The noble art of not setting objectives (part I)

… the solution is, conceptually, very simple. Stop procrastinating, focus on a single task, and continue it until its completion.

In a recent Risk Prevention course, I attended, as expected, the different potential risks in the work I do were listed, and as a novelty compared to the previous course I took years ago, this time psychosocial risks were introduced in the list.

In this list was harassment, bullying … a lot of sad situations that unfortunately still occur today in many jobs.

And among all of them, one caught my attention: the lack of clear objectives.

It is a situation in which I have found myself not a few times, sometimes due to my ease in starting new projects and getting tired of them halfway through, and sometimes because the group with which I work withat that moment has not clearly defined beforehand the objectives to be achieved.

Regarding the first situation, in which I am the cause of my own discomfort, the solution is, conceptually, very simple. Stop procrastinating, focus on a single task, and continue it until its completion.

When I talk about procrastination, I don’t mean stopping work to read the news, watch kitten videos or play minesweeper, or not exclusively those activities. Rather, I am referring to jumping between tasks that have a very simple solution and completing them to get the false sensation that during that short period of time we have been productive.

A very clear example is mail management. We receive hundreds, if not thousands, of emails daily, and it is clear that having a clean inbox helps us to easily access the information we need at one time or another. But this can be done in two ways: by applying brute force and wasting a lot of time opening, reading and sorting or deleting, or by defining rules in our mail manager to separate the dust from the chaff, and our need for interaction with the messages is kept to a minimum.

No need to say that this second management mode is much more efficient.

However, there is a technique that helps me being even more efficient at work, more efficient, and generates less discomfort: Time-blocking.

It is a more or less fashionable concept, but one that we have been using, I imagine, since the concept of the calendar existed.

And that’s what it’s all about: scheduling all our daily tasks. Define them and assign them a certain moment of the day and its duration. And above all, trying to follow this script without getting out of it until converting it into a habit.

The to-do list can be set at any time, but I prefer first thing in the morning. When I get to my office I’d have some tasks that I assigned myself from the previous day, to which I add those that I want to accomplish during the current day.

Writing down on the calendar what that task specifically consists of allows us to look at them more objectively and evaluate whether that task is relevant or not.

Assigning a time of day helps us to prioritize the relevant tasks from the less important ones.

Finally, assigning a duration helps us to think about the process of developing that task: what tools I will use, where I should do it, how long it will take me, and if I will be able to do it in a single day or if it will take me more time.

Time-blocking is a very simple technique to implement and make it a habit to make our working day as productive as possible.

And in my case, above all, it helps me remove the self-inflicted psychosocial risk of not being clear about what my daily goal is.

In a future article, I will write about the psychosocial risk derived from group work.

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