have more fun at work

Typical task management and prioritisation schemes would work very well if you were attempting to keep your computer RAM spinning over at maximum effectiveness. But when it comes to actually getting the best out of yourself they are sadly deficient.

Do you really want to run yourself like you would run a machine?
Would you want to work for a boss that thought that way?
Would you allocate tasks to a new member of staff like that?

Probably not.

That is not to say that task management is not susceptible to some sort of organisation, it is just that conventional schemes tend to neglect the fact that they are dealing with people.

You need to start from the point of view that you are dealing with a person, and that person just happens to be you.

So, first and foremost, you need to protect your prime asset which is your physical and mental health.
You need to ensure that
you eat properly,
you drink enough, not just tea and coffee,
you need to get regular exercise,
you need to get fresh air and see some real daylight, and trees and stuff, every single day,
you need to give yourself proper breaks,
you need to banter with the folk around you
you need to think that you are doing something meaningful,
you need to believe you are making a positive difference
you need to get regular check ups from your optician and dentist and go see the doctor when something is bothering you
you need to pay attention to little health niggles and do something about them

beyond that, it never does any harm keeping your hair cut, and your clothes neat and tidy.

Once you have the right attitude to your physical and mental health, you need to ensure that you respect your energy levels and sense of fun.

Basically if it is not fun, then something is going wrong. It might not be fun all the time, but if you are not having any fun, or it is not fun most of the time, then you really need to change something.

When you enjoy something you are more alert, you notice more, you think faster, and more creatively, you learn more easily. There is bound to be some structure, if you are getting paid by "the man", then he will expect you to jump through some hoops. However assuming you are an office drone with a certain degree of autonomy, you have no one to blame but yourself if you are not enjoying things at least a bit.

1 work in short discrete chunks.
2 after each chunk give yourself a break, even if it is just browsing a magazine for a minute while you drink a cup of tea
give yourself a reward when you have been good
head home early if you don't feel great
3 mix up the different types of work you are doing, so if you have been reading for a while, maybe spend some time catching up on phone calls
4 split work into strands, and then concern yourself with making sure that each strand is at about where you want it to be
5 start the day with ten minutes prioritising out your time and tasks for the day,
I get bored with the same format of list, and change it around from time to time, I currently use the left side of the page for things that aren't likely to happen today, the right for things that are, that way, I cut the page in half and remove the previous day's half page, and avoid re- writing the longer term stuff, which only gets updated once a week or so
6 it always helps to have a couple of tasks lined up, so when you finish one, you know what to start next
7 you don't need to prioritise every task in the list, some will probably still be there tomorrow
8 it is handy to have some spare short tasks that can get done if you have five minutes to fill in
9 it is handy to have a stock of tasks to fill any other gaps that you might experience, for example reading or phone calls for gap time
10 don't go mad on using every spare minute
11 don't try to multi-task
12 try and keep every work strand moving along, even if it is just half a day per week, while you concentrate on other stuff.

Set an end time for tasks, especially ones where it does not matter too much how well they are done. I try and have all my emails dealt with by 10am, so they might just get a cursory response, but they really don't need much more. Tasks that need to be done well can be more flexibly resourced.

The most important thing is mental discipline. Your mind is a fantastic tool for imagining dismal scenarios. It is incredibly easy to imagine a myriad of depressing ways in which things might go wrong. However it serves little or no useful purpose.

Focus yourself on each individual process. Be brutal, once you have planned and prioritised, live absolutely in the present process and task. If you are reading, read to the best of your ability. Don't read, rather feebly while still half thinking about planning.

So, your ten minutes prioritising is when you jot down what you need to do. Then you totally stop worrying about it.

You may be responsible for something really significant. Plenty to worry about. Instead split it up into a series of individual processes. Each of these processes are things that you have done before,
you can read documents
you can plan how to achieve goals
you can seek support from colleagues
you can carry out actions

not only have you done each of these things before countless times, in fact you are really good at them. You know that you are good at them, everyone knows that you are good at them.

There may be some areas that you are not so strong on. However that is just something that you need to develop. That is not a problem either. You did not start off being so great at everything, you got great at things through trying and learning. So maybe you need to give yourself more time for something, or ask for more support.

The important thing is to recognise the processes that are likely to cause a problem. It might be that you don't have the skills required. It might be that you won't have enough time to do some of it.

This is where your creative problem solving side comes into play. Think creatively about how you might solve the problem, other resources you might bring into play. Don't let yourself get distracted with perfect world solutions. You have to do something, so just figure out a least bad option and go for that. If you are worried about it, make sure and flag to your boss that you are going for a least bad option early on. If he is that bothered he can supply you with a better option.

Don't give yourself grief that you do not need to.


trust the process - if you have other people, or processes that contribute to your work, then let them do their job. Get some impression of how reliable they are by all means, do some light exploratory work on options if they don't deliver, but you don't need to do their job for them. What is worth doing is keeping a close eye on them, so that you know really early if they are going to fail to deliver.

decisions mean making choices - once you have prioritised for the day, don't mentally revisit the process all day. You have decided that there are three priorities. There is no magic trick that lets your boss know exactly how much work to give you each day. It is like Tetris, sometimes those little tiles just keep on arriving until it is game over. Use prioritisation to decide what order to do things in, if that means that something is not done, then that was what you decided. You have plenty of experience, you decided that was the least important thing. Live with it, don't stress over it.

making choices means saying no to options - learn to live with the fact that you are continuously saying no. Not read that magazine after a month, throw it out. Not made that phone call after a week, just score it out and forget about it.

grace under pressure - the real test of someone's mettle is how they respond under pressure. Anyone can be gracious when things are easy. If you can be gracious when you are under pressure, it is a good habit to get into. You are less stressed when you are smiling and positive. You solve problems better and other people respond to you better. Management will notice how you respond to pressure much more than they notice just how much work you are getting through.

learn to live with shoddy work - most work does not need to be done superbly well, free up time to focus on the priorities by getting through the chaff as quickly as you can. Better a reputation as someone that gets things done, than a reputation for someone who never puts an apostrophe wrong in an email.

The good staff are always busy. That is because the good staff can always think of useful and productive things to do, and people are keen to give them work because they know it will be done. However to get above good, you need to think about where your time is going, and accept that not everything needs to be done really well, and there are plenty of worthwhile things that you maybe just don't get round to doing.

View the task list as palette to choose from. You need not use every colour on the palette, you need not do every task on the list, but try to pick the best of stuff to put your energy into.

Finally - try try try to be true to your own values. This is difficult. Try not to work with people you do not respect, you run the risk of ending up like them. Try not to copy habits you dislike in others, you are worse than them if you know that it is wrong. Try to avoid work that diminishes you, your life is so short, why spend it on such things.

Life is about making decisions, sometimes the right answer is just to say no, this is not for me. Maybe you have just freed up some time for something really important that you just don't know about yet.