The END of uninspiring to-do lists

Posted by: Claire Shields - Posted on:

Originally published by Claire Shields – 16th September 2020

I have always been a list writer – groceries, gifts and general life admin all get documented – if I write it down it has to happen. 

For work tasks though I found that I’d spend some time on Sunday evening deciding on my priorities for the week only to find that by 09:20 on Monday morning it had all gone a bit Pete Tong! I found myself in a cycle of reacting to demands from all directions: the urgent got in the way of the important and I wasn’t finding much joy in my day so I decided to reestablish some boundaries.

Instead of reacting to what was right in front of me I started to categorise my tasks based on how I felt about them – and I noticed a surprising shift in both my productivity and my fulfilment. My categories are:

E for Energising

Tasks that bring me joy, the really fun stuff that activates the most creative part of my brain. Working with my team on discovery work or learning new skills, facilitating group discussions on one of the many virtual sessions that Horizons run, and playing with data to gain more insight all energise me and give me a sense of satisfaction at work.

N for Neutral

Neutral does not mean boring; these are just tasks that are process driven where you need to tick a series of boxes or jump through a set of hoops. Nothing too creative or challenging, just the day to day (often small but important) tasks that keep projects ticking over.

D for Draining

These tasks give you the feeling of an eternal Monday. Wicked problems that do not inspire you to find a solution. You might find yourself working around them, or even trying to avoid them entirely. 

I find categorising my work in this way helps keep my productivity and problem solving abilities up while still giving me space for creativity and learning. I work at my best when I have a blend of the above.

Few people are lucky enough to have a role where all of our tasks give us energy so it’s important to mix up your daily list from each category. 

Managing your energy will mean different things to each of us, so take some time each day to plan some tasks that bring you joy at a time of the day when you are creatively at your best. For some this is first thing in the morning when they feel fresher, but for me it’s the afternoon when I just need a change of pace. 

Then you can use the positve energy that the joyful work gives you to tackle the tougher stuff so you don’t avoid all the draining tasks until Friday afternoon.

Photo credit: Glen Carstens-Peters via Unsplash