One of the main things I’m hearing from my coaching and team clients these days is that even as they continue to focus their energy and efforts on a key vision or goal, they are totally overwhelmed by their workload. This prevents them from getting out from under their to-do list so they can be more strategic in their purpose-driven work. 

The cost of a leader’s looming to-do list creates a sense of dread at the start of the day and a sense of drain at the end of it. When we get caught in the mindset of managing our circumstances, we lose alignment with what is really important to us- meaningful work that keeps us energized, motivated, and equipped to lead ourselves, teams, and world.

So…what do we do when we can’t delegate, defer, or delete a task and the only option is to get it done ourselves?  Here’s the rundown on a simple approach I’m using myself and sharing with others who are longing to clear their plates of lingering or nagging tasks. 

  • Identify 2-3 tasks that the most important for you to complete right now.
  • Estimate the time it will take to do each task- be honest. This step is important because when we think critically about how long something will take we realize that it often feels like it requires a bigger effort that in actuality (and sometimes vice versa).
  • Open your calendar and identify 2-3 time slots when you have 30 minutes of availability in the next week. Block these in your calendar- these are your “pockets of productivity.”
  • Name each pocket with what you will accomplish during this time, some tasks may take more than one 30 minute block but each pocket should have a clear focus. 

A note about pockets…a pocket of productivity is that sweet space of 30 minutes in your calendar that is now protected time to advance a task. When used efficiently this time will yield progress, satisfaction, and freedom for you to move onto more important and fulfilling aspects of your work. 

When it is time to start working- 

  • Consider this time a sprint where the objective is to keep moving forward in making as much progress as possible in a short amount of time. When we sprint we don’t stop for coffee or to scroll through social media. Instead we jump over what’s holding us back for the sake of moving forward. 
  • Clear your workspace, close the tabs on your computer, turn off your phone, and mute notifications. If your pocket is the first thing in your day, don’t even open your email. If your pocket is at the end of your day, shut it down before you start the sprint. 
  • Set a timer for 30 minutes and place it in front of you. This is your finish line.

Using pockets and sprints will help you step away from feeling like you’re fighting an uphill battle. Those who have used this approach achieve more than they expected in 30 minutes and feel relieved whether they made progress on a task or completed it.