When you stare at your to-do list, you subconsciously look for three things:
Tasks that are easy
Tasks that are urgent and
Tasks that are important.
When only one task stands out as fitting all of those categories, deciding what to do first is a no-brainer. On the other hand, when everything feels urgent, we have a stressful problem I like to call “Priority Paralysis,” but what about when nothing feels urgent? Here are three reasons an urgent-free to-do list can be a problem and what to do about it!
1. We don’t know what to do first
Urgent vs non-urgent tasks make prioritizing easy, but if “urgent” is the only thing you look for when deciding which task to tackle, what happens when nothing presents an urgent deadline? You don’t know what to do first! This is why The Time Diet is based on categorizing. Pick a Meat task (difficult) Vegetable task (easy) and Dessert task (fun) to focus on during your day. That gives you some parameters to help structure your schedule in a way that ensures you’ll get ahead on your non-urgent tasks while maintaining balance in your day.
2. We’re likely to procrastinate
Another problem with an urgent-free to-do list is that we’re tempted to do nothing! It’s easy to procrastinate when none of our deadlines are urgent at the moment. Remember, if you only deal with tasks when they are urgent, that ensures that you’ll always be faced with a last minute stressful time crunch. Try scheduling “start dates” in your calendar for each “due date.” It’s easy to say we’ll begin something later, but a start date defines exactly when “later” is.
3. We waste time
When we aren’t up against the pressure of an urgent deadline, it’s easy to allow Time Killers to distract us. When people thrive on the pressure of a deadline, it’s often because there is less time to be distracted and it forces them to focus and work more efficiently. This concept is called Parkinson’s Law, which says that work expands to fill the time we give it. Try removing Time Killers (smartphone, Facebook, etc…) even while you complete non-urgent work so you finish faster.
A non-urgent to-do list is definitely something to celebrate, but not ignore. You’ll never eliminate last-minute time crunch crises, but by efficiently organizing your non-urgent tasks, you’ll be able to decrease the amount of time spent up against a deadline.
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