Doing the Essential

Yesterday I posted an article about identifying the essential tasks in your life on a day to day basis to ensure your focus lies on the important tasks in your life that when completed will provide real value to your life.

While identifying these tasks is a great first step, it should not be forgotten that they still need to get done. After all, it defeats the purpose if you identify the same essential task every day because you don’t actually do that task!

So how do you ensure the essential tasks get done?

Do them in the morning

I always try to do the tasks I’ve identified as essential as my first tasks of the morning. The main reason I do this is because I find it sets up my day. If I’ve completed the critical work early in the day I get into a productive mode where I feel like I can do any task that comes my way. It also allows me to stop worrying about what I should be doing and allows me to finish smaller tasks with a guilt free conscience.

Another important reason to do these tasks in the morning is because generally you have more energy at the start of the day rather than after lunch. As the day goes on, more and more items will be thrown onto your to-do list and the likelihood of you doing the essential tasks decreases by the minute.

Work distraction free

You should always try to work distraction free, at all times if possible. This is pretty unrealistic, but if you can schedule a small window of time to work distraction free you increase the chances of you making progress on your essential tasks.

To work distraction free, make sure you close your email, put your phone on silent so you don’t get notifications, close any IM applications, shut down your social media outlets and focus on your task. You may feel some initial resistance and an urge to open them back up, but let those feeling pass. After a minute or two you’ll start to fall into a state of flow where you’ll make some real progress.

Set a timer

This is definitely one of my favorite ways to ensure I get my essential tasks done. When I start work in the morning, I’ll look at my list of essential tasks and pick one out that I’m going to get started on. But instead of just slugging away at it, I’ll set a countdown timer for as short amount of time as I think it’s possible to get the task done. I promise myself that the amount set on the timer is the total amount of time I plan on spending on this task today.

What this does is make me focus on doing the essential pieces of this task and worry less about smaller details that will make no difference to the overall outcome. When possible, I try to make these firm deadlines so that I don’t think in the back of my mind that “I can always go over the time limit.” Treat the timer as the drop dead time for you to finish this task.

There will be times where you will have underestimated the time necessary and you need to continue on. In cases like these, make sure you reset your timer and treat this like an absolute deadline.

The key point is to not let a task go on for an indefinite amount of time, otherwise it’ll swell in complexity and time required to actually finish it.

I can promise you from personal experience that if you start focusing on identifying and doing your essential tasks your going to see amazing results in your life. You’ll start to feel your life getting under control and you’ll start making progress in areas of your life that may have been stagnant.

So starting tonight, make a promise to yourself that you’re going to identify 1-2 essential tasks you need to complete and make sure you follow up tomorrow to get these done. Repeat this process day after day and you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.

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