If you have the choice between performing a task in the same painful manner you always do or taking the time to invent a better way, always opt for the latter. If you can afford to invent in spite of deadlines, resources or the status quo, then do it. Time saved down the road often outweighs the time invested now. If you fail to make a better system, at least you tried and will know better next time. A slap on the hand is totally worth it in the scheme of things.
All too often I find it difficult to thoroughly engage in entertainment, conversation or recreation if I jump in having left active tasks incomplete. You cannot always push plans back to make room for completing the task, but it can make a big difference in helping you enjoy yourself if you find extra time to get the job done. Better in most scenarios to show up late and fully connect with the moment than stick to the calendar with a head full of unsolved problems. Fight the habit of tardiness and never accept it as a personal trend, but forgive yourself if it means victory, understanding on the part of the people you keep waiting, and an untarnished engagement. After all, your original plans can double as a celebration if you complete the task at hand. Get it done and go have a good time.
I am astonished by people who archive nothing and let their inboxes run wild. How can you keep track of anything? Crazy people. Over the years, I’ve developed a fairly focused behavior of keeping only active task emails in my inbox. If I’ve taken care of it (or if someone else already did), the email gets filtered and archived away. If it doesn’t deserve to go away yet (e.g. the task is not complete), it sits there…haunting me. That alone inspires me to get the work done.
The behavior takes disciple. I have an email or two in my personal inbox that are two or three years old. Because they are not complete, I cannot archive them away (Charlie, I’m sorry I haven’t finished editing that scene yet for your reel. I promise I’ll get to it!!). This system helps me honor everyone who emails me directly, lets nothing slip through the cracks and gets everything done. Want to find your way onto my to-do list? Email me. I can’t promise you that I’ll get to it immediately – but I can promise you I’ll get to it. It may haunt me and I’ll hate you for it, but I’ll get to it.
I can think of few things more unfulfilling and overwhelming than leaving an incomplete pile of work on your desk at the end of the week. You feel like you don’t deserve the weekend. But you do. That work will keep coming and coming. Sometimes you just need to let go.
I’ve found that it’s better to draw the line in the sand on your to-do list first thing every morning. Realistically outline and prioritize the tasks you think you can complete in one day and set the rest aside. Do not let the other tasks bother you. Fold them up and hide them – whatever it takes to focus and feel like you accomplished the list you’ve reasonably committed to.
I’ve turned into a sticky note junkie. I’ve found that the size of a sticky note keeps your list focused, finite and reasonable. I try not to commit to more than one sticky note per day. Nothing feels better than to crumple complete notes and throw them away at the end of the day. You should try it sometime.
It happens. Deal with it. Schedule time to catch up, prioritize or cut your losses. Don’t complain, don’t freak out. Get ‘er done and move on.