Phaed commented on "Those Easy Days With Nothing Due…" - it was a good comment, so I thought it deserved its own post:
I had a similar day today to yours yesterday. I did still manage to get a few extraneous things done. But, as a distraction came up, I asked it are you more urgent than the other tasks on my list. Mostly, the answer was no. But a few times, the answer was yes.
Now, sometimes a short, unimportant task can be more urgent than a long, important task, because clearing yourself of it unburdens you, so is sometimes good to do immediately. But you will balance all of these things against the urgency of your top priority task.
This means, on a busy day, aka a day with many urgent important tasks, your “filler,” do it right now tasks have to be equally urgent and important. On a less busy day, not only are your main tasks less important, but the filter for which “filler” tasks you let in lowers as well.
Is this unavoidable? I think yes and no. Obviously, if there is something you are repeatedly doing that are a waste of your time, you should stop. But other tasks, with a generally very low urgency, tend to build up over busy stretches. This is why I have a sink full of dishes at the moment: for better or worse, I consider this a low urgency task. (It’s for the worse.)
But I need to clean my dishes eventually. If you have a slow day, and all you get done is laundry, dishes, exercise, answering emails, resting, drinking tea and reading the news, well, just look at it as clearing your stack for your next busy day.
That said, if you find yourself slipping into bad habits, yes, it might be time to find some high urgency tasks to kick your butt back into gear.
Phaed's site is http://letterstoafriend.cc/ which has some good observations on it. Recommended.
I've set "clear email out" as a daily to-do objective every day for the last week, but haven't been able to do it. I'll spend a few hours answering and cutting down, and get even more while I'm doing it. The last few days, I've spent a lot of time with it and still wound up with more at the end of the day than when I started.
Some points to note:
1. I apologize if I miss something time sensitive. If it's short term important, please mark "URGENT" in the subject line. Normally you don't need to do that with me and I answer most of my email quickly, but I'm swamped. Mark urgent and don't feel bad about doing so if it's short term expiring.
2. If I haven't replied, it's not because I hate you.
3. If I'm terse, it also doesn't mean I hate you.
I used to dislike to work. I saw how most people lived their lives, slogging through work that they hated, and I was determined not to fall into that trap. I made the mistake of generalizing, lumping all work together in the same bucket.
Since then, things have changed. In terms of monumental personal life changes, becoming a hard worker is the most recent one I've undergone. About a year ago, for reasons I touched on in this post, I decided that it was imperative for me to become a hard worker. I didn't do it because I had suddenly fallen in love with work, but rather because I had began to feel as though I was behind. And believe me, it wasn't love at first sight.
To fall in love with hard work, you must understand why it's necessary. When I was young I was told that sugar was bad, but I never understood exactly why it was bad, so I kept eating it. Only when I learned how it chemically affected my body did I finally give it up. The same is true of work-- if you don't know why you have to work hard and love it, you'll probably never actually do it.
Work is your gift to the world. That sounds corny, but it's true. And believe me, you owe the world a gift or two. Think of all of the various things that millions of people around the world have done for you to enjoy the life you have. They made up languages, invented stuff, procreated at the exact right times to create your ancestry, and managed to not kill each other in the process. We're lucky to be here, and the high standard of living we all enjoy now is only because of those who came before us. Some, like Einstein, had huge impact, but even people you don't notice, like the janitors, are making your life better.