Time It. Tame It.

Every month, I have a task that I want to get done, but don’t enjoy doing. I prepare a statistical and financial report on a project for which there are ongoing sales and other people involved. The others involved are very understanding and never nag me for the information, but they do appreciate that it is being kept up with.

One day, toward the end of my work day, that task remained on my list and I decided to defer it to the next week. So I changed the due date and closed up shop for the day. The next morning, when I had limited time, I decided to see how long it would take to actually do the task and get the report out.

I timed it.

I was in for a pleasant surprise.

That dreaded task? It only took about 10 minutes, if that. I simply had to focus, transfer the numbers, prepare the email and send it out.

Now that I realize how little time it actually takes, I hope I be less likely to dread it popping up on my monthly recurring tasks.

This gets me to thinking that there are several other work tasks that really don’t take that long and can be knocked out in the time it takes to gear up to do them or complain about them. Things like:


5 Minute Tasks: cleaning out one file, cleaning off my desktop, deleting or moving a few electronic files, cleaning up/deleting emails I don’t really need, doing a quick review of my calendar for the next week

10 Minute Tasks: returning a couple of phone calls or emails that take just a few sentences; doing a more detailed review of my calendar, researching a product, cleaning out a desk drawer

15 Minute Tasks: conducting a call with a client, reading a chapter of a professional development book, taking a walk, cleaning out a good number of emails.

Next time you are facing a task you dread, tame it. Here are a few tips to help you get past it.

  1. Do it while running a timer. When done, note the time it took. Add that time onto your task description (if it is a recurring task) to remind you that it doesn’t take that long.
  2. Schedule it. If you can’t do it now, schedule a time in your calendar for “miscellaneous tasks” (I call it “TIE” for tasks, in-box, email) and make sure you stick with that appointment.
  3. Postpone it–carefully. If you must postpone the task, only allow yourself to postpone it once. If you don’t, you may postpone it so much that you’ll push it into a time when it comes up again, and now the work is doubled (i.e. if you don’t do September’s report until October, you’ll then have two reports to do.)

Sometimes our mind makes things harder then they are. Be realistic about the time a task will take. In some cases, you may be surprised that it won’t take as long as you think! Time it and tame it for less stress!

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