To:       Anyone who has ever felt overwhelmed with their to-do list

From: Matthew R. Harris

cc:        Everyone who is in denial about their overwhelming to-do list

Date:   October 13, 2014

Re:       TPS Report – Task Prioritization Strategy

“Ah, ah, I almost forgot… I’m also going to need you to go ahead and come in on Sunday, too. We, uhhh, lost some people this week and we sorta need to play catch-up. Mmmmmkay? Thaaaaaanks.” – Bill Lumbergh in Office Space.

Busyness is a disease affecting millions of Americans each and every day. People are constantly feeling overwhelmed with the amount of work that they have to do and if you ask 5 people on the street how they are doing, 4 will respond with, “I’m so busy right now.” That statistic is completely made up, but I think it’s pretty accurate.

So why does everybody feel so busy all the time? First of all, for some reason, busyness is glorified in the workplace. If you are not insanely busy all the time, you must be lazy. If you are not completely stressed out, you must not have enough to do. If you are not multi-tasking, you are a huge procrastinator. I hate to break it to everybody, but we are all being lied to.

As Tim Ferriss says, “Being busy is a form of laziness – lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.” If you are constantly multi-tasking and neurotically working for the sake of working, you are not being as effective as you could and should be. You are investing in yourself when you take time each day, at the end of the day, to spend a few minutes reflecting on what you did accomplish and planning the following day.

Your new Task Prioritization Strategy should be simple, but it should include the following:

  1. Stop checking email – Never, ever, check your email again. I’m kidding. Of course you cannot completely abolish email, but you can respond at set times and less frequently to be more effective.
    • Email should never be the first thing you do each morning, since it is usually somebody else trying to add an item to your own to-do list.
  2. Create a must-do list – Rather than putting every menial task you can think of on a to-do list, whittle your list down to the most important 2-3 items you can possibly do the following day.
    • Think of items that are revenue-generating or results-driven. These items should be incredibly important and measurable.
    • Do not focus on more than one task at a time and do not move onto another task until the prior task is complete.
      1. Quick Rant – Multi-tasking is the biggest scam ever perpetuated. It simply does not work. Prioritization and laser-focus DO. End Rant.
  1. Create an Interruption-free Zone – When you are working on your “must-do” list, people, phone calls, emails and everything else gets put on hold. If you figure out how to stop the axial spinning of the earth, let me know.
    • Unplug your phone, turn off the email notifications, and shut your door. People must know your dedication to results and respect it. (You don’t have to be rude to accomplish this).
      1. Say something like this if people are questioning your actions, “I just read this incredible article about Time-management, by Matt Harris, and am implementing some of his strategies to start doubling my productivity. You should try it yourself. I can’t believe how much more I am getting done in significantly less time.”
    • After 2-3 hours of solid, uninterrupted focus, take a break for crying out loud. You deserve it – you worked hard, and probably accomplished more than all of your coworkers will that day.

Becoming more successful happens by creating more successful habits. We all have the same amount of time in the day, but how we use it is what separates us in terms of productivity. Start making little changes to your daily habits and watch the results add up and the stress disappear.

By getting more done, in less time, you have more free time. Stop working 12 hour days, checking email at dinner with your family and “stopping by” the office on Saturday. Enjoy your well-deserved free time and the next time Bill Lumbergh asks you what you accomplished over the weekend, in the words of Peter Gibbons, tell him, “I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be.”TPS reports