Working from home means that you have full responsibility for your own workflow, to-do list and productivity. There is no boss who breathes and no one else to blame when you do not complete your list of jobs on time.
The question is: how do you handle a huge workload and decide what to do first? This post will serve as your guide to efficient workload management. Get this right so you not only end up doing more work but also feel less stressed in the process.
Eisenhower Decision Matrix
Let's start with something that sounds a bit technical but is actually extremely useful: the Eisenhower Decision Matrix.
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The key here is to understand the difference between something that is urgent and something that is important. These may sound like synonyms, but they are actually very different.
An urgent task is all that needs to be completed in time. Let's say you have a deadline for a customer today and that you still have a lot of work to do to fulfill it. It is urgent.
You can spend so much time extinguishing fires that you never make any meaningful progress on your business or in your work role.
But if it's a small client who doesn't really need the job right now it might not be very important.
On the other hand, it can be very important to improve the quality of your website as it can change the way you present yourself to the world. But since the old site still works well, it is not very urgent. Unfortunately, this is the problem.
Dwight D. Eisenhower said:
"What is important is rarely urgent and what is urgent is rarely important."
In other words, you can spend so long extinguishing fires that you never make any meaningful progress in your business or in your work role. This is true whether you are a cruel or own your own business.
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The decision matrix in question, named after this quote, was first introduced in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People . Here, author Stephen Covey suggested that you use some kind of friend chart to find where the urgent and important overlaps were.
Of course, these are the tasks you tackle first. And the tasks you take up next should be those that are "just" urgent.
But the key to being truly effective is to take the "important but not urgent" tasks and raise them to urgent status. Create deadlines for them and think about the money or time lost for every minute they are not completed. In this way, you can start living your life more proactively, making meaningful progress.
There is a good post about this topic at ArtOfManility.com.
At the same time, you can also use other workload management tips to create more time and mental space to work on things that are less pressing, but very valuable.
Eat the frog
On a daily basis, one of the most important things you can do to work on the biggest and ugliest task first.
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As a writer, maybe I have a day containing 1 mammoth 3,000 word article on a subject I find boring, and then some less fun articles on 500 words each.
The biggest tasks are usually the ones that will make the most money for your employer.
While the temptation may be to do small first, this is a mistake. Getting the biggest job out first means you will be working the hardest while having the most energy; at the beginning of the day. It also means that you know exactly how much time you have left at the end of the day to complete the other tasks.
Here is a quote from another influential figure, Mark Twain:
"If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it's your job to eat two frogs it is best to eat the biggest first. "
Larger data also allows you to get into a flow mode and focus on just one thing without changing assignments. This allows a period of uninterrupted productivity, which is A perfect way to start the day.
And when that happens, the biggest tasks are usually the ones that make the most money for your employer or customer, which is why they're usually the most important and urgent!
This is the most valuable workload tip that I've always followed. It ensures that I get a great deal every day, even though I miss some minor tasks at the end.
Let it be clear, however, that if your job actually includes eating frogs, you should change jobs.
Close Open Loops
The Zeigarnik effect was first described by a psychologist named Bluma Zeigarnik and is extremely useful when considering workload management.
Basically, if you have an incomplete task on your agenda, your brain will continue to gnaw you until you have completed that task.
This can be good in that it creates a positive form of motivational stress called "Eustress." This is "get up and go" which ensures that we do not spend all day on the couch and never get any work done.
The Zeigarnik effect also has a positive impact on memory and helps us remember more things about that task specifically.
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But it can also be a bad thing, because it can prevent us from focusing on other things. Will power and attention are limited, and if you are constantly struggling to draw your attention to the present, you will never be able to do your best work.
let's focus on other things.
An easy way to remove these "open loops" as they are called is to create a plan to complete the task. Only this can be enough to put our minds at rest and let us focus on other things.
But better? Close the small open eyes as small as possible to maintain your focus and willpower. If you have an email to reply to, it only takes two minutes to respond, do it right at the beginning of the day! This will then make it much easier to focus on your big task!
All you can't do right now, add a to-do list and then allocate a time to deal with it . This allows you to focus again on the tasks that really matter.
Another tip is to avoid allowing nagging to-dos to appear during your free time, or while concentrating. That is why it is so important to turn off notifications .
Zombie tasks and multitasking
Multitasking is generally considered a no. This is because, overall, it is considered impossible. The conscious brain is believed to only be able to handle 50 bits of information per second, which is simply not enough to divide between two complex tasks.
The conscious brain is only considered capable of handling 50 bits of information per second.
While you think you are multitasking, what you are actually doing is parallel processing. You switch attention between two or more tasks in a cyclical nature, which actually reduces your overall productivity. You get more done when you stick to just one one task and the Zeigarnik effect further ensures that this is true.
The exception is when you perform "zombie tasks." These are tasks that do not require much conscious attention – such as filling envelopes or resizing images. These tasks can be performed at the same time as other more demanding activities (for example, handling a phone call or mentally planning an essay), as they record far fewer pieces of that information.
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In addition, the reticular activation system will ensure that repetitive and meaningless stimuli never even reach conscious processing. This process is called the habit.
None of this will mean anything unless you take the time to even consider your workload – which is the case for a surprising number of people! At the beginning of your week, take a few minutes to list the tasks you need to do and take into account their importance and severity.
With the help of this information and tips in this post, you can now arrange this information for maximum impact. Set your most important and important tasks first, especially the larger and more demanding tasks. Close open loops as they come in, and make sure you put all other gnawing tasks on a list and allocate time to complete them.
Do this consistently and learn as you go, and you will find that you plow through a lot more work than you would otherwise feel much fresher and less stressed by the end of it. It is the power of the workload line when done correctly.
(But has a contingency plan)
But as anyone who has ever hired a contractor to renovate their bathroom knows … time and budget quotes are almost always at least at least somewhat wrong. The same goes for your own workload! Unexpected surprises will track your day, and you will have long distances where nothing is done. Make sure you always leave some "buffer" in your plans then and don't be too ambitious! You are still only human.