Putting off tasks

By Tom Dowd | Aug 25, 2016

I used to have a person work for me who managed a small group of employees. She was great with people, but lacked effective organization skills. We had been working on these skills, and I had seen some improvement. I then sat down at her desk one day and looked behind her. Her credenza had been left open, and obviously was not intended for me to see.

She was a file hoarder. She had mountains of unfiled paperwork, personnel files, and who knows what else, hidden in the pile. She said she would get around to it. So, we set a deadline. I came back the day after the deadline had passed; her credenza looked very much the same. She said she’d tried, but it was too much and she didn’t have time. As stated throughout this book, we do have time; it’s just a matter of what we do with it. The simplicity of putting the files behind her to get to them later turned into a pressure-filled ticking time bomb that still had to be addressed versus a series of quick actions. The mess was a big concern. Think about the fact that personal information in the files was accessible, potential follow-up items were left unattended, and that there were possible audit issues depending on what was in the pile.

She saw a stack of work that became psychologically difficult to attack. Her strategy was avoidance. I’ve rarely seen this strategy work. I saw a series of immediate and small tasks that could be completed quickly, enabling her to gain efficiency in the future. We tackled it together—in less than thirty minutes. In daily life, we often put off things that appear to be burdensome tasks, which can take away from our attention to detail and may even cause our stress to increase. Try shifting your mindset, so that you approach tasks as they come up with the same urgency you associate with tasks after you’ve let them build.

If you have always filed and saved immediately, you’re on the right path. If you don’t, then today is the day to start.

When something needs to be filed, do it immediately—or, depending on your position, delegate it immediately—whether it is a paper, email content, or anything online that needs to be saved, recorded, and/ or filed. In order to maximize your efficiency, it’s important that you know where things are at all times. Knowing that it’s under the third pile to the left may work sometimes, but this is about consistency. How you file and where you choose to put things is up to you. The goal is to have an organized methodology.

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