Getting things done when you don’t have to do them


I’ve talked about this recently. You’ve got your day planned out. Appointments, documents to prepare and review, people to call, emails to send. You don’t have to think about what to do–it’s on your desktop, on your calendar, or in your email.

Most of it gets done because you have to do them. There are deadlines, due dates, and penalties for not doing so. You have people reminding you to do them and causing problems if you don’t.

Actually, it’s a pretty good system.

But what about discretionary tasks.? Things you should do or want to do that aren’t on your calendar or sitting neatly on your desk waiting for you. Things nobody will remind you to do it or ask you why you haven’t done them.

Many of these tasks are important. They will help you achieve your goals. But they reside on a long list. Overwhelmingly long. Which is why most of these tasks aren’t getting done.

The day ends, you’re tired, and you think, “I’ll start tomorrow.” But tomorrow the story is pretty much the same.

So, here’s what I suggest. Every day, choose one task on your “discretionary” list and do it before the day ends.

Just one.

It can be small. One phone call, jotting down a few notes for a writing project, reading an article. It doesn’t matter. Get it done, cross it off your list.

One discretionary task a day and you’re done.

By setting your goal low, almost ridiculously so, you will get that task done. Every day, you’ll make progress on something important.

And you’ll feel good about that. You’ll have a little dopamine party in your head and go home with a healthy high.

Who knows, you might wind up getting addicted to that feeling and do a second task.

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