Start chunking (and get more done)
As I have stated in prior blogs, e-mail should never be the first thing you do in the morning. Even when you diligently follow this rule and recognize the benefits are worthwhile, you can still get stuck.
Each day, all day long, we complete micro tasks that involve making a decision. More tasks equals more stress. When your day involves macro tasks, stress elevates. The tasks on your to-do list are no longer on the same level. For example, one day I had 1 task that would take 90 minutes, a handful that would take 30 minutes and several that would take 10 minutes or less. The 90-minute task required full attention and was intellectually challenging. A few of the 10-minute tasks were also intellectually challenging. Sprinkled in were follow-up calls and basic document drafting.
My inclination was to do all the shorter tasks to get them "checked off" and then get to the 90-minute one. As you may have guessed, that approach resulted in the 90-minute task staying on my to do list, day after day, for a week.
My daily task list is electronic so I cut and paste the night before and the next morning depending on my assessment of the priority of each task.
It was a Friday morning when I decided to start chunking again. It had been awhile and it felt a little obsessive, with it being a Friday and all.
Chunking is taking your tasks and lumping, boxing, or as I call it "chunking" together similar tasks. The 90-minute task came first. Returning all phone calls came second. Drafting documents - my 30-minute tasks came third. Returning important e-mails came fourth.
It felt good to just follow the list of tasks that were in the same medium (phone calls together, e-mails together). It was less stressful and I believe I got more done.
If I want to keep myself on task even more, I will estimate the timeframe I think each chunk will take. 11:00-11:15 to return 2 phone calls. A timeframe keeps me from dawdling or taking more time to finish something than is needed.
I don't follow this method everyday. I know that would make me too inflexible and could cause more stress. When I am lacking in motivation or have self-imposed deadlines, chunking makes performing work into a game and keeps me on track in my business.
On a Friday morning, with no meetings scheduled, and a strong desire to jump ship for the weekend, chunking was my lifesaver.