“I want to be more productive” you say to yourself as you rearrange your paper clips into colour order. Perhaps this isn’t the best use of your time. Yeah… it’s time to prioritise your workload.
Some of us are natural procrastinators, and you’ll know if you are one because you’re probably reading this blog in an attempt to prolong doing another task, tut tut. Putting off the bigger task until ‘later’ because it’s going to need a little more effort than you can be bothered to put in at the beginning of the day.
Yeah sure, we’d all rather spend the morning trawling through not-very-relevant-to-work Twitter accounts instead of writing that board report or replying to the 106 emails in your URGENT folder. But you know what? Sometimes we just need to eat that frog.
Eat that frog
Now we’re not speaking about a French delicacy here. You don’t have to chow down on a ribbity little rubbery… thingy. The saying of ‘eat that frog’ is all about knowing that if the first thing you were to do at the beginning of the day was to eat a live frog, then you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that it’s probably the worst thing you’ll do all day. Apply this metaphor to the most challenging, or least enjoyable task of your day. This should be the one you’re probably procrastinating from right this second, one that will have the greatest impact on your day/life/project/team etc.
There are two ways you can approach this. Either write out a ‘frog list’ the night before so you can be ready and raring to go in the morning, or get into the office ten minutes earlier than usual to write it then. Once you’ve checked off a ‘frog’ or two from the list you’ve got the remainder of the day to devote to the other tasks. You’ll not only get more things done quickly, but the right things done on time!
This is a metaphor you can apply to not only your work life, but your personal life. Procrastinate the procrastination. Find yourself being more productive with this process and once you stop putting off the ‘frogs’ you might even find you have the time to make a post-it note Dalek too.
Head Boy Danny at Giant Campus recommends: ‘Eat That Frog’ by Brian Tracy
Now, if you fancy a slightly more intricate design to your to-do list-age (that’s totally a word), then we recommend you have a look at an Eisenhower Matrix.
Invented by Dwight D. Eisenhower during his presidency, this principle helped him prioritise the many tasks he had by what was urgent and what was important. Now, over half a century later, many individuals, teams and businesses use this principle to work out where to focus their efforts first.
Prioritising your tasks by urgency and importance results in four quadrants with different working strategies for each. Sitting as a table that looks like:
First step for this process is to write out your to-do list somewhere, with as many big and little tasks you can think of. These tasks can range from ‘Finish and send sales pitch to so and so’ to those much loved ‘post-it note mosaics’. If this Matrix is for you, then you can even fill that list with personal reminders, such as to ‘book a coffee date with Ben’.
Got your list written out? Now it’s time to transfer it from that pretty, marble effect notebook into the matrix and decide whether you’re going to take the blue pill, or the red pill. Ayyy.
Nope, now you’re going to fill the matrix with your tasks by scoring them. You can do this by assigning them a number between 0 – 10 on how important and urgent the task is and then plotting it into the quadrants. This will give you very clear and defined things to action. Or, simply, you can put them into each quadrant without scoring, this will still result in similar looking quadrants, but without a structure of first, second and third in the important and urgent section. This is all down to how you work.
The tasks that sit in the urgent/important section are your ‘do first’ actions that you should really do today. For example, get that pitch doc finished and sent (deadline of 5pm), or getting a client’s report over to them.
The tasks to the right of that, not urgent/important would be tasks that you can schedule to do later. For example, defining a long term business strategy or, you know, that long-term plan to restart gym activities.
In the not important/urgent section you would place tasks that you should look to delegate to others. You shouldn’t use this as a way to get the meh tasks off your list and onto someone else’s, as tempting as that may sound. For example, booking travel to your client meeting or putting in an order for a load more post-it notes.
not important/not urgent
Last, but not least (well, by definition, maybe least…), the not important/not urgent section. Here is where you filter out the time wasters. These, unfortunately, are probably the things you LOVE to do or do the most. For example, checking social media just to see ‘what’s happening’, or sorting through your desk drawers because they’re overflowing.
Head Boy recommends: check out Google Garage’s bonus material on productivity at work.
When it comes to being more productive with your workload, follow one, or both of these methods and watch as that checklist gets ticked off faster and more efficiently.