Working from home means that you take full responsibility for your own workflow, task list and productivity. There is no manager breathing through your neck and no one else can be blamed for not completing your to-do list in time.
The question is: how do you manage a huge workload and decide what to do first? This post will be your guide to effective workload management. If you do this right, you will not only finish more work, but you will also feel less stressed.
The Eisenhower Decision Matrix
Let's start with something that sounds a little technical, but is actually extremely useful: The Eisenhower Decision Matrix
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The key here is to understand the difference between something that is urgent and something that is important. This may sound like synonyms, but they are actually very different.
An urgent task is everything that must be completed in a timely manner. Let's say you have a deadline for a customer today and you have a lot of work to do to meet it. That is urgent.
You can put out a fire for so long that you never make meaningful progress in your company or in your position.
But if that's a small customer who doesn't really need the job right now, it might not be particularly important.
On the other hand, improving the quality of your website can be very important because it can change the way you present yourself to the world. But since the old website is still working fine, it isn't particularly urgent. Unfortunately, this is the problem.
Dwight D. Eisenhower said,
"What matters is rarely urgent, and what is urgent is rarely important." In other words, you can spend so long extinguishing that you never make any meaningful progress in your business or in your position. This is true whether you're a grunt or running your own business.
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The relevant decision matrix, named after this quote, was first introduced in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People . Here author Stephen Covey suggested that you use some kind of Venn diagram to determine where urgent and important overlaps are.
These are of course the tasks that you tackle first. And the tasks you tackle next are those that are "just" urgent.
But the key to being really effective is taking those "important but not urgent" tasks and elevating them to the status of urgent. Make deadlines for them and think about the money or time lost for every minute they are not completed. In this way, you can become more proactive in your life, making meaningful progress.
There is a great post on the subject at ArtOfManliness.com.
At the same time, you can also use other workload management tips to create more time and mental space to work on things that are less urgent, but very valuable.
Eat the Frog
Daily is one of the most important things you can do to work on the biggest and ugliest task first.
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As a writer, I may have a day with 1 mammoth 3,000 words article on a subject, I find boring, and then some smaller fun ones articles with 500 words each.
The biggest tasks are normally the ones that will make the most money for your employer.
While the temptation may be to put the little ones first, this is a mistake. Getting the biggest task out of the way first means working on the hardest while having the most energy; at the beginning of the day. It also means knowing exactly how much time you have left at the end of the day to complete those other tasks.
Here's a quote from another influential figure, Mark Twain:
"If your job is to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it's your job is to eat two frogs, it is best to eat the larger one first. "
Larger tasks also allow you to get into a flow state and focus on one thing without any task to exchange. This ensures a period of uninterrupted productivity, which is a perfect way to start your day.
And coincidentally, the biggest tasks are the ones that will make the most money for your employer or customer. So they are usually the most important and most urgent!
This is the most valuable workload management tip I've always followed. It ensures that I get a lot every day even though I end up missing a few smaller tasks.
Let it be clear that if your job actually involves you have to change jobs.
Close open loops
The Zeigarnik effect was first described by a psychologist named Bluma Zeigarnik and is extremely helpful in considering workload management
If you have an incomplete task on your agenda, your brain will you keep nagging until you have accomplished that task.
This can be a good thing because it creates a positive form of motivational stress called & # 39; Eustress. & # 39; This is the "get up and go" that prevents us from sitting on the couch all day and never getting work done.
The Zeigarnik effect also has a positive effect on memory, allowing us to remember more things about that task specifically.
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However, it can also be a bad thing, because it could prevent us from concentrating on other things. Willpower and attention are finite, and if you constantly fight to draw your attention to the present moment, you will never be able to do your best work.
This alone can be enough to reassure our mind and allow us to focus on other things.
An easy way to get rid of these "open loops" as they are called is to make a plan for completing the task. This alone can be enough to reassure our mind and allow us to focus on other things.
Better, however? Close those small open loops as small as possible to maintain your focus and willpower. If you have an email to respond to, it only takes 2 minutes to reply, do it at the start of your day! This then makes it much easier to focus on your big task!
Anything you can't do right now, set up a to-do list and point a time to deal with it . This way you can focus again on the tasks that really matter.
Another tip is to keep nagging things from popping up during your free time or while concentrating. That is why it is so important to disable notifications.
Zombie Tasks and Multitasking
Multitasking is widely regarded as a no-no. That's because it's generally considered impossible. The conscious brain could only process 50 bits of information per second, which is simply not enough to share between two complex tasks.
The conscious brain could only process 50 bits of information per second
While you think you are multitasking, you are actually doing parallel processing. You switch your attention between two or more tasks of a cyclical nature, which actually reduces your overall productivity. You get more done if you stick to only one task and the Zeigarnik effect further makes this true.
The exception is when performing "zombie tasks". These are tasks that do not require much conscious attention, such as filling envelopes or resizing images. These tasks can be performed simultaneously with other demanding activities (such as managing a phone call or mentally planning an essay), as they take up far less pieces of that information.
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In addition, the reticular activation system will ensure that repetitive and meaningless stimuli do not even achieve conscious processing. This process is known as habituation.
None of this will mean anything if you don't take the time to even consider your workload management – which is the case for a surprising number of people! At the beginning of your week, take a few minutes to list the tasks you need to do, and think about their importance and level of difficulty.
With the help of this information and the tips in this message, you can now control those tasks for maximum effect. First, set up your most urgent and important tasks, especially those larger and more demanding ones. Close open loops as they come in, making sure to list other nagging tasks and assign the time to complete them.
Do this consistently and learn as you go, and you'll find yourself plowing through much more work than you might otherwise AND feeling much fresher and less stressed at the end of it. That is the power of workload management when done correctly.
(but have a contingency plan)
But as anyone who has ever hired a contractor to renovate their bathroom knows … time and budget quotes are almost always at least somewhat misguided. The same goes for your own workload management! Unexpected surprises will confuse your day and you will have long stretches where nothing is done. Make sure to always leave some "buffer" in your plans, and don't be too ambitious! You are still only human.