It might be the most important thing you ever have to figure out for yourself. How do you get important work done?
It’s the key to living a full, productive, happy and balanced life. When you don’t have this figured out, you end up doing a lot of things, but actually achieving very little.
I’ve settled on a couple of strategies for helping me get important work done. Before I share them, I want to talk about The Eisenhower Matrix. It’s one of the most powerful frameworks I’ve found to think about where you spend your time.
It looks like this:
The holy grail is spending most of your time in quadrants 1 and 2 (important work). And you want to be spending as little time in quadrants 3 and 4 (not important work).
Sounds obvious right? Well, it’s actually super fucking hard. It’s almost as if life is full of temptations that drag you into quadrants 3 and 4. Even worse, it has a way of tricking you into thinking you’re working on quadrants 1 and 2, when in fact you’re procrastinating in quadrants 3 and 4.
Ever convinced yourself that re-organising your google docs was important and necessary work? Well, you know where I’m coming from. 😉
Now, I want to be clear. I’m not claiming to be some type of rockstar that spends all my time in quadrants 1 and 2. I struggle like everyone else. I constantly wrestle with the temptations to put off important work. And I don’t always win.
That said, I have found two strategies that help me get important work done:
1. Plan your week and days
Jeeeeez. When are you going to stop writing about weekly and daily planning? Never ;-). That’s because I think it’s the most important thing we can do to get important work done.
If you’re going to have a chance of spending time in quadrants 1 and 2, you have to be intentional about where you spend your time. You have to carve out time to think about what work is actually important, and when you will do it. This puts you in control over your life.
I’m not going to cover how to plan your weeks and days, because I’ve done that before. Here are a couple of useful reads:
2. Create some space
This is how you can edge into quadrant 2 (important, not urgent work).
You don’t want a back to back schedule, where you’re rushing from one thing to the next. When I see my calendar starting to look like that, I get super worried and fix it.
You need to carve out space where you’re not doing anything. Ideally you never want to be more than 50% committed. That gives you a bit of space for important and urgent things that inevitably pop up. Importantly, it gives you space to think properly about things.
It’s in these spaces, that my brain starts to wonder about things a bit further down the line. This is literally the definition of quadrant 2 (important, but not urgent). And in this space, you can either take action on these items, or at least queue up action for the near future.
You’ll notice that the above two strategies are connected. Getting my calendar straight is a key component to planning my weeks and days. It’s the perfect time to ensure you carve out space to think about things properly.
Lastly, I want to give credit to these brilliant blog posts on ‘Wait But Why’. They really helped me with how I think about procrastination:
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