GTD Tip #167: Turn “Organizing Tasks” Into Rewards

I had a short bout as an organizational and productivity consultant a while back. I know, it’s silly, but get your giggles out now ’cause here’s a $450 tip for you:

You know when you’ve got knowledge work to do and all you can think about is organizing your desk, or cleaning the dirty whiteboard, or cleaning out that stupid little wheel on your mouse, or browsing e-cards to send to your mom for her half birthday? You know what that feels like, right?

Well, these are rudely seductive. How are they seductive? Because, you know you’ll get more work done at a clean, zen-ed out workspace, right? You know you’ll have better thoughts on your sparkling whiteboard. You know your mom deserves to be appreciated every day of the damn year (let’s be honest, she totally does).

They’re seductive because they’re all true! That is, there’s something valuable in each of these tasks. And all of those things can be started right now, and finished in a matter of an hour or less… which is it say, you’ll have completed something! And that feels awfully good these days, doesn’t it?

But as an ancient once said: “All things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial.” You could spend time doing any one of those good things and completely gloss over the only IMPORTANT thing you have to do today. 

Making Rewards out of Seductive Pretenders

Here’s a way you can gain back control over your important tasks in the face of these pretenter tasks: Make those tasks rewards that you get to do once you’ve finished one or two important tasks.

Do the research, write the report’s first draft, and THEN organize the workspace.

Contact your clients for the day, write the relevant emails, and THEN clean off the whiteboard.

What happens here is three important things:

  1. You recognize a couple important tasks for that day,
  2. You recognize what tasks are valuable but not important, and 
  3. You give yourself a bit of motivation and time awareness for the important tasks.

You got it? Gonna do it? Good. Posse out!

[image credit: freewine]