If you’re like me (and many, many other people), to-do lists make you want to scream. This isn’t the fault of the poor to-do lists; they mean well. They’re trying to help us keep our tasks organized, remember everything we’re bound to forget, and stay on top of our lives.
The problem is that most of us view our to-dos entirely the wrong way.
Are you a (false) productivity junkie?
When I see a to-do list, my natural reaction is, “I must do all of these things in order to be productive!”
It doesn’t matter whether some of my tasks are “must-dos” and others are merely “would be nice to dos”; if it’s on my list, I will not feel accomplished until it’s checked off—often to the detriment of my sanity, my social life, and even my productivity itself. (Doing a million things eventually leads to a slump in your results, no matter how “efficient” you are.)
For me (and, I know, many others like me), productivity seems to be all about getting as much done as humanly possible within a 24-hour period. The goal is total to-do clear out. Things like work-life balance, a personal life, your own health? Those aren’t on the to-do list. Those doesn’t count towards your productivity rate.
But, ahhh, young grasshopper—you’re viewing productivity all wrong. Your efforts are valiant, and I applaud your incredible sense of hustle, but you’re applying it to the wrong goals. Here’s how it’s meant to be done using the Big Rocks Method of Productivity:
It’s all about priorities.
In his post that first introduced me to the “big rocks” theory, Leo Babauta of the enormously popular site Zen Habits wrote “Productivity isn’t about doing a lot of stuff. It’s about getting the important stuff done.”
I have that quote taped on my computer monitor.
What’s the point of being super-duper efficient? To get a metric ton of shite done, at the expense of actually living a satisfying and meaningful life? Of course not. It’s being able to make sure all the pieces of your life are in place so that you can live a satisfying and meaningful life. Being a slave to your to-do list doesn’t fall under that definition of productivity. Here’s what does: getting the important stuff done so that you can move on with your life. Sometimes that means letting some tasks go because they aren’t as important as others.
I know not crossing those items off can seem like a personal failure at first, but it’s not. It’s just a conscious choice to spend your time smartly. Welcome to the “big rocks” mentality…
How to Tend to Your Big Rocks
This is how the “big rocks” method works:
- Picture your day as a bucket. That bucket is filled with however many hours you have left after obligatory things like eating, sleeping, etc.
- Picture your to-dos as rocks. The truly important items (getting that big report done for work, going to your friend’s birthday party) are big rocks. The less-important tasks (picking up your dry cleaning, vacuuming your apartment) are pebbles.
- Start each day off by tending to the big rocks first, the things that will have a real impact on the way your life is running personally or professionally. You can only fit so many big rocks into your day (bucket), so it’s key to focus on getting those in first.
- If (and only if) you have time left over, then you get to start in on the B list of the pebble tasks. Say you’re waiting at the doctor’s office and have 15 minutes to kill—start chipping away at some of those e-mails you’ve been meaning to get back to, or check up on your Twitter notifications. Extra half-hour before your friend’s bday party? Why not swing by the dry cleaner then? But do not (do not!) tend to your pebbles first. Pebbles are filler, and are only to be treated as such.
- At the end of the day, count yourself “productive” if you’ve managed to get the majority of your big rocks taken care of. Some days, you won’t get to all of them. It happens. Accept the fact that your bucket is one size and you’ve done your best to fill it, and sit down to watch a show cuddled up with your significant other.
Oh, and P.S. along those lines? Personal needs count as big rocks. Exercising, spending time with loved ones, taking time out to decompress in the middle of a crazy day…Many of us treat these as pebbles because we hestitate to put our own needs first—but don’t. You can’t be productive (or satisfied or happy, which is the whole point of productivity, remember?) if you don’t take care of yourself. So prioritize “you” just like you would a work project or friend’s birthday.
How can you be better about prioritizing your productivity? What “big rocks” and “pebbles” are you mixing up?
Image via LabyrinthX