The reason you do tasks you like doing instead of things you have to do (hint: it’s about your energy levels)

Let’s talk about productivity.

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We’ll jump straight into it today. Take a look at your to-do list right now. Can you put your tasks into categories? You probably can.

But there are just two categories I want to focus on today.

  1. Low energy tasks
  2. High energy tasks

Low energy tasks are those that are faster and easier to complete. High energy tasks need a lot more energy and time.

A recent survey shows that office workers spend one-third of their time processing emails. Doesn’t sound so bad until you consider how many hours that adds up to – 3 hours a day, 15 hours a week, 60+ hours a month!

That’s crazy.

Is this because they receive too many emails? No. It’s because email requires low energy to complete.

I spent time doing tasks that were a lower priority and leaving the higher priority tasks until the last second because I didn’t feel like doing them earlier in the day.

As you can imagine, this wasn’t great for me, my boss or the workplace.

But I felt comfortable doing this. When I look back at it, I know why…

The lower priority tasks I was completing were usually quick wins. Easier things to do. They required low energy and most of the time they were the tasks I enjoyed.

The higher priority tasks took longer, needed high energy and I didn’t enjoy them as much.

But here’s the big problem…

The problem lies at the end of the day when you’ve depleted your energy levels by completing lots of little low energy tasks. And you don’t feel like doing the high energy task with a deadline.

Imagine your energy levels like a petrol tank – only it’s filled with your energy instead of petrol. As you run your engine throughout the day, the energy goes down.

You only have a finite amount of energy to last the day – if you use it all on low energy tasks, you don’t have enough left in the tank to complete your high energy important tasks.

So when you should be heading home, you find yourself dragging your feet to get the high energy tasks that need to be completed on time.

But you’re doing it with only fumes left in the tank.

Does this sound familiar?

I was stuck in a cycle. I had to complete the low energy tasks such as reading, filing and clearing my inbox rather than the high energy tasks.

There is a possible scientific explanation for this behaviour…

Humans have evolved to want instant rewards. When you complete little tasks, you feel good because you get an instant rush. Lots of little instant rewards.

We can often feel psychological discomfort when we choose to do a task that offers a reward later rather than now. It’s this discomfort that keeps us searching for instant gratification instead of completing the high energy tasks we should really be doing.

The solution to this productivity problem is…

The only solution to this problem is to find ways to control the order in which we complete tasks.

This is easier said than done. But with the support of a coach to help you figure out the best solutions for you and hold you accountable, you will achieve higher productivity easier and faster.

Here’s something you can try today… ask yourself ‘What do you do when you need to do a high energy task when you don‘t feel like it?’. Take time to reflect on your answer. Be honest and decide on the one thing that you can do today to improve your productivity.

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