The average person spends about 90,000 hours working in their lifetime, according to data in Jessica Pryce-Jones’ book, Happiness At Work.
That’s a lot of time we’re all investing in our careers and businesses.
The goal work is to be productive and get better things done, right?
But do all tasks move the needle?
“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities,” says Stephen Covey.
When big projects are overwhelming, we break them down into simple steps and tackle them one task at a time. It makes sense.
But what if the many things we want to do waste our time? It’s so easy to get sucked into an unproductive cycle. And it can be hard to know how to stop.
That’s where the to-ignore list comes in.
It’s a simple productivity hack that reduces the productivity process, limits distractions and helps you focus on the most important tasks that move the needle.
David Allen was right, “You can do anything, but not everything.”
The productivity goal is not to get more things done but rather to focus on the essentials. The most productive people identify the most important and eliminate everything else.
If you are used to creating a to-do list of things that can help you get closer to your end goal, consider listing the many things you shouldn’t be doing too. It takes away all the processes that delay great work and waste time.
We are faced with incredible demands on our time every day. The last thing you want is a list of things that take your attention from what you need to do.
It’s a productivity hack that requires you to get comfortable with ignoring tasks that are not important (even though they may be urgent).
Done effectively, it shifts your focus from low-priority tasks to higher priority ones. Letting go of unimportant tasks is equally important as creating a list of things to do.
But the practical question: how do you know what to ignore?
It all comes down to priorities.
And most importantly, arranging your tasks in order of importance. Most people don’t have a problem ranking their tasks for the day or week.
Their to-do list keeps growing, and their approach to work makes it impossible to make real progress daily. The real problem is committing to the first few tasks on the list.
“After we prioritize, we act as though everything merits our time and attention, and we’ll get to the less-important items “later.” But later never really arrives. The list remains without end,” writes Ed Batista of HBR.
Use the score method to prioritise
“Nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all.” — Peter Drucker
A simple approach to separate important from nonessential tasks is the score method. Prioritise your tasks by giving them a score from 1 to 5 according to how much time each one will take and how much value it will have for you.
The process can quickly help you identify the more critical tasks. Assign scores for all your tasks and rank them in descending order of importance.
Once you’ve sorted your list in descending order of importance, you can focus on high value (or high score) tasks. You can repeat the process when you add more tasks to the list.
To get more things done, prioritise tasks by importance — evaluate and determine what brings you closer to the bigger goal and ignore the rest.
It can be challenging to find the balance between getting things done and feeling overwhelmed. However, if you take the time to prioritise your tasks, this will help you get more done in less time.
Learning to ignore unimportant tasks no matter how urgent can save you time and help you get real work done daily.
This post was previously published on Better Humans.
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