Say you’ve decided to do certain high-priority tasks before lunch. Say you had 3 hours between 9 and noon. You started out focused and positive on full steam and then at 11, you realize that you are an hour behind schedule or you are suddenly pulled into a meeting that you didn’t expect or a friend surprised you at home. Is all lost? Of course not. That attitude needs to go right now.
If you’re a planner by nature or have the need to be in control all the time, any deviation from your set schedule is going to drive you crazy. You may even start to panic a little or get frustrated, no matter how early in the day or in your plan it is.
But hold it together. A quick re-direction should fix it, even if you don’t care too much about not completing a lot of things on your list (you should!).
Here’s what you do…
Re-estimate the time you have left in the day to work on your planned tasks.
So, minus out the time the longer task will actually take or the duration of the meeting or the hours you would have to host your friend. If it’s not the entire day, you could still get back in the game.
Focus on 20% of your tasks. Follow the Pareto principle, the 80/20 rule.
Revisit your to-do list. A simple way of re-prioritizing is simply removing items from the bottom of the list and pushing them to the next day. Depending on how much time you have on your hands, this could be easy or challenging. The lesser the time, the clearer you will have to be about what you absolutely need to get done.
That’s where the Pareto principle comes in handy. It basically implies that tackling just 20% of the activities on your list will give you 80% of the goals you’re chasing.
- For example, if I have a team meeting in the morning itself (20% activity), I can delegate 2 items on my to-do list, complete a presentation based on the outcome of that meeting, and go home on time (80% goals).
The tricky part is identifying this 20%. Just ask yourself: Doing which among these will put me at ease the most?
STEP 3 (if required)
Pick only one task, the most important one.
Life is unpredictable. You just have to go with the flow a lot of the time.
Say you’re focusing on only 20% of your tasks and you feel good about the momentum you’re gaining. And then something unexpected happens…again. You just need to bring things into perspective again and look at the bigger picture.
If you had to choose only one task from your list, which one would it be? Tough decision but it’s easy if you imagine yourself at gunpoint! You now know what you have to do.