Just Seven Things

Exploring why and how we do what we do, and how we can do it better

Archive for the tag “Tasks”

Why Do Urgent But Less Important Tasks Drown Out The Really Important?

One of the things that continually amazes me is the split personality that exists within my brain (apologies for the mixed definitions here).

I can have a day like yesterday when I had fantastic conversations with clients and fellow industry CEOs which genuinely moved some of my thinking on. Our corporate strategy will develop positively as a result. I worked on some financial modelling that I’d long planned to. It gave me insights that have informed a whole other set of thoughts that will further impact strategy.

I then did some further reading that extended my thoughts on some issues and opened up whole realms of other thoughts.

Now, this post isn’t to wax lyrically about how effective I’ve been. The first point is that the time investment to achieve the above was probably 3-4 hours in total. Granted, there was travelling, but I worked every minute of that time. The second point is how I felt at the end of the day. Building on my last post, I felt that all the non-important tasks were rightly put in their place. That the siren call of the urgent was drowned by the sense of achievement from the important. I had done the right – commensurate with my responsibilities and accountabilities – things with my day.

Now don’t get me wrong. Today hasn’t been a bad day. Productive things have been done. But the challenge of ignoring the urgent task siren call has been remarkable.

I am left wondering whether it is a personality ‘type’ thing. Does my need for control/ power show itself in a restless frustration when I’m not all over my inbox and detailed task list? Does this undermine my trusted system? Have I just taken what I accept in to my action list too far, such that it’s seeping out at the edges?

I think an interesting flip to observe is that in the situation I am blogging about, my conscious/ other-than-conscious position is reversed. I know what I need to do: the important and less of the urgent. I’m kidnapped though by my other than consciousness.

And I don’t know why.

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See /Do /Tag for Happiness in the Moment

So I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while. I’m pretty certain that I haven’t because it feels like it contradicts a lot of the things I’m constantly striving to achieve: focus, planning, constancy.

First, an attempt to define something. I’ve referred in previous posts to the feelings of resistance to task completion. Particularly those tasks that are either poorly defined, difficult, overly time consuming, unknown/new etc. I personally feel this resistance in the middle chest/ upper gut as a kind of heaviness.

I have posted on a number of occasions about my attempts to overcome this. Normally the approaches/ techniques I have explored have in most ways been medium/ longer term in the sense that they involve planning/ mental approaches/ chunking down the steps for the task completion etc.

What I have begun to explore more recently is whether there is a certain category of resistance that this approach does not work for. Let’s call it ‘in the flow’ resistance.

There appear to be certain thoughts, tasks or actions, usually relatively minor in nature, that my other-than-conscious throws to the surface of consciousness for my attention. Often I can immediately tag these for later action in a task list. These thoughts(actions) behave like most other non-planned-for creativity: as soon as they’re captured in a trusted system they go away from my mind, and don’t weigh on my chest to be handled.

However, there are certain actions that appear to sit there on my chest and refuse to budge. They create this ‘in the flow’ resistance. It feels like someone else has made a decision that, regardless what else I was consciously planning – or, indeed, regardless of what my initial conscious response is to the action raised – this is the thing I should do. Right here, right now.

The interesting things are:
1. If I don’t do them immediately, the resistance that I can sometimes get (as described above) is felt – often very intensely – even though it is not something I had consciously raised
2. If I do take the action, it feels as though I get disproportionate reward. As though I didn’t realize how important it was to me internally until it was done
3. The actions are very often things (for me) which relate to commitments. To myself and others. As though my other-than-conscious is reminding, but refusing to go ‘on to snooze’

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