We all feel like we’re juggling confetti at work (before we add in the rest of our lives). To manage all the short-term and long-term tasks your are juggling, it is vital to cut through the “noise” to identify key priorities, develop an organized approach to both day-to-day and big picture priorities, and commit to declutter your work life.
This decluttered work life can be relatively simple to design even as it remains challenging to execute:
1- Identify key priorities
What do you you really have to get done today?
What’s your top priority (or top 3 priorities) in the medium term?
Make a detailed list each morning (or, if you can, the night before) of what has to get done that day in order to keep up with your short- medium- and long-term priorities.
That way you start your day knowing very specifically which tasks you’re going to tackle.
2- Develop an organized approach
Sort your tasks.
Which are day-to-day tasks, but low priority (these are things like email, phone calls, brief one-on-one meetings, organzing or writing-up notes/reports)?
Ask yourself honestly what times of day and what days of the week are best suited to those tasks. Determine how much time to devote to them–maximum–and then stick to it.
Often this means putting off these “must-do, but low priority” tasks until you literally only have an hour or two to squeeze it all in, then working efficiently to actually squeeze it all in.
Don’t let yourself use your peak productivity time or days for these mundane tasks!
Maybe force yourself to start every single day with one piece of a medium- or long-term goal. These are the big, looming projects that are easy to procrastinate on, but more important to get done than the relatively easy mundane tasks.
Or set a timer and work consistently for a certain period of time at some point during each day.
Or dedicate the last hour of your work day to your bigger goals if that’s your most productive time of day. Whatever works for you–but your productivity will spike if you develop an organized approach and stick to it.
3- Commit to declutter your work life
Decluttering means not procrastinating–often by using day-to-day tasks as an excuse to avoid working on more important medium- and long-term goals. It means saying ‘no’ to anything and everything that isn’t on the list you made back in step 1.
It’s all easier said than done. A lot of the service I provide for my clients is exactly this decluttering. Sometimes it takes an outside perspective to say “don’t do that now,” “you must say ‘no’ to this,” “you don’t really have to get that done today when this other deadline is looming, do you?”
Plus having someone to follow-up with, to share the products of your labor with, and get feedback from is important for everyone. Make sure you have that person somewhere in your life whether it’s casual conversations at home, a more formal reading group, an advisor or mentor, or career coach.
Darcy Lear is a career coach specializing in academic writing, job search documents, professional school applications, and interview preparation. For help navigating your career transition, contact Darcy: firstname.lastname@example.org