All Tasks Are NOT Created Equal

I love how technology handles tasks. Instead of writing and re-writing the same thing over and over again on pieces of paper, technology allows me to create a task once, assign it to a specific day, make it repeat as often as necessary, and have it roll over to the next day if I don’t get it done.

What I hate, however, is the fallout from this technology.

I’ve opened my laptop and viewed a list of tasks no human begin could ever accomplish in a week, let alone a day. What most of us do when assaulted with such a list is close our laptop and do whatever we feel like doing. Not good!

Here’s where technology must be our servant and not our master. Quickly sift through your tasks using the green-yellow-red process described below. Begin every day with five minutes of green-yellow-red filtering and you’ll overcome the overload that’s giving you a splitting headache at the end of the day.

GREEN: Top Priority, Time Sensitive

A green task is something that’s a top priority, personally or professionally. It’s also a task that has a deadline associated with it that must be met in the next day or two. In other words, it’s important and it’s urgent.

Green obviously stands for “go,” and designates tasks you should do first in your day. You don’t have to color code them or categorize them as A1, A2, A3, etc… That’s waste of time. Place them at the top of your todo list and take action on them immediately.

YELLOW: Top Priority, Not Time Sensitive

The color yellow stands for “proceed with caution.” This designation is given to tasks that are your top priorities but don’t have pressing deadlines. The caution of this color is this: if you don’t attend to these tasks, their deadlines may sneak up on you, and you’ll live your life running from crisis to crisis.

Assign a few yellow tasks to each day and get them done. Technology allows you to do this quickly and easily. You’ll discover by completing a handful of yellow tasks every day that you’ll have fewer and fewer green tasks to do and rarely miss a deadline.

RED: Everything Else

And, of course, red stands for “stop”. It doesn’t matter whether a task is time sensitive if it’s not a top priority. Urgency is irrelevant if an action is unimportant. These tasks need to be eliminated from your life, or it, too, will become irrelevant. If there’s an organizational reason a red task can’t be eliminated, it needs to be delegated to someone else to do. End of discussion.

“Most of us lead busy but undisciplined lives,” Jim Collins writes in Good to Great. “We have ever-expanding ‘to do’ lists, trying to build momentum by doing, doing, doing—and doing more. And it rarely works. Those who built good-to-great companies, however, made as much use of ‘stop doing’ lists as ‘to do’ lists. They displayed a remarkable discipline to unplug all sorts of extraneous junk.”

Your task list should provide you an effective way to execute on a reasonable set of activities for each day that are aligned with your top priorities. One of the key differences between those who succeed in business and those who don’t is the management of their time. This goes for succeeding in life as well, because all tasks are NOT created equal.

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