Riding The Task Tidal Wave

by Mirko Harnisch

Those age-old sayings about busy times coming in waves are completely true.

“Everything comes in waves”

Up until a few days ago, I was focused. Focused on the end goal and what I needed to do to get there. Now? Who the hell knows. An avalanche of tasks and requests have come through at work. This is at around the same time that my mind is working overtime outside of the office – working on future plans for me and my family.

“When it rains, it pours”

The focus I had has been lost in the noise of many work and home priorities jostling for first priority in my to do list. Where do I begin? Which of the many urgent tasks do I attend to first while I’m in the office? How do I get through the goals at home? These are questions all of us face every day. How do we deal with it? How do you deal with it? One step at a time, that’s how.

Countless helpful tips on productivity and task management have a similar theme, taking it slow, steady, one task at a time is the way to go. We humans can’t perform multiple tasks at the same time. When there are too many things to be done, we panic. We try to do bits and pieces of each, thinking “this is good. I’m getting through lots of stuff”.

Don’t do it. We are not getting through anything.

What is happening, is that the tasks are being worked on without our complete focus and attention. Which means our true ingenuity and awesomeness is not getting through. What comes out is a half-baked solution which is based on quantity of tasks completed rather than quality of tasks completed.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

The way to approach getting through these tasks is a simple 3-step plan that I’ve found extremely effective.

1. Make a list

Note down all the tasks floating around in your head. The pain points. The ones giving you grief. The ones that need to be done yesterday.

2. Prioritise

In the list you’ve noted, highlight the three most important ones that need to be done now. This could be the one someone is shouting the loudest for, the most urgent one, or the one that you know is overdue because you feel it drop in the pit of your stomach every time you think about it.

3. Focus

Of those three highlighted items from your list, select one and do it now. Do it until it is finished. Don’t get distracted by emails. Don’t take phone calls. Don’t “I’ll quickly send this message to …”. Just finish the task at hand.

When you’re done with that task. Start – and complete – the next one. And the one after that.

When I started using this technique, initially it seemed counter-intuitive to focus on one task only. But, lo-and-behold, but completing one, it instilled a sense of accomplishment. In turn, this provided confidence to tackle the next big task. Before I knew it, all the major tasks were completed and I could rest easy and focus on the fun tasks.

I urge you to try these tips. Before you know it, it will all be calm again.

“The calm before the storm”