“I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.”
–Helen Keller, American author
Note: This post is probably useful for freelancers or those who own their own business or those in higher management. If you find yourself in the 9-to-5 office cycle, your major tasks are likely defined for you already and there’s probably little wiggle room for you to negotiate.
Since my time is my own now, I find myself needing to be extra disciplined with how I use the hours and minutes of my day. If I don’t, I could easily waste a perfectly good day. It takes a lot of self-discipline to be productive when nobody’s looking over your shoulder. As part of my discipline, each day I pre-define what major tasks I want to accomplish that will move my work goals forward. Each morning, I write down about 2-3 major items that I intend on doing (taking into account, of course, scheduled meetings and activities). I then set out to accomplish those major tasks.
There was a time when I used to log each hour of work because I felt like I needed to reach 8 hours each day. I kept a meticulous record to be sure. This, however, led to a lot of wasted time because although I accomplished what I wanted to do for the day, I felt like I had to keep going to reach the magic number 8. And I found myself doing just anything that came to mind even if it didn’t significantly move my work goals forward. And that resulted in a lot of wasted time and unproductivity. Rather than focusing on reaching 8 hours of work a day, I now focus on getting things moving by accomplishing major tasks. If I accomplish those major tasks early, I use the rest of the day to do other significant things such as spending more time with God, sharing life with people, getting extra rest, or reading a book.
Focusing on major tasks helps me to see two important things. Firstly, it helps me to see the overall picture—what I’m ultimately trying to accomplish with my life. I see how each major task fits into the overall picture. Secondly, it helps me to see my progress. I can clearly see myself progressing towards the goals that I’ve set by accomplishing one major task at a time. It also gives me plenty of inspiration to keep going. Whenever possible, try focusing on accomplishing major tasks rather than counting down the hours. You might find yourself being more productive with your time and more inspired to keep working.