The difference between urgent and important is becoming clearer and clearer for professionals working in the 21st century. This is never more true than when talking about our health, or the lack thereof. Unfortunately, the important issues never seem urgent and we gladly put off things like exercise, stress management, and family time for more urgent things like a looking project deadline. We all know that this is not a sustainable approach to the work-life balance, so here are three tips to help you manage your time, and hopefully tackle those important things on an equal scale to the urgent tasks.
1. Eliminate half-work. You are completely focused on completing an important step of your project, and suddenly you hear the chime of your smartphone notifying you of a new email. The next thing you know, you are two paragraphs into a response about something that is nowhere near as important as meeting the deadline for your project. This is half-work, and half-work kills productivity. Don't do it, its that easy. Focus on the task at hand, and minimize all distractions.
2. Do the most important thing first. Decisions and choices that you must make throughout the day often drain our brainpower. For this reason, tackle your most challenging tasks early in the day. This way, you will be able to operate at your highest level of quality and productivity. There is also something to be said for completing a difficult task early in the day. For me, it sets the tone for the rest of the day. You are getting stuff done, and you are doing it efficiently. This attitude swells into other tasks and before you know it, you are having a monster day.
3. Reduce the scope, but stick to the schedule. Following a schedule over the long-term can be much more effective than simply paying attention to a deadline. Breaking work up, and having small victories on certain portions of the project can be a way to build motivation and keep you engaged in the task at hand. However, smart scheduling leads to good results. If you originally set aside two hours in your afternoon to workout, but during the morning things got a little crazy and you only have twenty minutes now, still get some stretches and sit ups in. Reduce the scope, but stick to the schedule.