schedule, it's tempting to think you can multitask. But studies find that focusing on a single task can be 500% more productive.
If you find it hard to focus on just one thing:
A night routine is the things you do immediately prior to going to bed.
Three benefits of having a decent night routine:
Stay hydrated. Dehydration can make you feel sluggish and tired when you want to be awake.
Decide when the workday ends. Establish a cut off time for work-related emails and phone calls as well.
Have a healthy dinner.
When you need a snack closer to bedtime, reach for something light and healthy.
Take time to tidy. Waking up in an orderly space will work wonders for your mood.
Prepare for tomorrow.When you don’t have a million things to do upon waking, it’s easier to fall asleep.
Think about what you want to include in your night routine, and then write it down. Make it as clear and simple as possible, so you’ll have the best chance of following it.
Once you’ve followed your night routine long enough, you’ll no longer need to refer to your plan – as it will have become a habit.
When you first start to implement your night routine, it would be foolish to rely 100% on your mind and willpower. Instead, use digital alarms to remind you of things like when to go to bed.
After a month or so, you probably won’t need the alarms, as your night routine will have become a positive habit.
Choose smaller, easier to complete goals that will give you a sense of achievement.
It maybe easier for you to implement your desired changes over a few days or weeks. For example, the first change to your night routine could be started straight away – by having a glass of water just before you go to bed. Other changes you could phase into your routine.
However, try to make sure your night routine is fully in place within 30 days.
Make Time is a framework that can help you create more time for the things you find important, in 4 steps, repeated every day:
Take control of your time by choosing where you direct your attention. And your daily Highlight is the target of that attention.
Principles for picking your Highlight:
Laser mode happens when your attention is truly focused on the present: you’re in the flow, meaning you are fully engaged, and immersed in the moment.
The key to getting into Laser mode and focusing on your Highlight is to defeat distraction. To do that, make distraction hard to access. When distractions are not accessible, you don’t have to worry about willpower.
When you don’t take care of your body, your brain can’t do its job.
Take time for daily reflection: did you made time for your Highlight? How well you were able to focus on it? If you fail at first, don’t be hard on yourself when you fail. Use your notes to Give it time and use the notes improve your process.