Allowing demands on our time and dropping everything to react to a situation has consequences. We become victims to other people's demands and task management plans go 'out the window'.
Sometimes we do have to react to a situation, particularly if it's for a customer or client. But at other times thinking about the choices available might improve our task scheduling. Does the task need to be done:
1. By this deadline
Sometimes we do it straight away because we want to impress others, particularly more senior managers. An assertive check on the deadline can help manage the interruption: "I understand you need it by tomorrow noon however I'm snowed under at the moment. Could I get it done by the end of tomorrow?". Very often task holders are happy to compromise.
2. By me?
Is there someone else who can do the task instead (delegation) or help you complete the task.
3. To this standard?
When time is tight, can the quality of completion be reduced? e.g. in report writing, can some detail be excluded so that the task holder receives the 'bare bones'?
Perfectionism can also be an issue and a task is done to the highest standard when a lower one might suffice.
4. In this way?
Is there a better way of doing it? My colleague used spreadsheets as part of his tasks although never received formal training. Time was wasted making the spreadsheet work by trial and error despite the organisation having a supportive I.T. support desk who would provide quick training at his desk.
5. At all?
Some tasks are done because we've always done it without questioning the effect it has on the business and what would happen if the task wasn't done. These so called 'D tasks' that are low urgency and low importance (and never change status) grow up with us.
So the next time you are balancing your task list, think about the choices - sometimes there are more than you think.