One of the most common struggles, frustrations, or challenges that you’re going to face when working for someone or for yourself is trying to decide how to best juggle your workload.
Granted, what’s considered a “workload” may vary from person-to-person, from job-to-job. But for the purposes of this post, I’ll reduce it to a simple definition that I use on a daily basis:
A workload is the amount of work that you set out to achieve each day.
How you go about doing this will vary on your personality types. Some people, like me, are extremely Type-A. We calendar, schedule, and note everything.
And if something comes along to disrupt that schedule we:
- Get frustrated,
- Try to make it work,
- Or find a place during the week in which it will work.
But this only works for so long. The more work that comes your way, the more demands you have on your time.
This is a good problem to have.
But the method outlined above does not work. That is, as they say, “it doesn’t scale.” Sure, it may work at first and it may work for a little while. But when you’re faced with increasing demands on your time, you have to reprioritize what it is that you’re doing.
How do you go about doing that, though? I don’t care if you’re just starting in a career, if you’re employed, if you’re self-employed, if you’re freelancing, or whatever.
Inevitably, assuming that you find some sort of success, this isn’t going to work forever.
So what are we supposed to do?
What Is Important, What Is Urgent?
President Dwight Eisenhower broke down the different in important tasks and urgent tasks.
In a simple definition, he laid out the following:
- Important activities have an outcome that leads to us achieving our goals, whether these are professional or personal.
- Urgent activities demand immediate attention, and are usually associated with achieving someone else’s goals. They are often the ones we concentrate on and they demand attention because the consequences of not dealing with them are immediate.
So the first step that we all must take is identifying what we believe to be important and what we believe to be urgent.
How Do I Do This?
They say we’re creatures of habit. Sure, but I think the degree to which we adapt to habit varies based on our personalities.
For example, I thrive on routine. The average day – after getting to work – is as follows:
Generally speaking, this works but over the past year or two, it’s become increasingly difficult. If you notice, there’s nothing above that helps me to do a better job of triaging what’s important and what’s urgent.
So this has evolved a little bit.
What’s Important, What’s Urgent?
To be clear, I’m still getting in the habit of this so the suggestions or the outline that I’m about to provide is probably only half baked but it is my attempt at moving in the right direction.
Remember, if important activities are those that lead us to achieving our goals then they may be able to wait a little while.
Urgent tasks are those that demand immediate attention (and usually require we focus on someone else’s goals).
So let me revise the above outline:
I don’t have this system on lock yet, but I’m trying. I have found it a bit freeing. It does require saying “No” a little bit more (which is never a bad thing), but it also requires a bit of improved time management.
It also requires that you accept the fact that some of the things you thought you were going to be able to do are now not going to happen right now.
And that’s okay. They’ll still happen, but on a different time table.
Though I prefer Fantastical (both for OS X and iOS) to help with this, there’s even an app called Eisenhower that helps with this.
If paper and pen is what works for you, fantastic. But if you find yourself with that sinking, draining feeling of:
How am I going to get through all this today?
That’s an immediate red flag. I’m speaking from experience. To that, I say that’s a signal you should try filtering everything through Eisenhower’s method. Give it a month. See if it helps.
I’ve found it helpful. Then again, I’m one person (Type A, as it were, even) so this can’t be prescriptive. But try it out and see if your productivity doesn’t increase.
Eisenhower: Is It Important or Is It Urgent? was written by Tom. For more information about WordPress, development, and resources then visit Tom McFarlin’s blog.
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