Use High-Powered Tasks to Transform Your Productivity
By Leo Babauta
If you’re like most people, you’ve got a to-do list that spills over onto the next page — one or more lists of tasks that just seems to be getting longer and longer. And no matter how hard you work, no matter how many hours you put in, no matter how many of the tasks you knock off your list, it just keeps growing.
Master your never-ending to-do list by simplifying it and focusing exclusively on high-powered tasks.
Take a look at your to-do list right now — how many of those tasks will really matter in a month? How many of them are just boring, mindless, repetitive, time-consuming tasks that will keep you extremely busy without really making a difference in your life? Look through you list and see if you can find the one task that will really change your life.
That’s a high-powered task.
A task that has the power to make a real, lasting difference in your life is one that should matter the most to you. What kind of difference? One that will get you long-term recognition, that will get you awards, that will get you tons of business down the road. Or the kind of difference that you can look back on at the end of the year and say, “That was one of the best things I’ve ever done.” That’s a high-powered task.
Find those high-powered tasks on your list — and if there are none, you need to seriously think about your list. Perhaps it’s just keeping you busy and heading in a million different directions without really taking you anywhere.
Here’s how to use high-powered tasks to transform your productivity:
- Have a mission. Know where you want to go, so you can know if you’re headed in the right direction. What is your ultimate life? Where do you want to be in a year? What one thing can you accomplish in the next few months to get you to those two destinations? Focus on that one thing, and do things every week and every day to move you towards that medium-term goal (3-6 months). If you focus on more than one goal, your energy will be too spread out. Have a laser-thin focus, and you will have more power.
- Evaluate your list. Take a few minutes to look at the projects and tasks on your list. Which ones will help you move towards your medium-term goal? Which ones will make a real difference in your life? Answer these questions, and you’ve found your high-powered tasks.
- Eliminate most of the rest. The other tasks on your list will take up a lot of your time without giving you much return. Scrap those or delegate them if possible. Focus on the few that will give you the most return – the high-powered tasks. If necessary, batch process those smaller tasks that you need to do but that aren’t high-powered tasks — try to devote as little time as possible to these, though. If possible, outsource them.
- Focus on the high-powered tasks. Now that you’ve identified those tasks that will change your life and lead you towards your single medium-term goal, focus on them. Clear off your desk, eliminate distractions, and get it done. Do a high-powered task before you check email in the morning. Try to get your high-powered tasks done before lunch, so they don’t get pushed back to the next day. If you do that, the rest of your day is gravy.
- Be fueled by them. If you really focus on the high-powered tasks, they will be the fuel that drives you forward to realizing your dreams. Doing 2-3 of them each day will ensure that you are focusing on what is truly essential, doing the most with your time and getting the most return, and accomplishing great things. You will be amazed by the difference.
- Keep track. When you complete a high-powered task, be sure to note it down. You can do this in a little notebook, or a log on your computer, or on simple 3×5 index cards. At the end of each week, review your progress. If you’ve really focused on these tasks, you should have a nice little list. Be sure to review your medium-term goal and see if you’re making progress and headed in the right direction. If you’re an employee, share your high-powered accomplishments with your boss, who should be duly impressed. After all, the high-powered tasks should go a long way towards helping advance your career.