Do it now and be done! [PMP 282]

A little while ago, I was given some feedback about myself that I found quite interesting. A friend of mine had reached out asking if I could contribute a message to a farewell book he was preparing for an old mutual employer. Not wanting to hold him up, but also, not wanting this to hang over me either, I wrote something up and sent it back. My friend then came back to me with the following feedback:

It's funny – you replied instantly. I've only had 3 replies from about 50-60 people I've contacted. I've had more than that for people who love the idea and will reply by the deadline…but I love that you just did it instantly. Another person who runs their own business now did the same. I think it says something 😛

This got me thinking… it’s quite common for me to deal with tasks or requests in real-time as they come in. But based on my friend's feedback, it sounds like it’s more common for people to postpone things until later.

Don’t want to listen to this post? Listen to the podcast instead:

In this case, I decided to deal with the request immediately as I knew it wouldn’t take long and that way I can be done with it and move on…

A lot of the productivity apps and tools we use on a daily basis encourage us to postpone things:

  • Email clients allow us to Snooze emails until later. Personally, I never use this feature. I’d rather deal with a message now or I may set an activity to reply later (by adding it to my task list, at least I’ve triaged what needs to happen next). But to me, snoozing an email feels like a lazy thing to do as you’re choosing to ignore it now and come back to it later when you are (hopefully) in a better space to deal with it.
  • Tools like Asana and Slack have ‘remind me later’ features where the software can remind you about comments at a later date.
  • Reading list tools allow you to save up articles to read later. I can’t even remember the last time I used a feature like this. If an article interests me, I’ll usually read it immediately or not at all.

Maybe it’s just me but I just don't like postponing things until later. And I hate having lists of ‘later’ things adding up. It just feels like more chaos and things to do.

And not to be too cynical, I see the value in read it later or snoozing features. The issue is, they get abused.

Of course, you can’t do everything immediately. Certain tasks require time, energy and focus to work on. But a lot of the requests coming into our various inboxes as often things that can be dealt with in less than 5 minutes. Rather than put these things off, or create a task to come back to them later, often I find it best to just take the necessary action now and move on. This will greatly reduce your mental burden as you have fewer emails waiting for a response, tasks on your to-do list and people chasing you.

Because a lot of these types of requests come in via email, I make sure I have a decent 90-minute block of time scheduled at the start of my day so I can get through my inbox and deal with these smaller requests.

Try it yourself. It starts with a change in attitude; instead of defaulting to “I’ll come back to that later”, deal with as many things as you can immediately and watch as your task list begins to shrink!