Frequently I find that my ability to get the big, important things done is negatively impacted by the guilt I feel over the large and increasing pile of small, less important but nonetheless essential, administrative tasks. The list of things just gets bigger until the tasks take on a Sword of Damocles effect and up paralysing me from doing everything else.
The trouble with all those nasty little tasks is they are really easy to do, but the effort involved to get stuck in to starting them can seem inordinate.
“If you want to make an easy job seem mighty hard, just keep putting off doing it.” Olin Miller
If this sounds familiar, then you need to try The Egg Timer Game. It’s a great tool for improving productivity. In just an hour you can clear a huge backlog of dreary oppressive admin and free yourself up to tackle the more meaty, more interesting, more rewarding and more important things on your To Do list.
1. Set aside an hour when you won’t be interrupted (you may want to switch the phone off).
2. Gather together the work you want to tackle so it’s all to hand in the same place. Separate the tasks into different piles – e.g. filing together, follow up phone calls together etc
3. Set your egg-timer for ten or fifteen minutes.
4. Go hell for leather at the first pile and try to get through it before the buzzer goes off
5. When the buzzer sounds, move onto the next task and so on, until you have cleared all the taks or the hour is up.
6. Stop. Smile. Feel smug. Give yourself a little reward
The great thing about this process is that it is a game and if you treat it that way it won’t feel like dreary, boring admin any more. If like me you are a competitive person, you’ll find yourself competing against the clock, racing to get each pile cleared before the buzzer sounds. It’s important not to be a slave to the process though. It is designed to get you started. I have occasionally found that once started I get so into a particular sub-task that when the buzzer goes I simply don’t want to stop. When that happens I sometimes carry on and switch to the next task later. Remember – it’s all a way to get you going and break you out of that dreadful procrastinatory paralysis.
I first heard about this idea from Annabel Sutton. She produces a great free email letter with really useful tips. I’ve found some fantastically useful ideas in her letter and in her book 52 Ways To Change Your Life. If you want to subscribe to Annabel’s tips email with Subscribe Tips in the subject line to firstname.lastname@example.org
What actually prompted me to write this piece was happening upon a piece on productivity by Paul Dickinson of Live without Work. I added a comment explaining the Egg Timer Game and Paul tried it, liked it and wrote a piece himself. He has some useful additional advice (and his blog has lots of other great ideas for imporoving productivity.
Have a go – and let me know how it goes!