Task timing isn’t just about how long something takes to do but also about doing it at the right time. It’s been said that the right thing at the wrong time is actually the wrong thing. The point? Timing matters. I’d like to share a little about the idea of task timing and how it could significantly impact your approach to those things you don’t want to do but have to do.
First we’ll start with the problem, then we’ll take a look at a 3-step solution.
—> THE PROBLEM
Whether I’m coaching a person struggling to get things done at work or at home, I’ve noticed there’s a common theme: We all tend to feel at times that we’re a victim to our schedule.
The problem? You aren’t actually a victim to your schedule unless you agree to be.
Don’t believe me? Ok. Answer these questions:
- Who agreed to a weekly coffee meeting with that guy in the marketing department at work?
- Who volunteered to join that office committee?
- Who signed up for season tickets and keeps attending the games out of guilt for having paid so much money?
- Who signed up the kids for the Winter basketball league?
- Who agreed to do that recurring thing that you wish you could quit?
Thought so.You aren't actually a victim to your schedule unless you agree to be.Click To Tweet
Let’s not wallow in guilt about poor decisions on our time use. Instead, let’s cut our losses and forge a better path moving forward. The way I see it, you’ve got 3 options.
- Sometimes we simply need to lighten our load.
- Sometimes we need to consider trying on a little intentional neglect for size.
- Often times we recognize the things on our to do lists must be done and we need a better approach to accomplishing them. (Enter the task timing experiment.)
—> THE SOLUTION
Task Timing Experiment
Let’s take a deeper look at how to use task timing to do any task you don’t look forward to doing but must do. For the purpose of this example, we’ll pretend you have a monthly report to submit to your boss.
- There’s no way out of completing that monthly report for your boss. You might think you know how long it takes you to complete the report, but do you REALLY know? Next time you begin the task, start the timer on your smart phone or laptop and stop the timer when you’ve completed the entire report. Let that amount of time be your guide moving forward for each month.
- Let’s continue with the monthly report example and not make any assumptions here: You need to have a HARD deadline for completing the report every month. (And please don’t make that deadline the day its due. Better give yourself a little wiggle room.) Schedule this task as a recurring event on your work/personal calendar and protect it. And please be sure to block out the actual amount of time you discovered it takes you to complete the task in Step 1.
- In keeping with this monthly report example, I want you to consider one other significant element that many people overlook even if they know how long it truly takes them to do the task and have a recurring calendar reminder to get it done: TIME OF DAY. I’m a morning person. Most of the blog posts you read here, most of my coaching appointments, and most of my important tasks happen before noon. I can’t always schedule things that way, but it’s a strong preference that I take into consideration depending on the importance and difficulty of the task at hand.Why does this matter? You need energy and focus to do the hardest things well. If you have the ability, take those recurring, energy-sucking tasks that are on your calendar and move them to the time of day where you’re at your best. If it’s a struggle to get yourself to do the hardest things first in a day, consider holding off on that lovely second cup of coffee or checking social media until you’ve got that task sorted, done, and out of the way.
BONUS IDEA: I realize that time of day and length of task aren’t always the key elements at play. There might be an undiagnosed timing issue that needs to shift if you’re going to set yourself up to win.
A few months ago I found myself frustrated with an untidy home on Monday morning after having cleaned house the previous Friday then having a full weekend. The recurring frustration was enough to lead me to change my recurring Friday house cleaning appointment. At the moment I’m finding my house cleaning outcome is optimized by switching it to Sunday afternoon or Monday morning because it stays cleaner longer (due to the kids being in school during weekdays).
How can you apply a shift like this to your schedule? Recognize the flow of your week and month and the people involved in these tasks. Do you travel the first and third weeks of the month, thereby needing to schedule your desk work for weeks two and four? Do your coworkers log weekend hours but you don’t? These are important details to keep in mind as you assess the best task timing for completing those things you don’t love to do but are responsible to complete regularly.Recognize the flow of your week and month as well as the people involved in your tasks.Click To Tweet
I believe that if you do a little task timing experiment this week, you’ll see some of those not-so-fun tasks will take up less of your time, energy, and thought life. Enjoy becoming a more productive leader!
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