Friday, December 11, 2009

What's Urgent, What's Important, What's Both, What's Neither?

If you were working in cubicle life involving bosses looking over your shoulder, content meetings and brainstorming sessions you'd also have drop-dead deadlines from your editor. That knowledge is usually enough to scare you into producing content by the due time. But... It's a whole other story when you are your own boss.

Sure, your bank account will know if you didn't get that pitch sent out on time or weren't prompt with getting an outline to a potential client, but no one else will know. And let's face it, sometimes just staying on Twitter another 30 minutes is more appealing then getting the needed words down on paper.

When being your own one-man (or woman) show, you've got to establish the same sort of drop-dead time limits. If you train yourself to respect these self-imposed deadlines your work will get done better and faster than it would when put off indefinitely.
This takes a whole hell of a lot of self discipline.

What works for me is a simple chart.

Each morning take a look at your pendings. Separate them into four categories: urgent/important, not urgent/important, urgent/not important, not urgent/not important. For instance: the article that should be sent to the editor by the end of the day is urgent/important. The phone bill due in two weeks is not urgent/important. Painting your nails is not urgent/not important (most of the time). Taking advantage of a sale on a new bluetooth you don't technically need is urgent/not important.

Look at those in the urgent/important category and make reasonable but demanding goals for completing these items today. Still have time? Move to the items listed in the not urgent/important category and then to the urgent/not important division. Afterall it is crucial for you to get your phone bill paid. It's not crucial to get the new bluetooth, even if it would be nice.

True, this way the not urgent/not important things won't get done today and probably won't even get done this week. Fine. That's OK. Interestingly enough, if you break up things this way you'll see that when procrastinating you are a lot more likely to work on the not urgent/not important things because they are less stressful and usually more enjoyable.

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