How to best juggle your tasks?
Ever felt that you had a million things to do and they all needed to be done at once? Who am I kidding – of course you have! Goal juggling (or managing multiple goals) of your day-to-day tasks can lead you to feel that you are always on the go, rushing from one thing to the next. There is another type of goal juggling, which occurs for more abstract goals such as identities or values. That type of juggling makes us feel like we have separate lives, that we are a fraud, or that we are not being our true selves. I’ll discuss that type of goal juggling in another fact-sheet.
In fact, there are a lot of types of goal juggling – or rather, there are a lot of ways we have thought about it. My colleagues, Gillian Yeo (University of Western Australia), James Beck (University of Waterloo) and I decided to try and pull all these different perspectives together. When we did that, we came up with seven principles of multiple goal pursuit.
You can read a copy of the full paper here, but I wanted to highlight one of the main implications for juggling tasks.
Don’t focus on the juggling. There are lots of apps, blogs and gurus who will tell you the best way to manage your time. But what they don’t tell you is that time management is only a small part of the equation. Whether you do a particular type of task first thing in the morning, whether you spend 20 minutes on one task before a break, or whether you have all your tasks written creatively in a journal or on a spreadsheet – this is all about the juggling itself.
Instead of focusing on the juggling, focus on the goals
First, awareness is crucial. With a single goal, it is important. You need to be clear and specific about your goal so that you can work towards it. With multiple goals, it is imperative. Goals interact with each other, they conflict, they activate, they shield. So you need to spend a bit of time constructing a goal hierarchy (click here for more details) and being honest about what you are trying to accomplish.
Second, align your goals. Be creative and think about how you can accomplish more than one goal with any action or behaviour. Small things can be effective – I take the computer on to the field behind our house so I can work while the dog runs around and gets exercise. But because everybody has a different goal hierarchy, the best way for you to align your goals will not work for somebody else. You need to sit down with your goal hierarchy and identify your own points of alignment.
So by now you know your goal structure and how your goals are being activated (that is, you know your goal hierarchy) and you’ve identified all the points of alignment. After this, we move to prioritising and only at that point does time management start to matter. Goals are prioritised based on how much value they provide to you and this is usually done subconsciously. This is a much bigger topic so I will deal with it in a separate fact sheet.
- Don’t focus on the juggling or on time-management, focus on your goals
- Identify all your goals – what are you trying to accomplish on a day-to-day basis, but also what are you trying to accomplish in your life
- Construct a goal hierarchy so that you can see the connections between the goals
- Be creative and find ways to align your goals so that working towards one goal helps with achieving another