green-cross-logoHave you experienced todo déjà vu lately? This is where you look at your list of tasks and it just so happens to be exactly the same as it was yesterday, and also the day before that. You may be wondering whether you’re actually getting anything done, why it seems like you’re not getting anything done or where all your time went. This post will help with some remedies for todo déjà vu.

Symptom – Tasks never being completed

Remedy – Breaking down tasks into manageable pieces

Are you breaking down your tasks into manageable bite sized pieces? If not, it may be that your tasks are just too big. Even after working all day on one thing, you can’t cross it off because it’s not done yet. Whether it’s a task or a goal or a project you want to accomplish, when preparing your plan for tomorrow include a bite sized piece that you can complete within a few hours. This smaller task must lead towards your larger task or goal. Not only will this help you see progress and better manager your tasks; it will also motivate you to get to work when you see smaller tasks that you know are achievable today.

Symptom – Small tasks on the list never being completed

Remedy – Filter out unimportant tasks

When the same tasks are appearing on your list again and again and never being completed, it may be because those tasks are just never high enough priority for you to focus on; they never become your most important task for the day. The remedy for this is to filter these unimportant tasks out of your list. If you feel like you should still get back to them when you have time and don’t want to completely discard them, you can record them in a backlog of some sort. Reviewing your backlog could be a task in itself one day and when you do that, you may find that the tasks you placed there are no longer relevant and now can be discarded.

Symptom – Procrastination

Remedy – Quick bursts

If you find yourself putting off starting on a task, this would definitely lead to that task being there tomorrow. Instead of putting that daunting task on your list, put a quick burst on your list. For example, a quick burst to spend 10 minutes on job ABC. Once you start the momentum will carry you forward and you’ll end up making significant progress. You can make progress on any daunting task this way.

Symptom – Interruption by email

Remedy – Most important task first thing in the morning

Even if you’ve planned your day you may succumb to the email bombardment and not make a dent in your first task all day. There is an effective 4 step process to get over this:

  1. Turn off email notification popups on your email client
  2. Make your email client open in calendar view
  3. Plan your most important task for the day the night before
  4. When you get to work in the morning, start working on your most important task and don’t open your email till midday. Then the next time you open your email is at the end of the day.

Focussing on your most important task first thing in the morning and only checking your email a few times a day will stop you from being controlled by your inbox.

Symptom – Too many meetings

Remedy – Ruthlessly decline or delegate where possible

Do you find yourself going from meeting to meeting to meeting all day, not contributing much to those meetings, and then realising you haven’t accomplished what you needed to in the day? When this is happening on a regular basis, spend a few minutes at the end of the week to analyse your calendar. Check whether each meeting is:

  1. One that you have organised and which adds value to your project or deliverables; or,
  2. Needs you to be there to achieve the intended outcome; or,
  3. Is a meeting with senior stakeholders / management that you’ve been asked to attend.

If none of these apply, decline the meeting (with a nice note to the organiser) or delegate to someone who can attend on your behalf. Do this once a week for the week ahead (or immediately upon receiving a meeting invitation) and you’ll definitely reduce the number of times you can’t accomplish what you need to because you’re attending non value adding meetings.

Symptom – Too tired

Remedy – Plan around your energy levels

Feeling like you’re too tired to concentrate on your task and just letting time pass by while you mull over how you should start the task? If this is the cause of your todo déjà vu, it’s a good idea to understand your energy levels throughout the day and plan around those. For example I’m definitely least productive right after lunch. Sometimes from 1pm – 4pm I don’t get too much done. Most energetic and productive times for me are 8am-12pm and then 4pm-8pm. Analyse where your most energetic times are and plan your tasks that require higher concentration at those times of the day. Save the least energetic times of the day for things that require little concentration.

Do you know any remedies for todo déjà vu? Leave a comment to let us know.