The Task Jar Trick
Get ready to accomplish you dreams with this ONE SIMPLE TRICK. I swear it will change your life if you're kinda lazy, like me.
Are you too struggling with getting shit done? On time? Or do you knowingly delay completing tasks just so you know that you’ll soon have a super tight deadline that’ll challenge you “enough”? Does it often happen that you then suddenly have four tasks to complete in the same, short space of time?
This is me, a lot of the times, I’d say it’s a biweekly state that usually jumps on me, even if I’m kind of prepared for what’s coming. I’ve had to experiment with ways to overcome this – to get stuff done sooner, to put time constraints on stuff and to just do one thing at a time (this one is definitely the hardest). The thing though, is that the same technique rarely works for me several times in a row. So, I developed an emergency focus tactic, that has saved me multiple times, and seem to always work when deadlines are pretty tight and the tasks are definitely on the important scale. I’d say that 8-12 tasks and about 12-20 hours is a good amount of work to start with if you are trying out this technique.
So how does it work?
You need a few things to get started. First, a good piece of preferable thicker paper that feels important. If you’re a stationary addict like myself, this is an important detail. It can’t be just any paper, it needs to be finer paper, so you do not waste precious trees to get nothing done. Anyways. You also need a small jar, in which you can put pieces of paper without actually seeing them when the jar is right in front of you. It should not be transparent or too low, go for something that’s a bit higher around the edges and keeps you guessing. The last thing you need is a good pen, you know, one with the good ink. Not some cheap crusty pen that you got for free somewhere. Use your favourite. I also use a sharpie to mark stuff as done when I’m done, but that’s a bonus step. For best results, you need a countdown timer. I use the one on my phone.
When you have your supplies ready, it’s time to get down to business. Who get on the list? Who gets to go in the jar? I generally write ALL tasks that needs doing, even the less important ones. Timewise I include about a week’s worth of stuff. When I’ve written them all down on the fancy paper, I give them all a time allowance from 15-120 minutes. If they require more time than that, I make two (or more) notes for that particular task (a seemingly never-ending task is this book thing I’m working on). If I make more than two notes I generally allow the same time for both, so 90+90 minutes, rather than 120+60 minutes.
When I’ve created and allotted time for the tasks, I pick the top 8-12 tasks that needs doing, within 1-3 days. Depending on how many hours you prefer to work a day, and how mentally draining your work might be, you can just pick and choose number of tasks and hours worked as you see fit. These tasks go into the jar, and the tasks that are left goes in the jar AFTER you’ve finished your most important work.
Finally, it’s time to go to town on this jar. Whatever you pick first, MUST get done before your hands get to make another trip to the jar. You see the task, and the time limit, SET your countdown timer and just go get it. If you don’t finish on time, sometimes you don’t, set a new time for the task and throw the little note back into the jar. So, you’re not allowed to finish it yet, and you don’t get to do the same task twice. This means that you won’t get to look at the Sharpied, completed tasks in a nice little task pile next to your work station. I don’t know about you, but I want this little sucker to end up on the pile asap. Sometimes, you get into flow really fast, and complete tasks like a boss. Other times, it’s a lot slower, but at least you’re consistently focusing on the one task and get SOMETHING done. You can always allot the same time and throw it back in the jar. No one dies (unless you’re a surgeon maybe?).
So there it is, my emergency productivity hack for when the business is burning, you’re having a meltdown and the deadlines feel like a guillotine. Happy working!