This Friday, I had woken up with a lot of enthusiasm because it was comparatively a leisure day and I had a bunch of things planned to do. I was planning to write a blog post, draft a work proposal, work on a mobile app redesign, and also redo some of the CSS of this website. All were important, strategic projects to help boost my freelancing business.
The day passed, and I was productive. But not with all of those important projects. Instead, I got sucked into a 3-hour long phone call with one of my clients and updating the documentation on another project I had delivered some time last month. These were urgent too. I felt great about my progress, yet at the end of the day, I knew I had missed an opportunity.
Last night, I was watching a video on how to take Permanent Notes on a note-taking app called Obsidian. The narrator, Justin DiRose, had an interesting note that he was showcasing while talking about Obsidian. One of the statements said, “Working from home means you have to fight the tyranny of the urgent.” Truthfully, the moment I read that phrase, I forgot all about the video and was reminded of the book named “Tyranny of the Urgent” by Charles E. Hummel. I had read the booklet a couple of years ago, while I was trying to learn more about the GTD methodology by David Allen.
The idea of the phrase “Tyranny of the Urgent” refers to the practicality of life when we end up getting stuck between multiple tasks that are all seemingly important and need to be accomplished at the very same time. In my work, I often coach stakeholders who are struggling with exactly this challenge. They have great ideas and strategic opportunities — one which could be transformational for their business and themselves personally — and they struggle to give them the right priority. They head into the office in the morning full of good intentions, only to find people at their door, emails in their inboxes, and messages on their mobile phones with real, urgent needs that stop them from making progress on longer-term goals.
COVID-19 has surely made working from home a necessity, but it is going to soon become the accepted norm. Additionally, with the access to work communications 24×7, the lure of Netflix on the living room TV any time of the day or night, the fun of playing with the pet, etc is going to make it extremely hard to discipline oneself, structure the things to be done, and maintain a healthy balance. I have spent years when I got goaded onto work the moment I received an email regarding the same, even if it was after 10 pm. There have been many days and weeks when I had planned to get something done, and ended up doing something else just because I hadn’t planned my days well enough.
It’s all about Planning
So, what are we going to do about this ongoing struggle? How do we get the right balance between the urgent and the important? Well, planning is the solution. Planning will keep you on course in achieving your goals and objectives. Abraham Lincoln reportedly once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.” Planning is the difference between being reactive and proactive. When you don’t plan, you end up responding to the day’s events as they occur.
GTD has changed my life
I use applications like Things 3 & Drafts to collect all thoughts and todos that end up coming my way throughout the day. I have set up workflows on all my devices, the computer, tablet, phone, and watch so that I can capture those ideas within a few seconds and move on to whatever else I was doing at that time. That way, I do not get bogged down about having to worry if I had forgotten something important. I have built a foolproof system to collect all incoming ideas, and I have faith in the system. At the end of each day, I go through all of those ideas and move them to relevant projects. If needed, I also assign due dates as well. Additionally, once a week, I go through the whole list and reassess their importance for the upcoming week. With this system, I can forget about decision fatigue and concentrate more on implementing what needs to be done.
Every engagement is in my calendar
Some projects require a level of focus that is hard to obtain during a standard workday. There are stuffs that need some time for thinking and reflection. On the other hand, there could be tasks as mundane as checking up with friends on social media. I keep everything blocked