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Keeping Your Task List Front and Center

About a month ago, I started using a very simple technique to become more focused on my day-to-day work. Something had been bothering me: I’d get to the end of the day and feel like I had done a lot, but the tasks I really needed to get done often weren’t getting done. I wouldn’t call these days unproductive, but I noticed that some days I was unfocused; just flitting from one task to the next, sometimes stopping right in the middle of a task and jumping into another task. I thought about *why* I had these days and came up with a few possible reasons for these unfocused days:

  1. I did not have clearly defined tasks
  2. I started working on non-urgent tasks
  3. I got distracted from my tasks and never returned to working on them

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Attention Management and Changing Habits

During the holiday break, my kids were off from school and I put up my out of office email to let my clients know I was working on a limited schedule. I was around, but not working much. I’m assuming my clients were also busy doing their thing during the holidays, because email, text, and phone were quiet. On the days I chose to do some work, I was amazingly productive and I attribute this to the lack of interruptions that seem to occur during a regular work day. I’ve worked hard to regulate email: I have auto send/receive turned off on my laptop and my phone and I only click that send/receive button when I’m at a point where I can read and respond to emails. But, I’ve noticed that I respond to texts and phone calls differently. Unlike email, phone calls and texts are pushed to me and I don’t want to blindly ignore these methods of communication. If the kids are sick or my parents need to reach me, I want to receive important calls. But, often, phone calls and texts come in that do not need immediate attention. Even knowing this, my inclination is to respond to the text or answer the phone call. This interruption is distracting, pulls me away from the priorities I set for myself and my clients, and puts me at the mercy of someone else’s priorities.

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