I had a short but great conversation with my friend Yifei Zhang. He manages to consistently get immensely large amounts of things done. Recently I've had more business growth than I can keep up with -- meaning we had to put the breaks on sales to some extent and focus on getting our fulfillment processes tighter, and trying to make long-term business development not suffer in the process.
I asked Yifei's take, and he had some great insights:
"I try to orient my attention that the lowest possible level of detail for the day, going up only when things are done. For example, your tree might look:
Development, Marketing, Biz Dev, HR, ...
Under development might be:
New prototype, Support Issues, QA, ...
And under each of those would be more granular tasks
I know I'll get overwhelmed if I look into everything under "Development" today
So I pick one of it's subtasks and pretend that it's the only thing I'm working on today, putting everything above it out of mind."
I replied, "Huh! That's incredibly obvious when said like that, but basically no-one does it that way."
Yifei: It still relies on a lot of willpower (I still get sucked into "off task" activities all the time). But that's what I aim for. A clean transition between "Strategy mode" and "Execution mode."
Yifei went on to explain that you zoom out, see the whole battlefield, but once you zoom in to an individual task you want to make it like there's nothing else to do, and focus exclusively on the one thing until it's done, and thus not get overwhelmed or confused.
Very useful insights. Clean transition -- think and plan, but when you act, do just one thing.
It's not rocket science, but almost everyone neglects to do it like that -- and suffers because of it.