Avoid Task Shunting — 10 Options
Life can become chaotic in a hurry if we are forever shunting tasks that need to be done. Shunting is not the same as simple procrastination. To shunt a task is to become aware of it more than once, and to continue to put it off — very deliberately. Here are some ways to avoid “the shunt” and you only need to choose one of these, not all ten!
- Do the task. Really. Just stop everything else and do it.
- If you’re missing information and that’s what’s making you shunt the task, make an “action note” for the task. For example, “Go to John’s office to ask him how many tables will be needed on the dais for the award dinner” is a real action note. Writing “get information” on a sticky-note doesn’t keep you from re-reading the task every time it appears in your inbox. (I have “Next Action” sheets you can download free here Top Ten Productivity Tips).
- Do you know how to do the task? Perhaps you’ve forgotten how to deal with this type of situation. Talk to someone — admit that you’ve forgotten — and finish the task.
- Number your tasks at the beginning of the day (and of course the numbering is based on an assessment of the tasks’ priorities. Do not let yourself go out of numerical order. It can be like a game–and you want to win! If you want to bring the effectiveness of this tip to an even higher level, consider using a forced choice sheet.
- Confirm that the task you’ve been shunting really needs to be done. Nothing is worse that getting a task done that we’ve been shunting and then find out it didn’t have to be done at all! If you aren’t sure, check with a mentor or someone else with even more experience than you in your particular job. Early on as a professor, I did everything that was asked of me and finally found out that a bunch of those tasks/projects didn’t even need to be done.
- If the task involves paying for something and you’re waiting until you have money, throw away the order form, the note to yourself, the web address, or other reminder. Later, when you have money, you will have something else you need or want to do with it and there’s no need to have this “task” hanging over your head.
- If you can’t make yourself do #6, then invest in the thing, for heaven’s sake!
- Delegate the task if it truly isn’t in your bailiwick. Whether you acknowledge it or not, with MANY of your tasks, you have a number of people you can delegate to — so DO SO! You need to be doing “what only you can do.”
- Vow to stay late once a month until every shunted task is complete. It’s a wonderful feeling. I started a “Backlog Study Hall” almost two years ago and we meet every Sunday for 3 hours — people from all over the world — and keep clearing out the backlog or keeping tasks from becoming backlog. It’s marvelous! I’ll be writing an article about this soon.
- Don’t do the task at all — ever. Drop it. Really. If it were really important, you’d have done it by now, anyway.
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