I woke up last weekend feeling a little disturbed. I couldn’t identify what had me feeling uneasy, but I couldn’t shake the feeling. How could I be feeling any stress? It was only 6am!
Coffee didn’t help. The caffeine just seemed to make matters worse. I was now fully awake, and caffeinated, but still feeling a bit stressed. Eventually, I decided to just sit down and outline my to-do list for the day. Slowly, I realized why I was feeling so uneasy… I had way too many things to do.
Many times in an effort to be efficient, we put off tasks thinking it might be more productive if we postponed them until later, or if we combined them with other related tasks. Other times we simply want to avoid an unpleasant task, so we put it off, hoping it will go away. Then when it can’t be avoided any longer, it takes priority over more important tasks of the day, simply because of the manufactured urgency we created by the delay.
We perform thousands of incidental tasks each day, and we log in our memory all the tasks that are postponed, so that we remember to do them later...and that is where that uneasy feeling originates! You see, our brains will keep track of all our unfinished tasks and then reminds us regularly of all the items waiting for closure. The tricky part is that our brains will assign the same importance and priority to each and every task. So, taking the garbage cans to the street, or sending a birthday card, will rate right up there in priority with following up on a hot sales lead. Subconsciously, our brains are listing all those tasks that remain unfinished, and as that list gets longer, we begin to get that nagging discomfort which can lead to feeling overwhelmed.
So, what’s the cure to this endless cycle of stress? Just do it! Quit waiting for the right moment in the future to make a sales call or file the paperwork. Stop putting off dealing with that customer complaint, or that difficult discussion with an employee, and just get it done. Just decide that there is no time like the present to deal with the current task. Many times, dealing with a task may only take a few minutes to complete, and will increase your feeling of accomplishment immediately. It always get a great feeling when I cross a few tasks off my list!
After you finish reading this issue of Vision, commit to making your to-do list. Tackle an easy item first and then repeat as needed all day long. Challenge yourself to quit putting things off and decide you will get closure on something today! It doesn’t matter if you complete one very small task, focusing on getting closure will put you on the road to being more productive every day. And trust me, once you start deleting completed tasks off your to-do list, the coffee tastes that much better.